When Disney shocked the world by purchasing LucasFilm back in October 2012, that announcement came with news that the studio is developing a new Star Wars movie, but we soon came to learn it would be much more than just one movie. Star Wars 7 became a full trilogy, with three spin-offs hitting theaters in the years between each trilogy installment, not to mention an abundant wealth of canonized stories told through new novels, comic books and much more. The anticipation for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was simply off the charts, and while the movie still won over legions of fans and set box office records left and right, there were some fans who made it clear that the movie just didn't sit right with them. Hell, the movie's oft-discussed similarities with the 1977 classic that started this whole franchise, A New Hope, was even at the center of the entire 20th Season of Comedy Central's South Park.
While there was certainly no shortage of buzz and hype for Rogue One, it wasn't nearly on the same level as The Force Awakens, which ultimately isn't terribly surprising. Fans had been waiting for 32 years to see what their favorite characters like Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) had been up to in this galaxy far, far away, but there isn't nearly the same familiarity with the Rogue One characters. However, after the world premiere in Hollywood last weekend, the early reactions were quite incredible, with Wil Wheaton even going so far as to say the last time he loved a movie so much was in 1977, the year A New Hope was released. Other famous fans such as Rainn Wilson and Chris Hardwick were simply gushing over the movie as well, leading many to wonder if Rogue One is in fact better than The Force Awakens? According to many fans, including yours truly, it is.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens went on to set new box office records for domestic opening weekend ($247.9 million), worldwide opening weekend ($528.9 million), all-time domestic gross ($936.6 million), biggest single day ($119.1 million), biggest Thursday night preview gross ($57 million) and becoming the fastest movie to eclipse box office milestones between $100 million and $500 million. No one was expecting Rogue One to put up these kinds of numbers, but just because it's set within the Star Wars universe, it wasn't expected to tank either. Early box office projections pegged Rogue One to bring in $130 million domestic in its opening weekend, while a more recent projection claimed it should hit $350 million worldwide. The spin-off fared well in Thursday preview screenings, taking in $30 million, nearly half of The Force Awakens' $57 million record, but as the buzz kept growing and growing, many believed that Rogue One was actually the movie fans had been waiting more than 30 years for, not The Force Awakens.
As you likely know by now, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set in the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, following an group of unlikely heroes who band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves. This beloved spin-off brings back the iconic villain Darth Vader and Mon Mothma, along with one surprising character that I will not spoil... not yet, anyway. This should go without saying, but if you haven't seen Rogue One yet, there will be SPOILERS contained below, so read on at your own risk.
With all of that in mind, we decided to break down the specific moments, themes and ideas present in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that are just simply better than what Star Wars: The Force Awakens had to offer. These could be anything from the story lines to the music or the characters we get to meet. We'll also delve into the future of this franchise itself, and how this one story, which has nothing to do with the Luke Skywalker saga that has been told over the past seven films, could set the tone for every other Star Wars movie after Star Wars: Episode IX. We kick things off with what some thought was the biggest flaw of The Force Awakens.
A Brand New Story That Sparks a Sense of Discovery
Yeah, The Force Awakens is, for all intents and purposes, a "new story," but is it really? J.J. Abrams attempted to give fans the best of both worlds, introducing new heroes like Daisy Ridley's Rey (a.k.a. the female Luke Skywalker) and Oscar Isaac's hot-shot pilot Poe Dameron (a.k.a. a Wookie-less Han Solo), while bringing back Han (Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher) and (briefly) Luke (Mark Hamill). Many die-hard fans noticed all of these similarities right away, and while it certainly didn't have an adverse affect on the box office, it raised doubts about the direction of this franchise, and whether or not this new trilogy would just be a straight-up retread of the original trilogy we have come to know and love.
You'll likely hear no such complaints about this first Star Wars spin-off because, despite a few familiar characters, this story is brand spanking new. We're meeting (almost) all of these characters for the very first time, and director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, Gary Whitta and John Knoll found a way to tap into that sense of wonder that flowed through A New Hope, like The Force flows through a Jedi warrior. If Star Wars 8 and Star Wars 9 are going to be retreads of the original trilogy, which has been rumored and suspected, the filmmakers would be well served to take as many notes as they can while watching Rogue One, to see if they can find a way to bring back a sense of discovery to the franchise, instead of re-hashing the stories we all love.