Trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story promises roguish hero and Deathtroopers

Until now, Star Wars has been an archetypal battle of good versus evil: from the Force on down, the mythology splits into light and dark sides. Rogue One looks as if it will introduce the shades of grey.

Gareth Edwards' forthcoming film - the first 'Star Wars story' in a series of spin-offs planned by Disney - is set in the build-up to George Lucas's original 1977 film, and follows the group of Rebel spies charged with stealing the plans to the Death Star. And from the first frame of the teaser trailer, which was launched this afternoon, these Rebels look authentically rebellious.

Enter Felicity Jones's Jyn Erso - in handcuffs, no less - who's tasked by the Rebel Alliance's leader, Mon Mothma, with the theft of the plans. Jyn appears to be a coolly capable career criminal who's been chosen by Mothma for her particular set of skills: "forgery of Imperial documents, possession of stolen property, aggravated assault, resisting arrest".

Rather than a clean-cut Luke Skywalker type, Jyn's a roguish, Han Solo-style heroine. The half-rhyme of their names helps make the subliminal connection, as does the tatty brown vest and thick holster belt slung around her hips in a later sequence - featuring what's almost certainly Alan Tudyk's motion-captured 'enforcer droid' character, and seemingly shot at Canary Wharf Tube station, which doubles convincingly for a hotbed of evil Imperial activity. Her scrap with a squad of Imperial Stormtroopers in a Mos Eisley-like slum, meanwhile, has distinct echoes of Indiana Jones - another iconic screen rogue embodied by Ford.


The film's director, Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) comes from the generation of filmmakers for whom Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy are tantamount to holy writ - see also JJ Abrams and Jon Favreau - and the painstaking fidelity to those films' visual style can be seen everywhere, from the costumes and hair to the familiar old-school Star Wars odds and ends, like the GNK power droids and moisture vaporators that lurk in the background of certain shots. See also the enormous shadow that slips across the surface of the Death Star: not, as it first appears, one of the self-consciously corny transitional wipes so beloved of Lucas, but the station's superlaser array being towed into place.

The trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story offers a glimpse of the new Deathtroopers.
The trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story offers a glimpse of the new Deathtroopers.

But there's a new aesthetic at work here too - thanks at least in part to cinematographer Greig Fraser, the man behind Zero Dark Thirty's sand-stung desert-scapes and aching midnight blacks. Fraser reportedly shot Rogue One with Arri Alexa 65mm digital cameras, as used on The Revenant, and those horizon-stretching Ultra Panavision 70 lenses Quentin Tarantino dusted off for The Hateful Eight - and the trailer's centrepiece tracking shot, in which Rebel ground troops take on a battalion of AT-AT walkers at a desert oasis, has a sense of shivery panic that stands in stark contrast to the more classically shot earlier films in the saga. Then there are the black-suited Deathtroopers, with their elongated masks and leather shoulder guards.

In line with Jones's Jyn, the supporting cast are look suitably rough and ready. Forest Whitaker seems to be playing the role of an Obi-Wan-like mentor, while Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen show off their prowess in combat. Perhaps most promisingly of all is a shot of Ben Mendelsohn's yet-to-be-identified Imperial villain - could he be a younger version of Peter Cushing's Moff Tarkin? - standing in front of a star map, with an elegant white cape around his shoulders.

As yet, there's no sign of Mads Mikkelsen - unless he's the hooded figure seen kneeling in front of the red-cloaked Imperial Royal Guards - or Darth Vader, whom it's been strongly suggested will make an appearance in combat. What's made abundantly clear, though, is that Rogue One will be the second Star Wars film in a row to centre on a female hero. Forget the already-swirling fan theories that position Jyn as the biological mother of Daisy Ridley's Rey. In a galaxy far, far away, 'woman' no longer just means mother or lover. Rogue One's retro stylings might be immaculate, but its progressive credentials appear to be bang up to date.

Star Wars movie timeline

• Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (May 19, 1999)

• Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (May 16, 2002)

• Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (May 19, 2005)

• Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16, 2016)

• Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (May 25, 1977)

• Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (May 21, 1980)

• Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (May 25, 1983)

• Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (December 18, 2015)

• Star Wars: Episode VIII (December 15, 2017)

• Star Wars: Episode IX (2019)

- Daily Telegraph UK

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