Rebels of all stripes gather in the shadow of the Empire in the newest trailer for Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Even more so than Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is very high on my “Please Don’t Suck” list. Both films are, in some ways, proving grounds for the enormous investment Disney made in Lucasfilm and Star Wars years ago. But while The Force Awakens set out to prove, in the shadow of three poorly received and even more poorly remembered prequels, that Star Wars as a thing could still work, Rogue One has a much vaster challenge ahead – it has to prove that you can change what Star Wars is. The Force Awakens was a painstaking recreation of Star Wars films past, built almost completely out of the parts that came before. All the other Star Wars films are of the same stripe – high-concept space opera about grand heroes on a galactic scale. As we’ve seen from the other trailers, Rogue One is something entirely different – a reframing of some of the most iconic imagery and language in the modern history of the world into a form it has never before taken the shape of; a ground level war film. Changing the framing of icons is dangerous. It can lead to ruin. And it can make a multi-million dollar company a shade fearful of trying something new with its investment. All of this is on top of months of rumors of re-shoots, re-edits, and aid being put in by several different screenwriters and directors behind the scenes.
If the new trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Trailer indicates anything, its that people just might have nothing to fear. Because good lord.
The trailer isn’t shy about the territory it wanders in. Set around the fateful mission that catapults the entire Star Wars original trilogy in motion (the Rebellion raid to capture the plans for the Empire’s most-aptly-named-thing-ever, the Death Star), this trailer gives perhaps the best look yet at how exactly Rogue One aims to change the image of Star Wars – a sense of scale and a sense of real human beings. Whatever you think of the man’s films, Godzilla (2014) director Gareth Edwards gets how to properly convey the massiveness of things in comparison to the normalness of people. This trailer is shot after shot of emphasizing the scale of Empire’s massive war machines in comparison to the average Rebel soldiers and miscreants that make up the team tasked with heisting the Death Star plans. That shot of the Star Destroyer hanging over the plateau. The AT-AT looming over soldiers. The Death Star eclipsing a world’s sun.
Against this is the first look at some of the film’s ancillary characters beyond lead Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Diego Luna’s Rebel recruiter and pilot Cassian Andor, blind Force user Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), blaster-wielding skeptic Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), ex-Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), animated series alumni Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), and ruthlessly blunt droid K-S20 (Alan Tudyk) all have moments here, all against a backdrop of intimate camera work in a slightly more human, dirty environment than previously glimpsed in Star Wars. None of these people look, or sound, like Star Wars characters we’ve seen before – all carry a brutality, a grit, befitting the war film atmosphere, and they are framed as such. The camera shakes a little, but doesn’t overdo it. It treats hyperspace jumps a little bit more like blinding light. It frames the action a little more kinetically, a little more grounded. It makes the people look a little more desperate. It makes the final speech of Jyn Erso a little bit more compelling.
This, much like the bold plans of Jyn Erso to steal the blueprint of the Death Star, looks like it just might work. And that’s before Darth Vader shows up.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story releases on December 16, 2016.