*warning: Some spoilers for the plot and ending!*
This article will mainly examine how Rogue One deviates from-and yet embraces as well-the typical Star Wars ‘formula’ and ‘feel’.
Rogue One does several things that are mostly unconventional for Star Wars film-the lack of the opening crawl, is of course the most glaring (Although the film still opens in space-although without a Star Destroyer this time, and features “A Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) as well as any episode number (There’s still a title card though after the prologue).
The film also largely deals away with the dissolves/wipes that the other films have used (although are still a few). Plus, the variety of planets (The most seen in a Star Wars film, I think, since Episode III’s “Order 66” sequence, and that was mainly just a few brief snippets) have location subtitles. With the exceptions of Yavin IV (Where a good deal of plot actin is set) and Coruscant and Mustafar-which only make brief appearances, they’re pretty much all new planets too.
Flashbacks are new too-they pretty much open the film, but there’s also a few other ones here and there (Such as the Ersos on Coruscant). For a series that makes a big deal about the force giving people the gift of prophecy/recall it’s interesting how little the device has been used in the films.The closest we’ve really come to anything like this are the visions Luke has of Padme dying in Childbirth in “Revenge of the Sith”-more of ‘flashforward’ than anything (Luke of course saw Han and Leia in trouble in ESB, but it wasn’t visualized really) and the other force vision Rey has in “The Force Awakens”-which of course showed pretty much a general overview of the saber’s history, more or less….including the battle at Bespin, which she wasn’t present at (as well as others which were, such as her family leaving her on Jakku)
But it’s pretty clear that Jyn’s stuff are not really visions but memories which provide much exposition, and they’re of course clear enough to the viewers while Anakin and Rey’s visions were more on the vague side.
And of course Rogue One’s ending pretty much (and SPOILERS HERE!!!!!!) kills off the whole principal cast of the film, including the villain. The only real survivors are those that carry on to A New Hope-Leia, Vader, Tarkin Bail (The last two of course meets their end in that film) and Mon Mothma (Although she doesn’t resurface until ROTJ).
However, in a few ways Rogue One is very Star Wars-ish. The whole group of down on their luck misfits gathering together-something mostly lacking from the prequel trilogy (apart from maybe Jar-Jar and Anakin-not exactly the best examples!) is of course present in this film. Chirrut and Baze are also sort of a double act, similar in a few ways to R2-D2 and C-3PO (Although KS20 does a lot of talk about ‘odds’ and technical stuff, he doesn’t have an R2-D2 with him, and with his size, friendship with Cassian and strength, is almost the Chewbacca of the film).
Of course there’s also sort of a ‘used’ universe concept that’s been present in most of the films. Although a lot of the technology in Rogue One closely matches that of the Original trilogy-including several of the same ships-there’s still a rough edge to the new ships and technology.
Jedha City also kind of looks a lot like the broken-looking frontier towns such as those seen on Jakku and Tatooine. Except Jedha’s city also seems to have a lot more Stormtrooper activity, as well as a force-worshiping element, the guardians of the whills.
Of course since “Empire Strikes Back” the series has usually portrayed battles on multiple fronts. Rogue One continues the transition. Jyn and her group battle Walkers, Stormtroopers and even some TIES on the ground, while the rebel fleet fights overhead to buy them more time and receive the transmission.
Rogue One also sort of puts something that we didn’t really get in The Force awakens, but something present in “Return of the Jedi” and “Revenge of the Sith” a big space battle involving ships of all sizes.
Of course the film also lacks a John Williams score (although a few of his themes are still there). It’s not quite that uncommon though- The “Clone Wars” movie, the “Shadows of the Empire” project, the Ewok films were all “Star Wars” but without the traditional Williams touch. Giannocho has sort of subbed for a series formerly composed by Williams-he was the composer of 2015’s Jurassic World as well. Williams is quite old at this point-in fact he’s already recorded a great deal of Episode 8’s score, something usually not done as much until closer to the end of production.