If you’ve seen Monsters or Godzilla, then you know that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story director Gareth Edwards is an expert at scale. Each of Edwards’ first two films dropped viewers into a world where monsters walked among us, and Star Wars fans have been looking forward to how that sense of scale would translate itself to his upcoming film. They may not be monsters, but the Star Wars universe is full of ships and vehicles that dwarf the smallest rebel troopers; how would Edwards’ style fit in a world of Star Destroyers and AT-ATs?

According to a recent interview with Edwards, that was easy: just shoot the whole thing like it was a war film. Edwards sat down with Collider (with transcript by Heroic Hollywood) earlier this week and explained how he sold Disney on a Vietnam-inspired Star Wars movie:

When we started, the studio was like, ‘Well, how do these movies differ from the saga films?’ One of the early experiments we did was taking real war photography, pictures of Vietnam, conflicts in the Middle East, and World War II. And we literally photoshopped rebel helmets on the tops of the real soldiers. We looked at this stuff and it was really effective and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I really feel for these guys’. There was something about the realism of that we showed it to [Disney] and everyone was like, ‘Go make that movie. That looks great.’

As you’ll no doubt remember, many of the battles in the original Star Wars movies had a decidedly antiquated feel to them, with two advancing forces basically just shooting at each other until only one force was left. The idea of shooting Rogue One as a modern war film  —  complete with the chaos and street-level violence inherent in that style —  seems like the proper marriage of storytelling and the modern Hollywood aesthetic. The only danger here is if Rogue One forgets that it is a Star Wars movie first and a war movie second. Just as action films have steadily gotten darker, so, too, have movies like Mad Max: Fury Road and Guardians of the Galaxy reintroduced brightness and, well, fun to the action genre. Color and size are a spectrum, and what looks great now might seem dated in a decade or two.

Here is the full plot synopsis for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story:

From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will hit theaters on December 16, 2016.

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