The first real trailer for Rogue One; A Star Wars Story dropped yesterday to great effect. Let me get the boldest statement out of the way immediately: this is legitimately a Prequel Sequel!I was among the happy few who saw the trailer screened at the Star Wars Celebration Europe … except that that had been a different trailer to the one that was aired last night and subsequently flooded the web. I love this trailer, its execution, the music put underneath and the overall look.
Digital has improved so much
From the first shot onwards the trailer felt ‘right’. I will not draw any comparisons with The Force Awakens here, because one of us will do that elsewhere. But I do want to compare the trailer with the Prequel Trilogy. The grand vista’s, the establishing shots of large locations, images that tell you within a single view that there is a culture out here, they are back! The meshing of location, set, miniature, digital miniature and CGI appears seamless in these first minutes of footage that we have now seen of Rogue One.
We have seen from the Celebration reel that the appreciation of ‘Old School’ is still very much there but it is no longer so nostalgia laden. Instead during the Rogue One panel at Star Wars Celebration we saw that George Lucas had been on set, feeling good enough to mess around with Gareth Edwards. This trailer for Rogue One, for me, had a much more ‘Lucasesque’ feel while still displaying an impressive number of innovative shots and framing.
The Prequel Sequel
For me the first shot of the trailer set the tone: a wide angle view of a city whose buildings and monuments immediately reveal the presence of culture, religion and life under a sky populated by plenty of craft. Of course not as tight and overwhelming as Coruscant but here was a film that continues the world-building tradition that is such a hallmark of the Prequels.
The first line of the trailer is spoken by Forest Whitaker’s character Saw Gererra:”The World is coming undone”. And again this hits a Prequel tome for me. We are entering a galaxy where politics exists, where an order is crumbling. This time not the grand scale order of the Republic, but the small scale yet essential civilisation between human beings.
As Star Wars Rebels, so does Rogue One seem to be carried by an interest in showing you how galactic politics and conflict plays out in the lives of individuals. In the Original Trilogy it is all about how the personal and emotional issues of a father and his two children affect the coarse of the Galaxy. In the Prequels it was exactly the other way around, with the convulsion of the Galactic Republic driving Anakin on his fateful path, forcing Anakin and Padme to live a love in secrecy and deceit setting of a contagion that would in the end come to destroy the Jedi Order and Republic themselves.
The Rogue One trailer suggests that what we see here is a band of brothers and sisters coming together as a result of how the existence of the Empire has damaged their lives. All of that is set within worlds that have context, diversity and varation. I can live, for now, with a Rebellion that has disappointingly few Twileks, Rodians, Dugs or Khaleesh among its ranks. At least it shows a kind of diversity in tongues and looks that feels as if this is that remnant of good hope that has remained of what once was the Republic.
The visuals the trailer gives us are astonishing! And here I see not just a clear link towards the Prequels, but also to the Prequel-Era Clone Wars visuals. There is rain in some of these shots! Weather! There are flashes of lightning in the flight sequence of the U-wing between the mountains remiscent of the gloomy arrival of Vader on Coruscant after his defeat against Kenobi. But the starkest reminder to pre-Original trilogy stories was, for me, in the shots of the X-Wings flying with search-lights through the night just like the Republic Gunships do in the Darkness on Umbara Arc. And given that Rogue One is presented as a Star Wars War movie, this visual link would seem perfectly natural.
The colours seem natural yet very vibrant, the use of twilight, night and tropical rainforest settings is gorgeous. These planets seem alive with history rather than being mere backdrops. The planet orbited by the Death Star is rich in surface texture including clouds. The Death Star induced solar eclipse was a wonderfully poignant image.
All of this suggests to me that the impression I got during the Star Wars Celebration panel on Rogue One was correct: this is a film that will mesh beautifully in between Prequels and Originals, that does take the world-building of the Prequels that additional step further, that is using a distinct visual dictionary that is different yet clearly aligned to the Star Wars movies that come before it.
If anything this trailer for Rogue One has made me more hyped for a visually exciting Star Wars film that I have ever been since Revenge of the Sith. The cast is prefect and I have a good feeling about the story. Teasing Darth Vader at the end was nice and pleasing but even without him this would look like it is going to be an awesome film. I think the Star Wars Stories are going to be off on a good start!