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It’s a Good Time to Be a ‘Star Wars’ Fan

Rooting for a diverse, female-led insurgency in a serious ‘Rogue One’

Screen grab via ‘Rogue One’ trailer/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Screen grab via ‘Rogue One’ trailer/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The August trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which opens December 16, begins as a Star Destroyer hovers above a small dust bowl of a city, located on a remote dust bowl of a planet, as comparatively gnat-sized cruisers whizz around in its shadow. You get the sense that, perhaps, this is the last free one: free city, free planet, free hour of sunshine, what have you.

If you, like me, have only just unfurled yourself after 47 hours in the fetal position, the crawling strains of “The Imperial March” make it difficult not to conjure a not-too-distant future. Minus, you know, the capes.

The ominously flapping flags and the apparent vice grip of an unaccountable, unstoppable state feel just about perfect for the times. Especially considering our newest president-elect’s campaign is keeping a running list of his “enemies” and he has designs on punishing them, which could mean … literally anything. Plus, in the film we have a female-led insurgency — that also happens to be ethnically diverse — against a regime of fascist, power-hungry nutjobs hell-bent on crushing any and all dissension, let alone opposition. I mean, come on. There will be no better form of escapism. Let’s fucking do this. [Guitar shreds.]

Back in May, news broke that Disney/Lucasfilm executives had seen the first cut of Rogue One, essentially a war movie in the Star Wars universe, and walked out of the screening wanting it to have the feel of a more “classic Star Wars movie” — shorthand for more jokes, more high jinks, and a lighter mood.

The public response was, chiefly: Nah, fuck that shit.

Here are two reasons:

  1. While the title of the franchise is Star Wars, all of the conflicts within have felt self-contained and without real stakes — which, you know, is not what war is really like. (Not that I know what war is really like, but I have read a book or two and seen a couple of movies about it.) A war film set in the Star Wars universe would be new and unfamiliar. And in the context of movies, that can be a pretty good thing.
  2. Considering how much time goes into making a film, if there are reshoots, people tend to jump straight to the assumption that the original must be shit, and that the rejiggered final product may be less shit, but still shit. This isn’t totally unfounded because, well, Suicide Squad.

Of course, the studio has a lot of incentive to tinker with Rogue One, as it’s the first of a whole slate of “anthology” films exploring this previously rather unexplored universe, one of which will be a Young Han Solo film starring Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. But there’s a third, most important reason we could use a serious Star Wars movie about a group of marginalized people, led by a woman, smashing the cartoonishly represented patriarchy. To put it simply: At the moment, ain’t shit funny. We don’t just need to be numbed with laughter, we need to hope, too. Specifically for things to be different. Better.

The final domestic trailer came out in October, but a new international trailer for Rogue One arrived on Thursday. There isn’t a whole lot of fresh stuff to chew on here, but it is less coy about the plot. Whereas before Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Co. donned Imperial uniforms to infiltrate a planet-sized doomsday machine, here, Erso actually says the words “Death Star.” There are a few glimpses into our hero’s childhood, including a shot of a woman who appears to be her mother putting a necklace with what looks a lot like a kyber crystal (the power source for both lightsabers and, as it happens, the Death Star’s superlaser) around a young Jyn’s neck. Also, our favorite 7-foot Goth asthmatic makes an appearance.

Though it mostly consists of scenes we’ve seen before, spliced together in a different order, this new trailer is worth watching for Jyn’s words before the splash screen: “We’ll take the next chance, and the next, until we win, or the chances are spent.”

It’s simplistic rah-rah nonsense. But it’s enough to make things feel incrementally less shitty, which we kind of need right now.