It seems like an eternity since Rogue One was first confirmed and we’ve had almost no information to sate our appetites – thanks, in part, to a desire by Lucasfilm/Disney to minimize confusion between this and the Mission Impossible film, Rogue Nation. This ended when, a mere 2 months ago, we were treated to a sumptuous trailer – one that showcased a thankfully increasing trend in Hollywood. I speak of course of having a piano intro (the woman lead and diverse cast is a bonus). This ended this week when Entertainment Weekly dropped its Rogue One cover! Look at it, isn’t it magnificent?
Let’s have a quick run-down of what precisely we’re seeing, shall we? Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted something and I can indeed confirm: yes, that is Alan Tudyk looking very tanned and, er, metallic standing behind and to Felicity Jones’ right. But more on him, Felicity and Diego Luna in a minute. Notice something odd about those AT-ATs? That’s because they’re cargo haulers called AT-ACTs (All Terrain Amoured Cargo Transport). It’s difficult to make out, but it appears that they are actually capable of walking on water, which is not something the AT-ATs could do (yes, I’m joking. I know Anakin’s the Chosen One and all, but I don’t expect his machines to be particularly Messianic). And those are indeed a new type of TIE fighter, called TIE Strikers. Fans of the game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic may notice that they look very reminiscent of the Sith fighter. And even though it’s just a brief glimpse, I have to say that I’m loving this continuing trend of increasing the variation of character, armour and vehicle design. The original trilogy was great at design, certainly, but it was limited by budget and the means of production of the time. Nowadays, those difficulties are practically non-existent and now we get to see so many different things. Which, yes, does mean more merchandise, but it also means cosplayers and collectors (and just regular old people who love to play with toys and go ‘pew-pew-pew!’) get more choice and variety.
Before I go into more detail, I warn you, MILD CHARACTER SPOILERS from here on out.
Ready? Okay then! The cover story can be read here, but here’s our rundown:
Darth Vader is back. This was almost guaranteed given that his flagship, the Devastator, was shown in the trailer (it’s the one with the construction that looks like an X at the top, between those balls, which are shield generators), but it’s good to finally have confirmation and put an end to our speculation. Now let us commence with the speculation on what he’ll be doing in the film!
Okay, I am joking, but to briefly cover it: not much is known, but the cover article does mention that we’ll get a look at the ‘skullduggery inside Imperial ranks’ which does hint towards political machinations during Ben Mendelsohn’s scenes – and likely interactions between Mendelsohn and the Emperor’s ‘enforcer’, Darth Vader, possibly even the Emperor himself (though I think unlikely).
The article also mentions that there will be more detail forthcoming about the new characters, as well as ‘candid’ revelations about the reshoots. Which begs the question: is this still a war film? Let’s keep this question in mind as I move onto the second article:
Jyn Erso (portrayed by Felicity Jones)
A streetwise delinquent who has been on her own since 15, she has fighting skills and a knowledge of the galactic underworld that the Rebel Alliance desperately needs. “She’s got a checkered past,” says Lucasfilm president and Rogue One producer Kathleen Kennedy. “She has been detained [by the Rebellion] and is being given an opportunity to be useful. And by being useful, it may commute her sentence… She’s a real survivor. She becomes a kind of Joan of Arc in the story.”
This is an interesting description, notably because it acts as though the Rebellion has any real authority – and depending on where they go with her story, may or may not demonstrate a good knowledge of Joan of Arc’s life and motivations. Joan of Arc was a believer, she fervently believed in her cause … which sounds the exact opposite of Jyn Erso. It’s early days, however, so it could be a reference to her personal journey throughout the film or to something else entirely.
Captain Cassian Andor (portrayed by Diego Luna)
Andor is a by-the-book Rebel intelligence officer, brought in to steady the volatile Erso, but he’s no square. He’s committed, steady, and practical, and has seen more than his share of combat. “He conveys a fair amount of experience and the reality of what it’s like to do this every day, to try to figure out how to resist the Empire effectively and intelligently,” says Kiri Hart, Lucasfilm’s chief of story development. “It’s not easy.”
I’m unsure where I stand with this description: it’s refreshing to hear a man being portrayed as a side-kick to a woman, someone who helps her. On the other, it sounds somewhat patronising. But moving on, note how Kiri Hart describes him as the one to convey the reality of what it’s like to do this every day. This gives me an inkling that the film is staying close to the ideal of having a realistic, gritty war movie. This means it’s likely that they’re just putting a little bit more humour (which is definitely not a bad thing for a war movie, and has been done well before) or character nuance in there.
Chirrut Imwe (portrayed by Donnie Yen)
Pronounced chi-RUT, he’s no Jedi, but he’s devoted to their ways and has used his spirituality to overcome his blindness and become a formidable warrior. “Chirrut falls into the category of being a warrior monk,” says Kennedy. “He very much still believes in everything the Jedi were about.” He maintains that belief even though the Jedi are no longer there to protect the galaxy. As director Gareth Edwards puts it: “This idea that magical beings are going to come and save us is going away, and it’s up to normal, everyday people to take a stand to stop evil from dominating the world.”
Not a Jedi. Not even Force sensitive, if this Good Morning America video, via ClubJade, is accurate. But it is interesting that Rogue One is adding another layer to the mysticism of the Star Wars universe, in its own way. And frankly it’s one that is very refreshing. Like many war films before it, Rogue One is placing the burden on the shoulders of mere mortals, conveying the message that it’s just us, that we’re the ones in this mess and we can’t rely on super-powered beings to get us out of it. Also he has a really cool stick.
Baze Malbus (portrayed by Jiang Wen)
Heavily armored, Baze prefers a blaster to hokey religions and ancient weapons, but he is devoted to protecting his friend Chirrut at all costs. “He understands Chirrut’s spiritual centeredness, but he doesn’t necessarily support it,” Kennedy says. Baze goes along with this Force business because “it’s what his friend deeply believes,” she adds. Think of them as a little like the galactic version of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Wow, forget four quadrant movies, this one’s trying to tick all the genre boxes. A heist war movie with mysticism and buddy comedy flavouring? Not that I’m complaining; as much as I loved the saga movies, depth of character is not something that can be said for the entire cast. It seems like every squad member is getting special treatment here. This is, of course, as it should be, but sadly this isn’t always the case. Is this down to those reshoots that have been so prominant in the Star Wars blogosphere? Perhaps, and I’ll address that later, but for now I’d like to mention something that impressed me about Baze’s profile.
He doesn’t agree with his best friend. As I write this, we in the UK are in the middle of a large political schism, and the US is in the middle of an excruciatingly ugly election cycle (and no doubt other countries are experiencing something similar). It’s great that these two characters can have such deep, meaningful differences and still support each other. Now let’s look at this from an in-universe perspective: these two, and to a lesser extent Jyn and Cassian, do not share the same outlook on the Rebellion, yet they’re working together to accomplish the same goals. I love the nuance here, the demonstration that not all Rebels are the same. We saw this, of course, in A New Hope, when Leia joins up for idealogical reasons, Luke for a jolly jaunt and Han – well, Solo gonna Solo, really. And we see this in Blaze’s write-up with a direct hearkening back to Han’s attitude.
So does this mean that we’ll be getting some more people bemoaning that the new films can’t come up with anything new and are redoing the same plays from the original trilogy? Please, let’s not go there. Please.
Bodhi Rook (portrayed by Riz Ahmed)
Bodhi is this Rebel squad’s lead pilot. He tends to be hot-headed, but any abrasiveness is overshadowed by his skills in the air — and the void of space. “He flies a lot of cargo, one of his key jobs,” Kennedy says. “And he tends to be a little tense, a little volatile, but everybody in the group really relies on his technical skills.”
Admittedly this one flew under the radar for me, and when I first saw his profile I completely blanked. There’s not much said, here, and what is said makes me think he’ll be more in the background rather than be a prominent member of the group. But it should be noted, however, that earlier reports on these reshoots note a lot of ‘talking in cockpits’. Considering this is the only aspect of his character that we learn, I’m hopeful that these reshoots will mean an increased focus on his character.
K-2S0 (mo-capped by Alan Tudyk)
This towering, powerful security droid is described by Edwards as “the antithesis of C-3PO.” In other words, he’s tough, confident, not especially interested in “human/cyborg relations,” and the complete opposite of a neurotic fussbudget. “Kaytoo is a little bit like Chewbacca’s personality in a droid’s body,” Edwards says. “He doesn’t give a s— about what you think. He doesn’t fully check himself before he says things and does things. He just speaks the truth.” Like Jyn, he’s also seeking a bit of redemption for past wrongs. Droids, too, can have regret.
HK-47’s spiritual successor (and K9‘s inferior cousin), I’m very much looking forward to his inclusion, and not just because he’s voiced by the wonderful Alan Tudyk. Although the ‘he just speaks the truth’ gives me pause, I’m confident that a lot of the comic relief will come from Kaytoo, providing much needed releases in what will likely be a tense flick.
Galen Erso (portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen)
Jyn’s estranged father is like the galactic version of nuclear pioneer J. Robert Oppenheimer, with doomsday knowledge that is sought by both the Empire and the Rebellion. “He’s one of those people that has insight into you know specific aspects of just how the universe works,” says Hart. Where has Galen been, if Jyn has been on her own for years? “The circumstances of how the family got to the state that it’s in is something that we probably don’t want to share right now,” Hart says.
First thing’s first, since they’re being very upfront about Mikkelsen’s identity, I don’t think we’re dealing with an ‘I am your father’ moment here, and so Mikkelsen’s little slip up several months ago wasn’t as huge as previously thought. The article highlights the estranged relationship between father and daughter, but I’m not entirely certain that that’s as big a deal as they’re hyping up at the moment. What is of interest is Garen’s role in the construction of the Death Star. For fans of the old EU, it sounds like his role is very similar to that of Qwi Xux, the weapons designer responsible for the Death Star and, well, some other doomsday of the week weapons that are best left forgotten. It’d be fascinating if the film did borrow heavily from the EU (as Ahsoka says, there’s always a bit of truth in legends) which may mean – and I’m just throwing this out there – that Mads ends up wearing pink feather hair and dates Wedge Antilles. Oh gods, please please make this happen. Let me have it. Let us have it. Let the world have it.
Director Orson Krennic (portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn)
On the opposing side, this villain is an ambitious Imperial apparatchik who intends to use his squad of Deathtroopers to pulverize the Rebel uprising and ascend into the Emperor’s graces – while hopefully avoiding the wrath of his enforcer, Darth Vader. “The bad guy is a lot more terrifying when he’s really smart, and really effective,” says Knoll. “There is a lot of palace intrigue going on in the Empire, with people conspiring to move up the ranks and sabotaging each other. There’s not a lot of loyalty there.”
Though it’s unclear of Krennic’s role in the Imperial war machine, the fact that he isn’t a Moff or have a traditional military rank suggests that he’s in a civilian organisation with strong military links. To me, it seems likely that he’s the, or a, director of the Imperial Security Beaureau (ISB) the intelligence operative, which would make a lot of sense, given that his enemy in the film is an insurgent military force who, at this point in the universe, work more in the shadows than through traditional warfare (though when that does happen, boy howdy will it blow up in the Imperials’ collective faces). Yet though it mentions palace intrigue, I do think it somewhat unlikely that we’ll be visiting the Imperial Palace at the capital world of Coruscant. the overall impression of these bios is that it’s very much still a war movie and as such any scenes involving members of the higher command (read: anything above the cannon fodder that is our Rebel squad) will likely be placed near the front lines. Given that the trailer shows Krennic getting his cape dirty, I think this assumption stands to reason.
Saw Gerrera (portrayed by Forect Whitaker)
This character has a past that Star Wars completists will recognize immediately when they see his name, even if he looks very different than the way they’ve seen him before. (He even looks different from when we saw him in the teaser trailer.) There’s so much to say about this character, we’re going to break out a separate on him and his history in The Clone Wars. Click here for a deeper exploration of this shadowy figure …
Perhaps the biggest surprise of this announcement is Saw Gerrera, whom we first met in the TV series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. At first glance, it’s great to see interaction between the small time side stories of the TV series (sorry, TCW, but when compared to Hollywood films, this is true) and the big time films. But upon reflection, it’s not so different, really, to what often happened in The Clone Wars and The Phantom Menace. Coruscant, after all, was an EU/Legends invention, which was incorporated into the prequel trilogy. Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos first appeared in the comics before they made it onto the smallscreen. This is a cool addition, but ultimately nothing new.
(If you’re so inclined, the Star Wars Wikia has an extensive run-down on his appearances in The Clone Wars.)
To return to the (very) previous question, what does this mean, in terms of reshoots? To be honest, it’s somewhat early to tell. However, from personal understanding, I’m viewing the reshoots in an optimistic light*. These character details would likely have been locked in from near the beginning. Sure, Poe Dameron gained a personality upgrade in the Episode VII reshoots, but this is a rare occurance. Usually these things exist from early on, but they don’t always come across well in the first cut, so more character scenes are often necessary so that we can more reasonably become invested in the stakes. I think it highly unlikely that the core tone of the film will have changed due to these reshoots, and given the sneak peaks we see here, it seems a rational stance to believe that Rogue One maintains its heist/war movie status. Does that mean they’re toning it down? Well, it depends on how you view the inclusion of humour in a war movie. I feel not, but as always, your money may vary.
*It’s an ‘up’ day for me. Ask me another time and I may not be quite so positive.
Entertainment Weekly’s edition covering Rogue One will hit store shelves Friday 24th June. Check it out!Powered by Sidelines