At a special press event, Lucasfilm and Disney brought journalists from all over the world together at Skywalker Sound to screen a hair under half an hour of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The building, one of the centerpieces of the legendary Skywalker Ranch that has housed audio recording and processing for countless massive films, didn't have to do much to be ready for a Star Wars event, naturally. Old movie posters, props, and a statue that looks significantly like a Jedi adorn the property. Entering into the theater, they pointed out the seat that George Lucas sat in on a regular basis to screen films and critique the sound (for the record, I was just a few seats away from that ideal central spot).
Director Gareth Edwards introduced the footage, saying what all Star Wars fans would be thinking in the situation.
"I feel like we're on sacred ground here," Edwards said. That he still feels that way after a couple of years working on this film and several months in an edit bay right there at Skywalker Sound belies the reverence to which he holds Star Wars as a whole. "Making this movie felt like treading on sacred ground [too], being so close to A New Hope," he said, adding with a laugh, "which will forever be known as Rogue 2 after this comes out in a couple of weeks."
With that, and an apology that he wasn't allowed to show the entire movie, the footage began.
The footage included the entire intro scene of the film, as previously reported, a flashback of sorts showing a young Jyn living with her parents on a remote planet, in hiding from the Empire. After the events there (we're keeping this spoiler free), it jumped forward to adult Jyn (Felicity Jones), showing how she came to be with the Rebel Alliance. We saw a scene focused on Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), heard about Bodhi Rook's (Riz Ahmed) story and how/why he's defecting from the Empire, and even met Mon Mothma and some other Rebel leaders. Finally, we got to see a full scene on Jedha that really showed the "war movie" aspects, with an ambush on some Imperials, and the incredible first action sequence for Donnie Yen's Chirrut Îmwe. An extended trailer ran to close out the footage.
The entire audience of press clapped and cheered when it came to a close - and when they found their breath. The assembled footage was frenetically paced, jumping across five planets, showing the seedy underbelly of the Empire. The Empire's ground level reign of terror was highlighted incredibly well. Over the years, we've heard a lot about how evil the Empire is, but Rogue One shows that to us much more clearly and brutally. As we saw many main characters introduced, it was striking how much empathy I felt for each of them, almost instantaneously. The movie just feels more personal, even in these small moments, than perhaps any Star Wars movie ever before. If the full film can pull that same feeling off, we should be in for a real treat.
The tremendous humor from K-2SO can't be oversold; Alan Tudyk owns the character and instantly imbues him with phenomenal personality to let him live alongside your favorite droids from Star Wars past. Kaytoo's journey should be very interesting - and entertaining.
The other biggest takeaway is that while characters like Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), Jyn, Cassian (who is extremely surprising and almost nothing like I was expecting), and others are quite compelling, it's going to be tough to beat Donnie Yen's Chirrut. His character has mystery, zen, humor, and then one of the coolest fight scenes I've ever seen put to film. The tiny sample of his fight with the stormtrooper squad using just his staff is just that - a minute fraction of the full fight sequence. He moves like lightning, with some impressive direction and cinematography that seems to nearly take us directly into the character's mind and being. Make no mistake: Chirrut Îmwe will be one of your new favorite characters after you see Rogue One.
There are some neat Easter Eggs we won't spoil for you here, with callbacks that make you think of both Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope and of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, interestingly enough. It's menacing, it's realistic, but then it's also very Star Wars. This is a completely new kind of movie set in this universe: they've actually pulled that off based on this half hour of footage, and I can't wait to see more.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters December 16, 2016. Tickets are on sale now.
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