There’s a lot of noise in the media about the deleted footage in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. With all the reshoots and wholesale changes to the story, there are a lot of people expecting the home video release of the film to show the lost footage or even offer a look at the movie that almost was. We probably aren’t going to be getting a director’s cut of Rogue One. For a variety of reasons.
There’s No Precedent
Fans often mistake the tinkering that was done to the original trilogy for the Special Editions and beyond with the equivalent of a “Director’s Cut” of those films. It wasn’t. There has never been a Director’s Cut of a Star Wars film for one very simple reason: there’s never been a film in the series that wasn’t under the control of George Lucas. Until The Force Awakens, of course. For the most part, despite their size, the Star Wars films are privately financed independent movies. As a result, they aren’t bound by the same restrictions that many other films are. It’s a blessing and a curse. Many feel that the prequels could have benefited from a few executives saying no to certain decisions.
Star Wars has the luxury of freedom. Though footage is always cut out of every film in the series, the version that makes it to the screen is the Director’s Cut. Even Rogue One with all of its changes and tweaks. That’s the definitive version of the film. In many ways, this new version of the film is a shining example of the best possible product being offered to audiences despite the normal filmmaking process.
Rogue One was delayed and tweaked, but because (if you believe the spin the filmmakers are offering) Disney was committed to letting the film be as dark as it needed to be. The stakes were allowed to be higher and the outcome more impactful. It may or not be the truth but the luxury Star Wars has is to not compromise. To date, every Star Wars film that has been released has been signed off on by the highest authority.
Showing How the Sausage Is Made Has Never Been Lucasfilm’s Way
While there have been exhaustive behind-the-scenes accounts of the making of films in the saga, the amount of deleted scenes is scant. J.J. Abrams shared a few on The Force Awakens, but as a whole, there simply isn’t a lot for the fans to chew on. Whether the process burns the fat off the films organically is to be determined. In special effects-heavy films, most of the scenes that will ultimately never make the film are cut way before animators begin the expensive and time-consuming digital work. As a result, there simply isn’t that much left over. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an exception.
Regardless of the reasons behind the tremendous amount of unseen footage, there’s no upside to making it available to fans. While it doesn’t amount to Lucasfilm showing their dirty laundry, once that footage is out there, people will appropriate it. As an unknown commodity, it creates discussion. Once it’s an absolute, it can be divisive.
In this case, Lucasfilm cannot show how the sausage is made. In the past, the “making of” documentaries for the films were engineered as joyous celebrations of the next Star Wars events. Today’s world determines that kind of material as either a bland EPK feature or a fully transparent examination of the process.
The Gareth Edwards Factor
One of the surprising takeaways from the past year has been the participation and candor of director Gareth Edwards amidst all the press about Rogue One‘s delays. He’s a filmmaker who has always been available and forthcoming, and his love of the genre is evident in his first three films. Monsters, Godzilla, and Rogue One are all celebrations of being a geek in their own way. In many ways, he’s a surprise since much of being a part of the Star Wars machine involves keeping secrets. If any filmmaker in the world of Star Wars would be conducive to peeling back the curtain and showing what may have been, he’s the one. But Gareth Edwards is but a tiny cog in a much larger machine.
The reality is that Lucasfilm runs a tight ship. It’s why there has been virtually nothing leaked regarding Episode VIII and the sort of omerta fans have in protecting the things that do leak. Star Wars is a machine kept afloat by love and loyalty. To lose too much of that magic is a risk. Especially after the past two years and their restorative effect on the brand. It’s simply not good business to offer a Director’s Cut. Even of the anthology movies. The Special Editions were engineered to rekindle the fire for Star Wars and test out special effects techniques. The people in charge now wouldn’t do it.
The problem isn’t that there’s footage lost to time – there’s always footage lost to time. The problem is that the fans know about it. In this era of entitlement and instant gratification, it’s understandable why that footage is in high demand.
One thing immune to time is the behemoth that is Star Wars. So don’t get your hopes up.