NB: The following contains Rogue One speculation which some may consider to be a bit spoilery.
We don’t yet know whether Disney’s plans to expand the Star Wars movie universe with bi-annual spin-off movies will be a success, but we can see a positive side to the idea straight away: the spin-offs could allow filmmakers to explore different styles of storytelling within the existing franchise.
Case in point – Star Wars: Rogue One. Although it features many of the things we know from Star Wars movies past – Stormtroopers, the Death Star and so on – it takes a perspective we haven’t seen on the big screen before. Where the central Star Wars narrative is a space opera about the Force and Jedi knights, Rogue One is a sci-fi war film about a group of ordinary soldiers. Taking place an unspecified time before the events of A New Hope, it will describe how the Rebels managed to smuggle the plans for the Death Star out of the Empire’s grip – plans that will later have a decisive effect in the Battle of Yavin.
As movies with multi-multi-million dollar budgets go, Rogue One runs fairly close to being an experiment. Will it feel like a satisfying expansion of the Star Wars universe, or will it tell a story left better to our imaginations? Are mass audiences interested in a Star Wars narrative that lacks Jedi mind tricks and Lightsabers? We have a few months to wait before we have the answers to those questions, but one thing’s for sure: the new trailer looks very cool. Let’s take a closer look…
“The world is coming undone”
The trailer begins with the distinctive voice of Forest Whitaker, who plays the grizzled Rebel Saw Gerrera. He describes Imperial flags fluttering across the galaxy, but this one image sets the scene in a more powerful fashion: a Star Destroyer looming over what could be a Rebel base – or maybe even a Jedi temple.
Thanks to updated Databanks on Star Wars’ website, we know that Gerrera is the resident of Jedha, an ancient desert moon where its civilisation first discovered “the nature of the Force”. It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to assume that the planet we see above is Jedha, since we also know from Star Wars.com that the place has become a battleground between the Empire and Rebel insurgents.
“Can you be trusted without your shackles?”
A re-introduction to Jyn Erso now. She’s the film’s central character – a young criminal who’s given the chance to redeem herself (and wipe her criminal record) by undertaking a mission for the Rebels. As we saw in the previous trailer, that mission is set out by a returning Mon Mothma: “A major weapons test is imminent. We need to know how to destroy it.”
“I want to help”
Here’s our first look at a new ship in the Rebel hangar: the U-Wing, a “sturdy troop transport and gunship” which is often used to deposit soldiers on the battlefield. If Jyn doesn’t give her U-Wing the nickname Bobby, then we’ll be sorely disappointed.
“I’ve been recruiting for the Rebellion for a long time”
Until recently, we thought these sequences of Rebels in chains and Stormtroopers stalking city streets were set on Scarif, the lush tropical planet where AT-ACTs patrol the beaches.
We’re now of the thinking that these scenes are on Jedha, and that Rogue One’s plot will be a little more complex than stealing the plans to the Death Star. Knowing what we know about Jedha, it seems likely that the Rebels will make a renewed attempt to reclaim the home of the Jedi religion – and if a sentence uttered in the next shot is anything to go by, that attempt doesn’t go too well…
“You destroyed our home”
Here’s Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), a tough soldier who appears to specialise in discharging heavy weapons. He’s the best friend of the warrior monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), and it seems likely that they too come from Jedha. Remember when Mon Mothma said something about the Death Star performing a “major weapons test” earlier on? We’ve a nasty feeling that the Empire use Jedha as a guinnea pig for their shiny new battle station, which would certainly give Baze, Chirrut and Saw a good reason to join the Rebels in their attempt to find the Death Star’s weakness.
“The captain says you are our friend”
Here’s a much better look at K-2SO than we got in the previous trailer. As played by a motion-captured Alan Tudyk, he’s a former Imperial security droid who’s been reprogrammed to work for the Rebels. Some of his cold, Imperial past still seems to linger, though: he has a tendency to be unsettlingly direct – as in this scene, where pledges not to kill Jyn. We’re guessing K-2SO and C-3PO wouldn’t get on too well at a dinner party.
“There isn’t much time”
We’re sharing this mostly because it’s such a cool shot. Also, it lends weight to our theory that Jedha might be in quite a bit of trouble.
“Every day they grow stronger”
A closer look at Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). A character who looks like the kind of guy capable of killing a planet at the touch of the button.
“There’s a 96.7% chance of failure”
What follows is a remix of shots we’ve seen before: a huge beach battle which could well be the movie’s main set piece. We get a fresh look at the U-Wing depositing Rebel soldiers on the battlefield, and a satisfying glimpse of Baze launching a space bazooka at one of those huge AT-AT variants.
“He means well”
The next set of shots take place in an unfamiliar setting; a very dank-looking location full of finger-like mountains. Our guess is that this is a third planet we haven’t been told about yet, given the Star Wars tendency to give planets uniform terrain and weather systems. What’s really exciting, though, is the confirmed presence of X-Wings in Rogue One. At some point, the Rebels will stage an aerial assault on an Imperial base, presumably as part of a counter-attack following the destruction of Jedha.
“This is our chance to make a real difference”
Another dramatic shot – this one appearing to show Jyn and Captain Andor fleeing across Jedha in their U-Wing. There’s only one weapon in the galaxy we can think of that could cause destruction like that.
“Are you with me?”
One of the interesting aspects of Rogue One is its lack of familiar characters, particularly among the Rebels. Among the rag-tag bunch of freedom fighters crammed into Jyn and Andor’s U-Wing, who will survive? The sombre tone implied by the trailers means we can’t know for sure.
One thing we do know for sure, though, is that a certain Dark Lord of the Sith will make at least a fleeting appearance in the Star Wars spin-off.
“At a key moment,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy recently said, “he’s going to loom large.”
With a fully-operational battle station, Darth Vader stomping about and no Jedi to come and save the day, the odds seem stacked against the Rebels of Rogue One. The new trailer seems to have revealed an awful lot of the movie’s plot, but there are still plenty of mysteries to unpack. How will Jyn’s father and Death Star designer Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) figure in the plot? Where are the Death Star plans and how will the Rebels escape with them? We’ll have to wait until December to find out…