Deconstructing the ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Trailer

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In case you missed it, earlier this morning Disney and Lucasfilm released the trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first of many Star Wars spinoff films. Directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla), Rogue One tells the story of the band of Rebels who stole the plans for the Death Star prior to the plot of the original Star Wars film. Take a look at the trailer below and continue reading as we go through each sequence, breaking down this first look at the film with some wild speculation.

Ok. Now you’ve seen the trailer. Awesome, right? It’s time to put your speculation glasses on as we break this baby down shot-by-shot.

The trailer begins with Alistair Petrie’s character, whose name is still unknown, heard in voice-over…

“State your name for the record.”

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In the first shot of the trailer we have our first look at actress Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) as she answers…

“Jyn Erso.”

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Meet Jyn, the film’s hero, or should I say antihero (more on why in a minute)? As Jyn is escorted, in shackles, across the hangar bay of what appears to be a Rebel base (notice the X-Wing in the background, and the few astromech droids and power droid scattered about the scene), Petrie’s character begins listing off a laundry list of Jyn’s crimes…

“Forgery of Imperial documents, possession of stolen property, aggravated assault, resisting arrest.”

A woman’s voice adds…

“On your own from the age of 15. Reckless, aggressive, and undisciplined.”

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It’s Mon Mothma! Nice to see Genevieve O’Reilly reprising her role as Mon Mothma, the leader of the Rebel Alliance. Genevieve first played Mothma in Episode III, cast for her resemblance to Caroline Blakiston, who played the character in Return of the Jedi.

Fun side note: I’ve seen many people asking where the Bothans are? The Bothans are an alien race referenced in Mon Mothma’s famous line in Return of the Jedi; “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” However, the Bothans she was referencing were responsible for obtaining plans for the second Death Star. Prior to Rogue One, details on how the plans for the first Death Star were obtained remain a mystery.

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This introduction of Jyn reminds me a lot of Snake Plisskin’s entrance in Escape from New York. That’s why I think she’ll be more of an antihero. Like Snake, or even Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, Jyn is being tasked to save the day as a form of her redemption, the crimes from which she needs redeeming becoming the very skills that will likely guide her on her journey.

By the way, I love this laser background. Reminds me of my elementary school portraits in the ’80s.

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We get our first look at Diego Luna’s (Elysium) character, with no context aside from the fact that he is obviously a trusted Rebel within Mothma’s inner circle.

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Jyn adds…

“This is a Rebellion, isn’t it?”

Some great Jyn vs. Stormtrooper action. Can I just note the battle-worn grit of this set design? This is how I want the Star Wars Universe to look – gritty, war-torn and lived in, not shiny and clean like in the prequels.

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Obligatory Stormtroopers flying in the air shot followed by Jyn’s awesome line of defiance.

“I rebel.”

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Mon Mothma lays things out…

“We have a mission for you. A major weapons test is imminent. We need to know what it is and how to destroy it.”

We, the viewers, of course know what that weapon is, and what it’s capable of. Just look at these incredible shots of the Death Star. Chilling!

When asked by Petrie’s character if the mission is clear, Jyn answers with a defiant wit that again reminds me of Plisskin in Escape from New York.

“Yes, sir.”

The eerie howl of the Death Star alarm kicks on as the trailer switches gear into a montage of compelling shots. Let’s go through a few of them…

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This shot has me super curious. This is clearly one of the new villains in the movie, but all that is known right now is that the actor is Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises). That’s it. No name, or context. However, I see a striking resemblance in the facial features and uniform he is wearing to the look of Grand Admiral Thrawn, a fan-favorite villain from Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy of books. Now, I know that Thrawn is blue in the books and the Thrawn trilogy is part of the now-deemed-non-canonical Expanded Universe, but still, it’s worth considering.

Here’s a picture of Thrawn for comparison.

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Is it a stretch? Maybe. But Expanded Universe fans would agree that it would be incredible to have Thrawn included in the film.

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This Stormtrooper tank reminds me a bit of a non-snow version of Kenner’s MLC-3 toy that came out when Return of the Jedi hit theaters. The tank never appeared in the film, so it would be a cool nod to have it play a role here. Oh, and who is that mysterious cloaked figure looking up to no good?

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Next, Forest Whitaker’s still TBD character appears. I can’t yet tell if he is a good guy or a villain in Rogue One. At least he’s not a Psychlo, amirite? Battlefield Earth humor.

Forest’s character asks a series of questions that play over the rest of the trailer…

“What will you do when they catch you?”

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Another new Stormtrooper variation for Hasbro to sell.

“What will you do if they break you?”

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This is my favorite part of the trailer. Donnie Yen (Ip Man) playing a samurai-like character in a Star Wars movie? Yes, please!

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The new villain, let’s call him Thrawn, has a Jesus moment.

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Is this Emperor Palpatine? I wonder if Ian McDiarmid will reprise his role.

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My second favorite shot of the trailer. Check out this incredible action sequence pitting Rogue One’s Rebel heroes against a fleet of AT-AT’s! Maybe one of those is Rey’s future home.

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In the final shot of the trailer we see Jyn framed in some obvious hero lighting. The last line of Whitaker’s narration plays over this scene…

“If you continue to fight, what will you become?”

I like what this question implies. As is the case with the Jedi heroes of the Star Wars films, most notably Luke, good is thematically tested by evil. That’s the core of these stories. The light and the dark. The Hero’s Journey.

I can’t wait to see where Jyn’s journey takes her when Rogue One hits theaters this December. What do you think? Share your observations and comments below.

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