by Joseph J. Langan
The first teaser trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story debuted today! Going over the footage, it looks absolutely clear that director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) perfected the visual aesthetic of the original trilogy. Darth Vader doesn’t make any discernible appearance, but his presence may still haunt this film. However, what still remains murky is exactly how this Star Wars story will unfold. Let’s take a look at some of the frames to speculate.
The teaser trailer (short of a massive red herring) confirms that Felicity Jones will play our lead character, Jyn Erso. I can’t help but feel a Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) meets Katniss Everdeen vibe from her. Kudos to Disney for sticking with the female heroes after the success of The Force Awakens’ Rey. The galaxy is filled with more competent women than Padme and Princess Leia, including the leader of the Rebel Alliance, Mon Mothma, who sheds some light on Erso’s bio, “on your own since the age of fifteen, reckless, aggressive and undisciplined.” A voice-over elaborates on Erso’s criminal background: “forgery of Imperial documents, possession of stolen property, aggravated assault, resisting arrest.” The Rebel Alliance should have no problem employing a criminal who’s broken the Empire’s laws, so it’s suspicious that she’s being led into the Yavin IV base in handcuffs. Erso counters Mothma’s judgments with confidence, “This is a rebellion, isn’t it? I rebel.” Exactly why she appears to be on the wrong side of the Rebellion is unclear, but the whole idea of a hero with a criminal past being granted a chance to prove herself gives the Ocean’s 11 “team assembled to get the Death Star plans” story a dash of Suicide Squad flavoring. Is their any chance she defected from the Empire? The last shot shows her in what looks like a TIE-fighter pilot’s flightsuit. With Finn filling that role in The Force Awakens, I hope Jones doesn’t play an Imperial defector, but we’ll have to wait to see.
The casting choice for Mon Mothama is spot on! She looks like a perfect younger version of Caroline Blakiston from Return of the Jedi. The actress, Genevieve O’Reilly, also played a younger version of the senator in Revenge of the Sith. Although she gave a great performance, her scenes unfortunately ended up on the cutting room floor. It’s nice to see O’Reilly will be reprising her role for Rogue One. This officially marks the first link between George Lucas’ prequels (which Lucasfilm marketing has stayed clear of) and the new Disney movies. Here’s hoping for an eventual return of Ewan McGregor for an Obi-Wan spin-off, or as a Force ghost in the sequel trilogy.
In this shot, captured rebel pilots are being led by Stormtroopers through a market. Considering Rogue One will probably follow the typical conventions of a heist movie: recruiting the team, then the mission, it’s unclear if this occurs later or earlier in the movie. Was getting captured part of the master plan, or is this an unrelated scene that takes place earlier? While this isn’t certain, this shot does give us a hint of good news:
It looks like Edwards learned from J. J. Abrams with his detour away from the prequels’ polished CGI sheen. The “used-universe” aesthetic is back in full-swing. The teaser shows that practical effects and puppets heavily populate each scene and all the visuals remain incredibly devoted to the look and feel of Star Wars. There’s also an incredible shot of Star Destroyers beside the in-construction Death Star that not only shows an immense sense of scale, but looks like it was lifted straight out of the original trilogy. The Star Destroyers look to be almost painted on and it harkens back to the classic matte paintings.
This shot gives us a glimpse of an Imperial hover-tank. However, the most interesting bit is not the classic Stormtroopers beside it, but what looks to be possibly Clone Troopers operating the vehicle. Could we see a blending of the Republic and Empire eras in Rogue One? The Force Awakens had a throwaway line about no longer using clones for their Stormtrooper legions that attempted to bridge continuity. The Stormtroopers in the Rebels TV show are also depicted as recruits, not clones. It would be nice to see some overlap between the two divisions and see some development and world-building between the two different groups and how they view each other.
Here’s our first look at all black Stormtroopers. These guys are heavily rumored to be Shadow Troopers or Death Troopers, an elite branch of Imperial soldiers who specialize in reconnaissance. Rumors indicate that these guys will be hunting down the rebels once they acquire the Death Star plans. Supposedly, they’re part of an elite special ops division of the Empire and may even employ cloaking technology. While their exact role in the story remains to be seen, behind them is almost certainly a burning moisture evaporator. Luke Skywalker grew up on a moisture evaporator farm and his aunt and uncle were burned alive by Stormtroopers. Could Rogue One not just be a prequel, but have a small level of cameo-overlapping with the story of A New Hope? It’s a long shot, but as Han Solo would say, “never tell me the odds!” It would definitely be interesting nonetheless.
Forest Whitaker’s unnamed character makes his debut with this teaser. He sports bulky armor that looks like a cross between more typical rebel soldier garb and sophisticated bounty hunter tech. Just what side he starts on and what allegiances he has is uncertain, but he’s most likely part of the team to extract the Death Star plans.
While Mon Mothama delivers dialog on the Yavin IV secret base, Diego Luna’s still unnamed character looks on questionably. His likeness to Oscar Isaac leaves fans to wonder if he may have any relation to Poe Dameron. With his jacket and his Han Solo-swagger, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there’s some connection between the two.
This shot of Ben Mendelsohn was unexpected! His unique white outfit leads fans to wonder whether he will be part of the Imperial Security Bureau or, even more interestingly, whether he will actually be playing a Grand Admiral. His likeness and posture is uncannily similar to the E.U. fan favorite, Thrawn, although without the blue-colored skin of a Chiss. While Thrawn isn’t canon since the Disney acquisition, both The Clone Wars and Rebels have moved expanded universe material into the canon realm and there’s rumors Thrawn may even appear in season three of Rebels.
Just as interesting as the outfit and the unknown identity of this character is the background that he’s standing in front of. This appears to be a perfect recreation of the viewfinder on the first Death Star where Grand Moff Tarkin lined up Alderaan in before wiping it from the face of the galaxy to a dismayed Princess Leia in A New Hope. The visual recreates the computerized model with astonishing precession, capturing A New Hope‘s late 70s effects in a way that’s modern, but still endlessly faithful to the original.
After a battle scene and the destruction of what may be his personal Imperial shuttle, Mendelsohn’s character surveys the damage.
This villain’s unknown identity is even more mysterious. In the corners of the room are definitely the Emperor’s Imperial Royal Guards. However, this character’s physique and the fact that he bows makes Palpatine an unlikely contender. However, it’s probably not Darth Vader because we’ve never seen him wear a hood. If it is Palpatine, who could he possibly be bowing to? The object in front of him definitely looks like a bacta tank. Could a frail, or freshly-wounded Snoke be preserved in that tank? Snoke was alive to watch “the Galactic Empire rise and fall” so the timeline fits. Abrams is quoted as saying that Snoke was once quite beautiful, but has been maimed by the time of The Force Awakens. Also, Abrams confirms that, “he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. There is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda.” This bacta tank may be what kept him alive from whatever damage was inflicted upon him. If this is indeed the Emperor showing his reverence to Snoke, it would throw the whole idea of who’s been pulling the Star Wars saga’s strings on its head.
In the now non-canon expanded universe, Palpatine also had clone bodies that his ghost possessed after his death in Return of the Jedi. Here’s hoping this isn’t a shot of the Emperor admiring one of his clones.
Probably the biggest surprise is Donnie Yen’s character taking out a group of Stormtroopers in true samurai fashion. Star Wars has always taken influence from Akira Kurosawa’s films, like the wipe transition and the plot of The Hidden Fortress, but never has the connection been so transparent. I’m happy to see a move away from the lightsaber as the galaxy’s default melee weapon, though. This character’s effectiveness with a quarterstaff against Stormtroopers foreshadows the First Order’s soldiers’ competent use of melee weapons.
Last but not least, we see the ragtag group of freedom fighters charging a handful of AT-AT walkers. They look massive and the updated effects help add a sense of immediate danger to these behemoths that their appearance in The Empire Strikes Back sadly lacked. It’s worth noting though that these models are slightly different, paying homage to Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept art and their red eyes have a decidedly Battlestar Galactica flavor.
The tone of this teaser focused much more on action than espionage or heist material, which leads me to believe most of this footage takes place earlier on in the film. It would make sense, as there’d be the least amount of spoilers earlier in the runtime. However, exactly how these freedom fighters come together and steal the Death Star plans remains very much a mystery.
Yavin IV is featured heavily and the shots of a sandy market and close combat with Imperials could be from Tatooine. Although I’m hoping they’re not, since we’ve seen that planet so many times. The shots of the tropical beach with the AT-ATs and the Imperial shuttle blowing up seem to feature a planet we haven’t seen before. In the EU, the planets Corellia and Chandrila are featured with comparable topographies. Corellia, the homeworld of both Wedge Antilles and Han Solo, was integral to the Rebellion, so here’s hoping we finally get to see its debut feature in one of the live action films. Chandrila’s also a possible contender, being the homeworld of Mon Mothma and one of the worlds designated for destruction by the Empire’s second Death Star, it would make sense that this planet would also be active in galactic events during Rogue One‘s era. Keep an eye out as we’ll be sure to cover more Star Wars news and rumors as they arise at Aiguille Media.