Rogue One Trailer: Thoughts and Analysis

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I have a confession to make. When it was announced that the first Rogue One: A Star Wars Story teaser will premiere the next day, I didn’t feel anything special. Maybe it was partly because Rogue One was supposed to be, after all, only a “military” film, something that does not really connect in one’s mind withStar WARS! Mostly it was because I expected a thirty-second footage of confused stormtroopers shooting, extrapolated by the announced cast yelling “There are too many of them!” and “We can’t give up. The freedom of the Galaxy depends on us!” You know, some overly pathetic stuff evoking Saving Private Ryan.

I was deeply wrong, and that’s probably one big reason why the trailer overwhelmed me.

What do we see inside it, then? The teaser opens with Felicity Jones as the main character being led into the Rebel base in handcuffs. Somewhat unexpected, but we are also informed – via voiceover – of her criminal history, which puts the whole thing into a slightly different perspective. We also immediately learn the heroine’s name – Jyn Erso. For now, it remains a question whether she will be a willing, or somewhat unwilling heroine who did not perhaps have that much choice on the matter. But we know the Rebellion does not shy away from scoundrels of all kinds, right?

Then, the first big thing comes, at least for me – Mon Mothma. I am really happy the makers decided to use an already existing character who had only a little space in Return of the Jedi. That alone gets big thumbs up, even if it was not for her being portrayed by Genevieve O’Reilly, who portrayed her already in Revenge of the Sith in a scene with the meeting of opposition leaders. That scene sadly never made it to the final cut, but I think casting Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma again (and over a decade later, reflecting also the time-jump inside the story) is a decent enough compensation. Her likeness to Caroline Blakiston from Episode VI is also stunning. I assume her role will be fairly minor, but I am already looking forward to her scene with Felicity Jones (incidentally, I just recently happened to watch The Theory of Everything, for which Felicity Jones got an Oscar nomination, and I have only the best expectations as far as her performance is concerned).

And for those of you old-school Star Wars fans, who are longing for at least something from the old Expanded Universe being salvaged, I have two words: Bria Tharen. That was what formed in my mind the moment I saw Felicity Jones looking into the camera after Mon Mothma’s words. Sure, she is not Bria, she is Jyn Erso, but I have a feeling we might be coming as close as we can to the archetype. And seriously, imagine if somebody told you this was a trailer for a film involving Bria Tharen. You would have believed it, wouldn’t you?

Similarly, look at the few shots that follow. It would not really surprise me if the fact that Diego Luna’s character looks remarkably like Kyle Katarn was intentional. If Lucasfilm wanted to do a bit of fan-service here, I could imagine this being the occasion.

Genevieve O'Reilly as Mon Mothma
Genevieve O’Reilly reprising her role as Mon Mothma

Likewise I did not expect imposing imagery of space scenery, but it is there. The shot of Death Star and an Imperial Star Destroyer with the play of light and shadow was undoubtedly chosen for its resemblance to Vader’s Executor’s appearance in Episode V, but the next moment when the superweapon is put in place is spectacular. Also makes one appreciate much more the Rebels’ feat in A New Hope. What an effort must it have been to build this thing, and what a shock when Luke blew it up!

Next we have a quick shot of a Rebel officer, remains to be seen what his role will be, and if it is going to be anything of importance. More interestingly, we also catch a glimpse of an older man, apparently Imperial, with somewhat aristocratic bearing, clad in a white cloak. I am convinced this is not Tarkin – recasting a different person for such a major role isn’t really the same as recasting Mon Mothma, and it would effectively mean to cast someone to play Peter Cushing. Besides, Tarkin even according to the new canon always wears the same uniform. What this guy (portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn) wears is such a distinctive outfit that I am sure we have a different new villain here. There is one more detail about him possibly borrowed from the Expanded Universe: the white uniform of a Grand Admiral. I am not going to say the name starting with T aloud, but you know of whom I’m thinking. Whoever this fellow is, all I can say for now is that he looks cool and charismatic, but I certainly hope he proves to be a scary, scary villain. Also, as we can see close to the end of the teaser, he does not seem to be just the “office type”, but appears also where the action is, which is always a bonus.

Speaking of Imperials, based on the shady figure we see later in the trailer, I believe we are going to have Darth Vader as well (perfectly logical, given that Episode IV‘s beginning should be direct follow-up to Rogue One). There are also a couple of Emperor’s guards, which raises further questions (there’s been nothing to indicate that the Emperor should appear, but why would such special troops be stationed anywhere else?). The black-armoured stormtrooper we catch a glimpse of is also something unusual, but I am sure it will please many fans of new and dramatic designs.

In what follows, I would like to call the attention especially of you who are interested in Star Wars ground warfare to the moment when an Imperial armored vehicle passes in the background in what looks like a classic backwater spaceport. The vehicle vaguely resembles the Confederation Persuader-class droid tank from Kashyyyk. And afterwards, in quick succession, we get the glimpses of some other members of the team. The group seems diverse enough to be interesting, with some utilising less obvious forms of combat (especially Donnie Yen’s character). Somehow this reminds me of The Magnificent Seven, with the main heroes first traveling and picking up various unorthodox knife-throwers and brawlers, or perhaps of the Predators.

Ben Mendelsohn as the so-far-unknown high Imperial officer
Ben Mendelsohn as the so-far-unknown high Imperial officer

Few more imposing shots and we are almost to the end of the teaser. The scene with palm trees and AT-ATs looks like from Jurassic Park, doesn’t it? Only the brachiosaurs are made of metal. But who hasn’t been wishing to see AT-ATs on screen again since Empire Strikes Back? Likewise, we have had enough of sandy planets, or forested planets, but not really such an environment like this (oasis?). It looks very pleasant for sure.

In the very end of the trailer, just in case it wasn’t clear, we have Jyn in an Imperial gunner suit, as if to say: this is about infiltration.

I dare not guess the overall plot development out of what we saw just yet. Future trailers will certainly clarify some bits and pieces. My wild guess would be that the mission to get the Death Star’s plans may involve getting into an Imperial-controlled facility on a planet governed by Mr. White Cloak, with some local trouble brewing around. Picking up more team members among local lowlifes is also a possibility. But I will be undoubtedly shown to be wrong. You can go ahead and spin your own theories… until next trailer!

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Dorothee Sölle, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.