With Star Wars: Episode VIII more than a year away, Disney had to fill the gap with something—and that thing happens to be Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This is Disney’s first attempt at creating a standalone movie that exists inside the Star Wars universe, something that doesn’t directly concern the Skywalker saga.
Up first is a tale from Gareth Edwards in which we find the Empire at the height of its power. Occurring about 35 years before The Force Awakens, and bridging the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Rogue One will tell us exactly how the Rebel Alliance came into possession of the Death Star plans.
Even deeper than that, the story will supposedly parallel that of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who infamously helped create the atomic bomb. Mads Mikkelsen is rumored to be playing Galen, the Star Wars version of Oppenheimer, and a scientist who takes over the Geonosian Death Star Project, solving several key flaws the Empire couldn’t.
While this is technically a teaser, we still have a pretty good idea of what’s happening. The focus is clearly on Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, and her mission to steal the plans. But what else does the footage tell us? And why is Forest Whitaker doing a Yoda impression?
The trailer doesn’t waste time introducing audiences to Jyn, Star Wars’ newest badass. Jyn is being led through a Rebel base, possibly on Yavin IV, by a pair of Rebellion officers—there are Rebel pilots in the background. Why has she been detained?
“Forgery of Imperial documents, possession of stolen property, aggravated assault, resisting arrest,” a Rebel officer says, reading off Jyn’s laundry list of offenses. She’s obviously not someone to be trifled with.
We get a nice wide shot from inside a hangar, which is full of activity—an X-Wing sits patiently in the background, and we also get a quick glimpse of a GNK power droid (that walking trash can).
In a Rebel control room, Mon Mothma—Mon-freaking-Mothma!—stands over a briefing table, lecturing Jyn about her troubled past.
“On your own from the age of 15,” Mothma says. “Reckless, aggressive and undisciplined.”
“This is a Rebellion isn’t it?” Jyn defiantly responds. “I rebel.” Here we get to see Jyn take out an entire patrol of Stormtroopers in some kind of village.
Mothma smirks, clearly amused by Jyn’s moxie.
“We have a mission for you,” Mothma explains to Jyn. “A major weapons test is imminent. We need to know what it is and how to destroy it.”
That weapon, ladies and gentlemen, is the Death Star, the very one audiences were first introduced to back in A New Hope. Mothma’s mission, and Jyn’s resourcefulness, will prove crucial to acquiring the Death Star plans, which helped the Rebellion destroy the giant Empirical weapon in the original trilogy.
Notice how Jyn—in the shot of her taking out the Stormtrooper patrol and another of her running through a hangar—is constantly tailed by a tall, lanky droid, which rumor has it was part of the Empire but was reprogrammed to help the Rebellion. We don’t actually get a shot of his face but we can tell he’s gangly and doesn’t quite have the sheen of a droid like C3PO.
An alarm begins blaring, and we see Jyn and another character, played by Diego Luna, walking purposefully toward their mission. Rebel pilots and what we assume to be mechanics and other Rebel fighters are also running about.
A quick cut and we see a war general, played by Ben Mendelsohn, standing inside of what looks like a Death Star control room, an outline of either a planet or the Death Star on a screen behind him. His uniform appears to be a Grand Admiral, a concept that we first saw in Heir to the Empire. Although the story is no longer canon, it looks like Rogue One took inspiration from that arc.
A patrol of Stormtroopers walks through a town’s streets. Name any war movie and this shot is a perfect parallel of that. The town’s residents are living in fear and squalor as the Empire enforces its rule around the galaxy. This is exactly what Jyn and the Rebellion are fighting against.
We get our first look at Forest Whitaker’s character; from what we can tell, he’s a kind of wise-man-mentor-type, a person who guides Jyn on her journey.
“What will you do,” Whitaker’s character asks. “when they catch you? What will you do if they break you?”
We see a Stormtrooper patrol leading a group of Rebel fighter pilots through some kind of marketplace, their hands cuffed and their demeanor defeated. Jyn and her droid bodyguard are seen running through an Empirical base; in another shot, a squad of Stormtroopers runs through what we assume is the same area—check out the Stormtroopers wearing tan armor. Before that, we get a brief glimpse at this film’s version of Shadowtroopers, which could be part of Darth Vader’s death squad (more on him in a minute).
Donnie Yen’s character uses his martial arts skills against some Stormtroopers, and then we cut to a battle happening on a more tropical planet, which is something we haven’t seen in the Star Wars universe. Those same Shadowtroopers shoot their blasters toward someone/something off screen, and then we see an aircraft explode.
Ben Mendelsohn’s character walks toward a base through a shallow shore, his cape gloriously flowing in the wind. There are numerous Stormtrooper bodies strewn throughout the beach; it’s a grim scene.
Then we get perhaps the trailer’s most intriguing and mysterious scene. A cloaked figure walks into a room with what looks like a bacta tank. This tank would be used to submerge subjects for extended exposure to bacta, a fluid capable of accelerating healing and major injuries. It’s hard to tell if anyone is inside, but considering the security detail (two Royal Guards), it suggests someone of high importance is in there.
There have been rumors Darth Vader will make an appearance in the film, so perhaps that’s who is in the tank (the cloaked individual could be the Emperor). Remember, Rogue One takes place after Revenge of the Sith but before A New Hope, so it would make sense for Vader to be inside that tank given what happened to him at the end of Episode III.
“If you continue to fight…” Whitaker’s character continues on.
We cut back to the tropical location, where Rebel fighters are running out of a base—you can see Jyn and Diego Luna (no droid!). Again, another war parallel. There are multiple AT-AT walkers attacking, which looks so strange (in a good way) because we’re used to seeing them on the snowy planet Hoth.
“What will you become?” Whitaker’s character finishes as Jyn looks toward the camera. She’s dressed as a TIE Fighter pilot! This suggests her character goes undercover at some point, possibly allowing her to nab the Death Star plans.
The footage gives us just enough without revealing too much. From the beginning, Disney and director Gareth Edwards have maintained that Rogue One is going to be more of a war movie, and less about the Force and Jedi lore, and that absolutely comes through in the teaser.
The Empire’s forces patrol city streets and the Death Star, which is a weapon of mass destruction, looms over planets, causing the galaxy to live in fear. Rogue One will show audiences the beginning of the Rebellion, and how they eventually acquire the plans that take down the Empire’s greatest weapon.
I had concerns Rogue One would get lost in the shuffle since it’s not Episode VIII, but after seeing the teaser, I’m tempted to say it looks better than The Force Awakens.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is scheduled to come out on Dec. 16, 2016.