Variety is reporting more from the updates Bob Iger discussed yesterday at the Goldman Sachs conference. In addition to stating Disney’s plans to capitalize on Star Wars beyond 2020, Iger also discussed the expectations for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Iger appears to be happy with the current state of the film:
“It’s really interesting in terms of ‘Star Wars’ storytelling,” he said. “‘Star Wars’ has only been told as a saga, and this is a moment in time … we love what we’ve seen.”
But he then says:
“We never felt it would do the level that ‘Force Awakens’ did,” Iger said. But based on the response to the trailers and posters, he said “The level of interest [in ‘Rogue One’] is as high as it was for ‘Force Awakens.’”
The expectation is that Rogue One will not hit that $2.1 billion global box office. However, Iger then stresses that the level of interest is pretty much equal to that of Star Wars: The Force Awakens because of the interest in the trailers. The comment kind of allows anyone to interpret Rogue One’s prospects any way they want to. If interest is as high as it was for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there is a possibility the money should be somewhat even, give or a take a little. But Iger clearly doesn’t want to promise that. It sounds like the mood is conservative, as to say what can top the insanity of last year’s frenzy for the first new Star Wars film in a decade? But… you never know.
I hate to say it, but interest really isn’t as high for Rogue One as it was for The Force Awakens with fans or general audiences. The movie doesn’t answer a question we all had a couple decades ago: what happened to Han, Luke, and Leia after the fall of the Empire? Who is related? There’s no big questions captivating audiences before they’ve seen the movie. That’s not a slight on the film. The Force Awakens could have put pretty much anything on screen and made a killing just because it was the first sequel to Return of the Jedi. It seems for the general audience, Rogue One’s connections to the old films they superficially love is pretty small and hangs on the shoulders of Darth Vader and the Death Star’s imagery at this point. They still don’t know who Jyn or K-2SO happen to be.
In all honesty, right now, I’m more excited for Rogue One than Episode VII or VIII. I think Rogue One is likely to be the better film of the two on the immediate horizon. Online and in my personal experiences, Rogue One seems a little more tepid in the audience excitement zone. Episode VIII stories perform drastically better than Rogue One stories on this site and from the sound of things, most fan sites and bloggers have seen similar numbers. That either means Episode VIII is going to be the biggest of the three Disney-made Star Wars films so far or the appetite for Rouge One is somewhat smaller. That doesn’t mean the movie will be a failure or small, just that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was enormous.
There seems to be this weird tension between the fan focus on Episode VIII and Rogue One. While fans ponder what is going to happen to Rey, Finn, and Poe next, they have a hard time feeling emotionally invested in characters with a story that has not begun yet. It is as if a portion of Star Wars fans still haven’t accepted how many movies can and will be in production at the same time and how they will negotiate that with their imagination’s focus. That will change. I think with each day we get closer to the release date in December, fans will be jumping on the Rogue One train with a little more fervor. Maybe it really isn’t happening for them until they can actually own the first action figures, posters, and t-shirts?
We are not far off from the release of all the Rogue One products. That’s when the exposure to the new film really happens. The lack of midnight events seems to speak to a less confident product launch but the ability to pre-order will likely make the process easier on me and in turn I think I have already spent more money on Rogue One products than I did for The Force Awakens. If you recall last year, the “Force Friday” events generally allowed fans to show up at midnight and buy all the products and toys. This year, it appears only Toys “R” Us will have a midnight event for the launch of the products. It would seem that would lessen the chance of people impulse-buying products they are seeing for the first time. However, this year Disney allowed tons of pre-orders of Rogue One products which will likely offset the lack of midnight impulse buys. I prefer to pre-order new Star Wars products rather than deal with a retail store’s supply shortages and overall ambiguity regarding what they will have and how the process will go upon release.
The Force Awakens was the movie we needed. For years, George Lucas finished telling his stories set in the Star Wars universe with the prequels and The Clone Wars. Those endeavors, while fantastic in my opinion, were about Lucas satisfying himself as an artist. What the fan wanted or thought they wanted were second seat to Lucas’ whims and desires. If Lucas was going to bother with Star Wars again, he was determined to make it work for him first and us second. I think it was commendable and fair. J.J. Abrams and his collaborators seems to have mostly come at Star Wars from the opposite angle. They wanted to satisfy audiences by giving them the Star Wars experience they wanted, expected, and demanded (right down to the death of Han Solo and the designs having barely shifted in most instances). Rogue One falls somewhere in the middle of these two spectrums. Rogue One as a standalone film aims to experiment and move away from the Skywalker story and style. The premise is solid. The cast seems brilliant. The direction is younger, fresher, and more daring. The movie should perform well.
How these films perform is really only of interest to me because I want them to be successful so Disney keeps making them with all the resources needed for the filmmakers to make the best films they possibly can. Chances are your favorite Star Wars film isn’t the most financially successful Star Wars film (fans of The Empire Strikes Back, I’m talking to you).
I hope Rogue One exceeds all expectations financially and artistically. How much money a movie makes has very little to do with how good of a film it is. Awful films makes loads of cash every year and good movies often struggle to find an audience. How Rouge One does will probably hinge on if the film is welcoming to repeat viewings by fans. Each time I watch The Force Awakens, my head swims with what certain moments mean and the ramifications for the future of Star Wars. Will Rogue One have the same effect on me? Or will I see Rogue One, feel content with knowing that’s how things went down to steal the Death Star plans and go right back to thinking about Episode VIII and the sequel trilogy?
With all this in mind, it doesn’t seem reasonable or fair to expect Rogue One to perform like a sequel to the original trilogy kicked off by J.J. Abrams. But lets hope it does so the standalone films thrive and contribute something great to the lore of the saga we all love.