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The Star Wars franchise is slowly but surely figuring out its standalone movie format, which included decisions like omitting the traditional opening exposition crawl from Gareth Edwards' Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. However, the film actually did feature a crawl at one point. In fact, not only did Rogue One: A Star Wars Story have an opening crawl, but screenwriter Gary Whitta recently took to social media and revealed that his crawl specifically had the exact same number of words as A New Hope's crawl. Whitta wrote:
I did write a crawl, and I remember thinking it was neat that it was the same number of words as the one in A New Hope. This was before the (correct) decision not to have opening crawls for the standalones.
It's the little details like that that make the Star Wars franchise so interesting. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had a crawl in the earliest stages of the script's development, and per Gary Whitta' recent tweet, we now know that it would've been structurally identical to that of A New Hope's opening crawl by featuring 83 words.
In the end, the decision was made to move away from the traditional opening craw that has become so iconic in the main saga film. This helped give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story its own flavor compared to movies like The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and Gary Whitta now believes that the decision to omit the opening crawl turned out to be the right one in the end.
This decision makes sense, as there's a case to be made that Rogue One never needed a crawl in the first place. It's one of the only Star Wars movies to feature a substantial time jump, with the opening movie serving as a prologue to set up the Jyn Erso Death Star story. In essence, that sequence where Saw Gerrera finds her IS the opening crawl.
That said, the Star Wars franchise is still learning how to structure its spinoff properties, as Solo: A Star Wars Story did something decidedly different from Rogue One. Instead of opening straight into the action, Ron Howard' recent Han Solo-focused prequel featured a much briefer opening text that simply faded in to get audiences up-to-speed on Han's life on Corellia. With other spinoff films currently in development at Disney and Lucasfilm, it will be worth keeping an eye out to see how the franchise changes its structure and moves in new directions.
It will be interesting to see how the Star Wars franchise evolves its format at Lucasfilm becomes more comfortable with the spinoff movies. Until then, make sure to watch out for J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode IX (which will almost certainly have a crawl) next year on December 20, 2019!