It was different being a Star Wars fan in 1979. We knew The Empire Strikes Back was coming. We had Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and the Han Solo novels, none of which were really meant for a juvenile audience. We had Star Wars itself, and the soundtrack double LP, and the storybook version and the comic book version and the novel version (which actually dropped six months before the movie). We had maybe 20 action figures and a half dozen ships. And that was all.
This was a world without the Internet, without cable TV, without VCRs. If Star Wars wasn’t in the theater, it wasn’t where you could see it. Today, when my niece decides she’s into Star Wars, there are eight feature films and at least two cartoon series and video games and a million toys and a whole Expanded Universe of new material since 1991 even if 90% of it no longer counts. If you want more story, they’ll give it to you no questions asked.
We didn’t have that. At all. If you wanted more Star Wars, you were reliant on your imagination. If you wanted to know how the stole the plans or how Darth Vader returned or what happened next, you had to make it up. That’s why Empire was so huge in 1980, and why The Force Awakens was the event of a lifetime last year. In both cases, it was something we had never anticipated having: more. This is what happens next.
Rogue One is different, in a way. It’s an experiment. It’s a bet that you can branch off the main story of the saga and tell some ancillary stories. It’s a story that basically takes place in the first two paragraphs of the opening crawl of Star Wars. In a lot of ways, it’s the prequel we wanted: not a lot of wittering about, all taking place a generation earlier, but an immediate how-did-we-get-to-the-skies-over-Tattooine story. The same Rebel base, the same political environment, the same fashion and wardrobe, the same design aesthetic as 1977. It’s a nostalgia play as much as The Force Awakens, but in a different way.
So here we go. Reviews are mixed, but enthusiasm is high, and we’ll soon have another piece of new canonical feature film – something I would have sworn in 1990 or 2012 that we’d never see again. And I’ll be there at 7 PM tomorrow, and for a couple of hours, in every way a 44 year old can be, I’ll be six again.