Why 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' Needs An Opening Crawl

Does Star Wars: Rogue One need an opening crawl? This is a conversation I had with friends months ago, but its now come to the forefront thanks to recent comments from Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy. So let's dive in and explore the reasons I believe that Rogue One should have an opening crawl.

Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams

Why Rogue One Might Not Have an Opening Crawl

Before we get to why Rogue One should have an opening crawl, lets explain why Lucasfilm and Kathleen Kennedy believe it might not be necessary. She has said that it is important that "these Star Wars stories [are] embracing the uniqueness of the different genres, and we're very deliberately leaning into the various styles of directors that we're approaching so that each of these movies will very intentionally have a very different tone and style from the saga films." For instance, Gareth Edwards' handheld and visceral stylistic preference will be unlike anything seen in the George Lucas movies. Makes sense. As for whether the film will have an expositional opening crawl, which has been a staple of this series since 1977:

We talk about that all the time. It's something that we're right in the midst of discussing even now, so I don't want to say definitively what we're doing. The crawl and some of those elements live so specifically within the 'saga' films that we are having a lot of discussion about what will define the [stand-alone] Star Wars Stories separate and apart from the saga films. So we're right in the middle of talking about that.

I agree that it is important to differentiate the Star Wars Story standalone films from the Skywalker saga movies, but I think that dropping the opening crawl will hurt more than help in this effort.

Rogue One death star

The Crawl Helps to Educate the Audience and Set Expectations

I believe an opening crawl is the best way to explain where and when this story is set. It's best to do this up front and not confuse anyone.

I know what Rogue One is about. You know what Rogue One is about. But many normal civilians who don't read movie blogs may not understand the basic timeline. I've seen many people on Twitter confuse Felicity Jones for Daisy Ridley's character Rey, even though they barely look alike. I've also seen people complain about the Empire/First Order building yet another Death Star. In person, I've talked to quite a few people who couldn't answer the simple question of when in the Star Wars timeline is this movie set. I've even asked Star Wars geeks who didn't know if this was the first Death Star from A New Hope, or the second Death Star from Return of the Jedi.

Sure, we only have one teaser trailer, an Entertainment Weekly article, and a few photos at this point. I'm sure as the marketing ramps up it will better educate moviegoers about what this movie is and where the story is set in the timeline. But for many people watching this movie in the years to come, there won't be trailers and commercials to set up the expectations. And now that the Episode numbers are being completely abandoned from the Skywalker Saga logos, it becomes even more confusing in the legacy viewings of these films.


The Crawl Is Part of the Star Wars Galaxy and Brand

The opening crawl is not something that has been unique to the Skywalker saga films, but has appeared in front of a lot of the Star Wars novels, comic books, video games and even some of the animated television productions. And I'm not just talking about Legends but newer canon productions like the current Marvel line of comic books and LEGO animated shorts.

The Star Wars opening crawl is as much a part of the Star Wars brand as the iconic Star Wars logo itself. I don't think that forgoing the use of the opening crawl would really differentiate the film much at all. And while the filmmakers may believe that no opening crawl might work for this particular story, what about the other standalone films to come? Will they require a setup to explain the placement in this galaxy? For instance, will the Han Solo film require a crawl to explain where in the timeline this Han Solo story begins?

Kathleen Kennedy once told me in reference to the Star Wars Story standalone movies that "Star Wars is very different than Marvel in that they basically build their stories around characters, and then they seed those characters in different stories." She said, "Star Wars you know is a place, it's a universe, so those stories are constructed a little differently." I feel like the opening crawl is part of this pre-established universe.

Rogue One images header

Play Against Expectations and Adapt the Crawl to Set the Unique Tone

How the opening crawl is employed is a matter of style and tone that could be unique to each Star Wars Story.

Instead of getting rid of the opening crawl completely, why not have the stand alone Star Wars Story films play with the expectations of the audience? I love how movie studios sometimes adapt their brand logos for the opening of big event tentpole films, when it's done well it can be fun and clever. So maybe there is a way to have an opening crawl and play against the expectations of the audience while also introducing this new unique tone that establishes this story firmly outside of the Skywalker Saga.

How that might be accomplished beyond my pay grade, but I could imagine a crawl being written in a very different style and tone than the previous Star Wars episodes. I could also imagine that something happens mid-way through the crawl, an explosive bit of unexpected action. Again, I'm not a Hollywood screenwriter, and I'm sure there are better ideas, but I think the idea of adaptation is better than complete removal.