This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Global Press Event in San Francisco. Instead of repeating what many attendees already have said while reporting on the weekend, I thought I would try to bring insight that is unique. Today’s focus: Saturday’s screening at Skywalker Ranch.
1) Who’s There?
On my shuttle bus ride to the Skywalker Ranch event I sat next to a pop culture reporter from Toronto. He has interviewed music stars like Madonna as well as covering movies. He and his son are Star Wars fans – his son hasn’t watched the Original Trilogy. The degree of fandom, from casual to hardcore, represented in the press pool was vast, but really speaks to Disney’s commitment to bringing their product to the masses. In addition to Canada, I met people from Italy, Australia, Spain, and Germany.
2) Skywalker Ranch
A trip to Skywalker Ranch at night isn’t for the faint of heart. The road is winding with sheer drop-offs. Luckily the darkness obscured most of that, but it also tricks bus drivers. Two buses ended up lost. Luckily my driver merely overshot his turn inside the ranch property, but that required about 15 minutes of backing up. The property was beautiful at night. The ranch house lights reminded me of a building at Disney. I hope to see it all in the daytime one day. No matter, one item checked off my bucket list!
3) Screening Room
The Ranch’s screening room is in the building that houses Skywalker Sound. While introducing the 28-minute footage reel, Gareth Edwards pointed toward the seat preferred by George Lucas: the sweet spot in the middle of the theater. I happened to be two seats away from Lucas’ seat. Flanking the screen are two statues from Palpatine’s office, but it’s easy to forget about them as soon as the lights go down and the movie begins to play.
4) The Footage
We were asked to not spoil what we saw from Rogue One, but share our enthusiasm. We watched the opening and a few scenes that gave a sense of what different characters are like in the story. Visually, this is definitely a new age of Star Wars. The different style and opening didn’t matter because the story grabbed me right away. Even as a person who keeps up on what’s happening, some things still surprised me, all for the good. Afterward the viewers had an excited discussion about what we saw. I can’t wait to see the whole movie next week.
5) The Catalyst Question
Some have proclaimed you have to read the novel Catalyst for the opening to be impactful. I disagree. The opening of the film does just fine on its own. It sets out everything you need for the adventure of Jyn Erso to begin.
6) My Favorites
It’s hard to pick. Jyn is fierce. Cassian is… surprising. K-2SO continues the legacy of droids in Star Wars. Chirrut is all kinds of awesome! A little more space battle footage than I’d seen in the trailers and commercials was included in the montage at the end. I’m excited to see more.
7) Thoughts for Parents
Obviously Star Wars has always been about war, but much of the death is remote and bloodless. In A New Hope, a planet is obliterated, pilots crash, the bad guy kills the good guy in a duel that ends with a pile of robes on the floor, and a bully goon’s severed arm in the cantina is glimpsed for only a brief moment. From what I saw of Rogue One, it tackles the shades of grey in war head-on, and parents should be prepared for that. I suggest pre-screening the movie, then showing it to your kids if and when they are emotionally ready to understand what transpires.
8) Gareth Edwards
The Rogue One director comes across as a genuinely nice guy. He seemed more relaxed in a setting with a couple hundred press rather than the filled-to-capacity convention hall where I last saw him. In his introduction of the footage, he talked about Skywalker Ranch. You could almost imagine he could have been one of the characters in the movie Fanboys as he playfully asked for volunteers to steal the Death Star prop out of the Lucasfilm Archives. He thought four people could accomplish the task. After the screening he talked to individuals and took pictures, and seemed disappointed he didn’t have enough time for all those waiting in line to get a chance to speak to him.
9) The General Store
Pretty much every person at the Saturday event took the chance to be bussed over to shop at the Skywalker Ranch General Store. Merchandise ranged from shirts and patches to ranch-branded olive oil and wine. The specialty Christmas ornament seemed most popular, as were the lightsaber umbrellas. I picked up a patch for the fire department with the Millennium Falcon after I was told they were being discontinued. Also in my bag: two Skywalker Ranch shirts.
Upon returning to the Fairmont Hotel for the evening, the Disney PR Team handed us bags of Rogue One loot. I landed a Jyn Erso Wobbler, a Darth Vader action figure. Inside a Rogue One computer bag was a hoodie, moleskin, and baseball hat. The hat is cool because the underside of the brim has a Death Star design.
And so ended my Saturday night adventure to Skywalker Ranch as I wandered off to get some sleep before an early morning call for the press interviews at Lucasfilm headquarters. I heard tale that Mads Mikkelsen and Diego Luna hung out at the hotel bar and that they were very approachable. I’m sorry I missed it, but I have some fun run-ins with cast and crew in my spotlight on Sunday’s events coming later this week.
Be sure to check out 7 things we learned at the Press Event held at Lucasfilm over at FangirlsGoingRogue.com.
In the mean time, another international trailer has hit the internet. Enjoy!
Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.