It’s fitting that the first post on my new blog would be what reinspired me to write about film. After days of teasers, speculation and theorizing, NBC released the hotly anticipated follow up trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars story last night. Well into the night, I had a wonderful time discussing the trailer online with friends and other fans over Twitter and in the Collider Jedi Council group, home to thousands of Star Wars fans. To be so inspired again to talk about a medium and a series that you love gave me great joy and I was reminded that I used to write about film quite regularly, whether it was a review or reporting the news. So I wasted no time and created this platform to give you this article and hopefully many more to come.
Even before it aired, the hashtag #RogueOne was trending on Twitter as fans waiting patiently for the new footage that was promised. Once it aired on televsion, and online moments later, a tidal wave of excited and amazed fans flooded social media. The verdict was overwhelmingly positive with fans, both casual and die hard alike. Couple that with the millions who saw the trailer live on NBC who may have never seen a Star Wars film and Disney/Lucasfilm used a great platform to get the word out for their first spinoff film.
And what a trailer it was. The sense of scale is the one thing that impressed me, brought to life wonderfully by Zero Dark Thirty’s cinematographer Greig Fraser. Our heroes feel tiny, oppressed by the terrifying might of the Imperials who loom over a city small walled city. The city in question looks to have been inspired by Jerusalem or Mecca, with it and the planet being a Jedi pilgrimage site. Imperial shuttles fly in and out of the city while TIE fighters patrol the sky over head now though and there are no Jedi making the trip to this planet.
Forest Whitaker plays the extremist Saw Gerrera, who was last seen in the animated show The Clone Wars. He looks to be at the end of his rope, with unkempt hair and a rickety set of armour tells our lead Jyn (Felicity Jones) about a world coming undone, with Imperial flags that reign across the galaxy. Jyn isn’t having any of that, as she and Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor (great name by the way) work their way to recruit a rag tag team of rebels to undertake a secret mission for the Rebellion.
Despite its criticisms, one thing 2014’s Godzilla did right was scale and director Gareth Edwards looks to be bringing a similar sense of scale to this film, which now credits Bourne writer Tony Gilroy. There are plenty of wide shots in the trailer, showing just how massive these ships and structures are and how much of an obstacle or a threat they pose to our heroes and the inhabitants of these occupied planets, many who are seen being arrested and marched through the streets.
Much to my delight, the marketing for the movie has yet to mention the words “Death Star”, “stolen” and “plans” in any of its promotional material, allowing casual moviegoers and new fans to go in with a surprise. The trailer implies there is a dangerous job to do and leaves the rest open for interpretation. Even those who know the plot, which is hinted at in the opening crawl of A New Hope, will surely be in for surprises and a great story with the new characters and discovering just what the Empire is up to on.
The film also looks and feels completely different than any other Star Wars film before it. With crew who worked on Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and the previously mentioned Zero Dark Thirty, the film appears to be highlighting the “war” in “Star Wars”, showcasing beach warfare, complete with trenches of course, and the sense of occupation by an oppressive superpower, harking back to the World War II Nazi subtext the film often uses for the Imperials (and now the First Order). I for one hope the film adopts a Private Ryan style with it’s characters, with the majority having little to no arcs, allowing the plot to dictate the film rather than having the characters drive the story. The mission here is more important than the characters but they will help sell the importance of it.
After all the gorgeous wide shots and character banter, the trailer ends with a quick shot of the back of Darth Vader’s helmet, his breathing heard before the video cuts. A huge selling point for LucasFilm and Disney, Rogue One sees the return of James Earl Jones to the big screen as Vader. He is reported to be a minor character in the film but his presence will loom over the entire film. Which I think is the better option as it lets new lead villain, Director Krennic (the fantastic Ben Mendelsohn) have his moment of tyrannical glory.
I like that this film is taking risks. It’s trying something new and it feels fresh while also making sure the spirit of Star Wars remains. I was initially very worried about the announcement of these standalone spin off films but this has been firmly set as one of my most anticipated of this year. If the film is a success, I hope to see LucasFilm take more chances and explore other sub genres, themes and characters with these films that would otherwise derail the episodic film’s tone. Here’s hoping audiences accept the bold changes while we wait for Episode VIII!
Rogue One hits theaters December 16th.
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