Against the Odds…
The teaser trailer of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story shows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) recruited for a special mission by the Rebel Alliance who have discovered that a major weapon test has been scheduled by the Galactic Empire. Not much else is known.
Details are limited, but ultimately the Alliance needs to destroy it.
In the course of less than two minutes we are introduced to the characters and basic plot of this Star Wars story. Yet within this teaser trailer, there is much to tease and entice…
Jyn Erso, in the very first frames, appears as hesitant and unsure of her future, looking back towards the audience as she steps through the door that will lead her into the heart of the Rebel Alliance.
For the audience however, there are familiar cues. For this film is set prior to the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. We see the Rebel troopers with their distinctive helmets that we first saw on board Princess Leia’s Consular Ship (though what are the symbols on the helmets?).
We glimpse a younger Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) – the defacto civilian leader of the Alliance to Restore the Republic who first appeared in Return of the Jedi, standing at a mission briefing table looking elegant and stately. For the keen eyed, they may recognise the two legged walking box “Gonk” droid that appears in two different shots of the secret Rebel base that we quickly recognise from the stone architecture, vines and technical displays as being on Yavin 4 as last seen in A New Hope from 1977.
Though there are familiar cues for the audience, there is also anxiety, heard in the ominous soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat but also the voice of the Rebel general whose voice we first hear listing the prosecution charges against feisty Jyn Erso.
Its a small detail, but the character of the Rebel general (Alistair Petrie) has all the stoic guise of an Imperial officer, akin to Maximilian Veers, the general who led the Imperial heavy assault on Hoth. Also, it seems on Yavin 4 the majority, if not all, of the rebels are human. Where are the Mon Calamari, like Admiral Ackbar or Sullustans, like Nien Numb? Will this be addressed?
It is more likely that the core group of the Rebellion are those who have first felt the effects of Imperial power, the sophisticated urbanised Core Worlds rather than the lawless outback of the Outer Rim Territories. Perhaps many are defected from Imperial military service or absconded from claustrophobic worlds filled with total indoctrination, having recognised the oppressive xenophobia behind Imperial pro-human policy. Again, the Rebel general, aware of precarious nature of rebellion, is likely cautious of double agents and collaborators and the constant spectre of failure.
When we see the massive scale of the target at hand, which dwarfs the flotilla of Mark One Imperial Class Star Destroyers, perhaps the Rebel Alliance has every reason to be sceptical and fearful – we know, in hindsight, that thay do indeed.
The brief and silent appearance of Ben Mendelssohn standing on the familiar bridge of the Death Star battle station (again, familiar from A New Hope), shows him in the uniform of Imperial flag rank. Some have asked is this a much younger Tarkin or possibly Grand Admiral Thrawn, a much loved figure in Star Wars legends, changed for the movies. However, on closer inspection, his white tunic and black britches seem to indicate he is ranked an Admiral within the much maligned Imperial Security Bureau (ISB).
Perhaps with pistol in hand, he has summarily liquidated an incompetent lieutenant for failure. The keen eyed, will note in Star Wars IV the white uniformed figure of ISB Colonel Yularen (take note Clone Wars fans) sitting at the conference table as Vader chokes Admiral Motti his disturbing lack of faith.
The presence of very high ranking member of the omnipresent Imperial Security Bureau would seem to reinforce the Rebel high command’s concern over their failure to penetrate even rudimentary details about the Empire’s secret weapons array. Indeed, the presence of the black stormtroopers, sometimes called shadow troopers or death troopers, may indicate the Empire is going to extraordinary lengths to compartmentalise information about this project.
Perhaps these black clad troopers are a death squad, tasked to eliminate loose ends. The appearance of a white pillar-like moisture vaporator burning in the background harks back to the Lars homestead on Tatooine, where Owen and Beru Lars where incinerated by stormtroopers to ensure secrecy.
The brief appearance of captured rebels only reinforces the utter hopelessness of the task at hand, against enormous odds.
This seems reinforced by the voice over of Forest Whitaker’s character, who sounds as a mentor to Jys Erso and possibly a veteran or mercenary, hobbled by conflicts, and marks a pessimistic yet realistic tone. The Empire and its forces, its militia and stormtroopers are everywhere.
In one scene we see Jys Erso running along a mass transit subway platform (A very well dressed set of Canary Wharf station on the Jubilee Line of the London Underground, fact fans). The keen eyed may note the Imperial officer grey britches and boots on the character running alongside her. In the foreground, the tall droid (supposedly played by Alan Tudyk) has markings similar to an Imperial stormtrooper torso armour on its back plate. Some have speculated that Alan Tudyk’s character is a reprogrammed droid commonly used by the Empire. Have they successfully infiltrated an Imperial facility or rescued an Imperial operative who knows too much?
Yet despite the oppression of the Empire there are those who resist. We see some of the characters that make up the team. One, a blind ninja-like character, another a gung-ho with heavy ordnance, yet another an explosives specialist blowing up an Imperial cargo shuttle, reminiscent of the bird-like Lambda class shuttle. This really feels like the the Dirty Dozen in space…
Perhaps news of such surgical attacks bring the threat of the rebel interference to the battle station project to the attention of the Imperial Ruling Council. A hooded figure enters a chamber, with two Imperial Royal Guards standing at attention. Is he there to convey information?
The proximity of the red clad guards indicate this is not a hologram chamber but the presence of the Emperor himself. The escaping gases and appearance echo the carbon freezing facility in Cloud City on Bespin, but more likely it is enclosure similar to Darth Vader’s meditation pod on his Super Star Destroyer – as seen in Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back – a place where Darth Sidious’ frail frame can be replenished by dark side energies. If the hooded figure isn’t Vader nor indeed the Emperor himself, it may be quite significant to discover who this privy counsellor really is. Rumours about that this is perhaps Snoke (from Star Wars: The Force Awakens) or maybe Galen Marek (from The Force Unleashed games – we’d love this by the way) but we’ll probably not know until we see it at Christmas…
The final wow shot of AT-ATs reminds us of the every present threat that the Empire presents to the fragile rebellion. We hear that Darth Vader has a big scene in the movie where he cuts down rebels on a sand covered battle ground… is this where we see Vader?
The final shot – mirroring the first – showing a confident Jys Erso clad in Imperial TIE pilot uniform only reinforces the anxiety of the Rebel general and perhaps now the audience as well.