“Where are those transmissions you intercepted? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THOSE PLANS?!” Don’t recognize the line? Then picture the scene: a dazzlingly white spaceship corridor, a soldier being held clear off the floor by his neck, and clutching his throat a black-clad character destined to become one of the greatest villains in cinema history: Darth Vader. These were the first words that came booming out of that iconic mask in 1977’s Star Wars, further setting the state of affairs hinted at in the opening crawl. A tyrannical Galactic Empire reigning supreme, a daring Rebel Alliance fighting desperately to topple it, and the pursuit of stolen schematics to the Empire’s ultimate weapon: the Death Star. Well, we all know what happened afterwards to that soldier, to Darth Vader and the Death Star, but what about beforehand? (Prequels don’t count!)
This December, we’re set to find out with the first of a planned ‘Star Wars Anthology’ franchise: Rogue One. As the Empire finalizes its destroyer of worlds, troublemaker Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is recruited by the Rebellion for this desperate mission to acquire the aforementioned plans. Joined by Clone Wars veteran Saw Gerrera (Forest Whittaker), a freelance assassin (Jiang Wen) and an ex-Imperial fighter pilot (Riz Ahmed), she’ll go up against some of the Empire’s most fearsome enforcers, not least Military Director and Death Star-overseer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).
If there’s one message the marketing has knocked out of the park with these trailers so far, it’s this: Rogue One is a war movie, through and through. The teaser’s siren-infused music score set a grim and gritty tone back in April, worlds away from the space opera that typified the core franchise and its episodes.
This trailer expands on this fundamental ethos that just because a film is filled with starships doesn’t mean it can’t be fully grounded in the dirt. Its visuals may be spectacular, but this time the shadows seem denser. Alien wasteland vistas, ironically reminiscent of geology of the classic Western that so heavily inspired this franchise in the first place, amber-lit by a setting sun, an Imperial Star Destroyer floating austerely in the sky above. Stormtroopers marching prisoners through bustling streets, somehow immediately more imposing than their accuracy-challenged past appearances. The Death Star itself creating a solar eclipse.
The Skywalker saga may have treated this galaxy as the playground of Force users, but Rogue One promises a less-polished exploration of life for those living in the Empire’s grip. Jones, Whittaker, Wen and Ahmed are all given moments to shine even within the span of the trailer’s 2.15 minutes, giving the impression that much like the Rebellion itself, the fate of this film will not rest on any one person’s shoulders. As for Mendelsohn, whilst we may have yet to hear Krennic speak, his silent simmering holds real potential for an as-yet-unseen degree of cruelty in the Star Wars universe. And just when the trailer had spoiled us rotten, with glimpses of Erso’s ship (truly a classic Star Wars-y design), fighting on the beaches as equally reminiscent of Vietnam movies as World War II movies and Erso staring down a TIE fighter, we’re treated to one final promise: an unmistakeable helmet, an incomparable breath. Darth Vader. May the Force be with us.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits cinemas December 16th.