Hannah Parker

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Could the newest instalment of the franchise be the biggest hit of the year?

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Last year Star Wars fans all over the world took that dusty box full of lightsabers, Darth Vader masks and Chewbacca dolls out of the loft. J. J. Abrams was bringing Han Solo and Princess Leia back into our lives after a ten year break. The Force Awakens wasn’t just the biggest thing to happen in cinema for 2015, but possibly ever. But what’s more exciting than one Star Wars film in the space of a year? Two, of course!

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This December, Star Wars hits the cinema again with a whole new story, and a host of new characters. The film is set in a time between the end of the second trilogy (Revenge of the Sith), and the beginning of the first classic triumvirate (A New Hope). The main interest around the film is seeing how the death star was built. And with the second instalment of the sequel trilogy being released in 2017, this film is certainly keeping the Star Wars excitement alive.

The film stars Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything and Inferno), accompanied by Forest Whittaker (The Last King of Scotland), and Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises). The impressive cast and their already proven acting abilities just add to this already well-anticipated film.

There has been the classic secrecy that you expect around a Star Wars movie. But from what we’ve seen in the trailers so far, the effects look better than ever, the characters look as intriguing as always, and the story looks as exciting as expected.

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Ami Dixon-Smith, a supervisor at Empire Cinema Sunderland, said she found the release of The Force Awakens to be one of the biggest cinema events she’s been involved in. “Our midnight release had our foyer full to the brim and the excitement was buzzing around for months beforehand and continued well into the New Year,” said Dixon-Smith. “The film was such a success, and so loved that some fans even went back and saw the film as often as they could find an empty seat!”

Dean Wales has been a die-hard fan of the Star Wars franchise since the age of three, and he remembered how excited and impressed he was for the return to the big screen. “The film had a great story and brilliant characters. It felt like Star Wars was finally back!” Wales, from Newcastle, said.

So, now we know that the first instalment back on the big screen was a success, it takes the pressure off Rogue One somewhat. However, it is a completely different story in a completely different time. Being the second release also decreases the excitement factor, as Dixon-Smith explains: “In my opinion, it’s never going to be the first one back after 10 years, like The Force Awakens was.” And it seems that some fans are still skeptical about this one, as Wales claims: “The film could go one of two ways, bad or good.”

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The question is whether this film can live up to the huge expectations from Star Wars fans. The choice of a different director, Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), rather than the very well known and trusted J. J. Abrams is a questionable one. Not only is Abrams not directing, he seemingly has very little involvement with the film, which could prove to be disastrous.

Having said that, Dixon-Smith clarified: “We do already have people asking when our tickets are going on sale and what kind of merchandise we will have available.” So, Abrams’ distance from the film may not put too many fans off. Edwards has also directed sci-fi films previously, proving he shouldn’t be ruled out just yet.

In terms of the fan-base, not only does this film have the pressure of living up to previous instalments for die-hard fans, but also for the newbies. Dixon-Smith has seen first hand this diversity in age groups: “The Force Awakens bought a lot of families together and created a whole new generation of Star Wars fans so we’re expecting a wide range of age groups again.” These fans have proven they’re sticking around by “elderly couples, adults, teenagers and young children pointing at the posters and saying ‘I can’t wait!’“ This makes it hard to dispute the idea that this could well be the film of the year.

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Bringing a popular and loved franchise back to the cinema will always prove to be risky. It could prove to be as exciting, popular and soughtpafter as the originals or it could in fact ruin the franchise all together. “People were very anxious about The Force Awakens because of the worry that something that they once loved so much may be tarnished, but the anticipation was through the roof” claimed Dixon-Smith.

Although the excitement may not be on the same level for Rogue One, she also said: “Rogue One has that same buzz!” This could not only be due to the amount of new fans they’ve gained, but also thanks to the achievement of The Force Awakens proving they still have the ability to make great films.

Luckily, the new films have proven their worth with the first being such a success. They have a long way to go with this being only the second of the six upcoming Star Wars instalments, and many fans will always have the belief that:  “Nothing beat the original trilogy. But the new films are heading in the right direction. There are some interesting stories coming out and I think Disney have got this” as Wales confirmed. There is obviously still a great sense of expectation, but a less anxious sense of confidence with this anthology addition to the franchise.

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The film may not be being released for another month and a half yet, but the excitement is already growing. Not just on social media, but also at Empire Cinema Sunderland: “With such an iconic franchise, on the whole, we don’t need to push it – it sells itself! That being said, we do already have some posters up and of course are showing trailers in our foyer and before films” Dixon-Smith divulged.

With the anticipation, excitement, and general love for this franchise, this film is set to be a great way to end 2016. If you are an old Star Wars fan or new, you may want to keep an eye on those ticket sales. It sounds like they could run out fast.

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