Or, Am I the Only One Who Didn’t Love the Rogue One Trailer?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: or, Lucasfilm’s attempt to copycat Marvel and create a cinematic universe. And you know what? I’m all on-board, because we got seven Star Wars films in twenty-nine years, and now over the next five years we will see one per year, which literally doubles the amount of films that were available to us. An argument can be made that six films in six years is a lot and there’s no way Disney can make six great films. Look at Star Wars as a whole: of George Lucas’ original six, I would argue that two are great, two are middling, and two should be ignored entirely. Not a great track record, and now the studios want to expedite that process by 400%? Doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.
And yet, if we look to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they made twelve films that were produced in eight years and all of them have Fresh Ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Not an easy achievement, but definitely proof that it’s possible to make great films in a shortened production cycle.
The other major argument against making so many films is, is there really that many Star Wars stories to tell? Well, if you’re asking that question, you’ve never heard of the expanded universe, which means you, yes you dear reader, have a lot more reading to do.
So, there are no real arguments against making Star Wars films based on filler material, and after a week the new teaser for Rogue One has 30 million views, meaning anticipation is as high as ever. And yet, after watching the trailer, I was left with an empty, unimpressed feeling.
Now, before the fanboys start hate-mailing us and blowing up our comment section (or, go ahead and do it anyway; we could use the publicity), let me explain myself. From when this new cinematic universe was announced, I was psyched. I think that the Star Wars universe is massive and there are plenty of stories to tell. The name is stupid (honestly, Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One was better, but it’s a lot less stupid than Dawn of Justice), but at least the movie is focusing on the inciting incident of the original trilogy, a moment that was only referenced in flying text: stealing the Death Star plans. Add in a phenomenal cast, a talented director, decent writers (read: experienced), and you have a recipe for a movie that is probably going to kick ass. And, as you notice, at no point in this article will I say that the movie won’t kick ass: instead, I’m pointing out my frustration with the teaser which falls into the traps of numerous trailers in today’s modern ADHD culture which loves epilepsy inducing images.
Let’s start off with the beginning of the trailer, the introduction of Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso: offscreen, a list of her faults is read out loud, indicating to the audience that this is far from a perfect human being. But then, she states that this is a rebellion, isn’t it, and her actions should ingratiate herself to her superiors (and, most importantly, the audience). This sequence of events is important and yet silly and annoying at the same time. Rogue One follows unestablished characters that the audience has little reference to, so the marketing is pulling a Guardians of the Galaxy and introducing the hero early so the audience won’t be confused about the backstory of the protagonist. Which seems like the marketing team believes this film won’t be universally revered unless the audience explicitly knows that it’s a Star Wars film (hence Star Wars in the title).
The most egregious aspect of this trailer is that it so comically focuses on moments and shots that clearly harken back to the original trilogy. Take, for instance, Mon Mothma, who stands at a computer console of some sort and speaks some vague, out of context dialogue. Her presence in this trailer is almost useless, except she is familiar enough that laymen will recognize her and fanboys will freak out, because that’s what fanboys do. She does very little in the original trilogy (except state one of the most oft-repeated lines in cinema history), and guess what: she does very little in this teaser except point out that the Imperials have a weapon that the rebels need information on. What is this weapon? Well, the next shot points it out: HOLY SHIT IT’S THE DEATH STAR I’M FREAKING OUT RIGHT NOW.
Except, I didn’t freak out at all. At this point, the Death Star is so ubiquitous that the shot feels shoehorned in and it’s only there to tie the teaser to the original trilogy. Take, for example, the several shots of stormtroopers in this trailer. After sixty seconds of expository information and random shots of what is clearly the Rebel base on Yavin IV, we glimpse moments of actual story playing out, including several shots of the original stormtroopers, desert troopers, more stormtroopers, a guy that looks like a stormtrooper but his armor is a different color, regular stormtroopers mixed in with the new Inquisition/SS-like stormtroopers, etc. I could go on and on. The trailer specifically focuses on images that are familiar to dig into the nostalgia for the original trilogy.
Yes, you can make an argument that The Force Awakens trailer did the exact same thing, but that built off of an established story which included established characters. Instead, the Rogue One marketers seem so afraid that the audience will have no interest in this movie unless it so clearly establishes its connection to the original trilogy, so we’re inundated with meaningless nostalgia, including the Star Destroyer just floating around the Death Star; stormtroopers galore; X-wings in the background; orange jumpsuits; and AT-ATs parading around in a tropical environment. All of these moments are specifically designed to bring attention to the fact that this film takes place during the original trilogy, or, you know, the three films you actually like. None of it is very exciting in any way; instead, these moments feel cheap, like someone trying to sell you a product you already own, but here’s the newer and shinier version. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with your old version, and it’s amazing, but now you have a newer version that looks exactly the same, the only difference being it’s new.
Which, overall, suggests that the film’s only existence is to revisit your favorite moments from the original trilogy. Thought AT-ATs were cool? Here’s four of them approaching our heroes who are not cheaply added into the shot. Thought the Death Star looked cool? Here it is again, and look! It’s a Star Destroyer. Check out that X-wing in the background! Doesn’t this look cool?
Except, a film should be able to stand on its own. Relying on what came before means that the filmmakers are creating a lesser, subpar product. A sequel or prequel should build upon the foundation, not make a flimsy structure and hope that the original films can carry its weight. Take Terminator 2, for example: you need not have seen the original to understand the stakes, and yet, if you have, that film informs and deepens your appreciation for the sequel. The converse side of that is the Harry Potter films, which ignore the deeper, fuller world that the novels create. Instead, you have eight films that barely tell a coherent plot if you’ve been paying close attention. Nothing is explained: if you want to know why Harry has a magic mirror that saves him from disaster in the seventh and eighth movies, better read the book!
As if this teaser hadn’t fallen into enough traps of marketing ploys, along comes Forrest Whitaker. The less said about this, the better, but I’ll touch upon it briefly: he is one of the greatest actors of this generation and he is spewing bullshit nonsense that has no meaning without any context. Yeah, it sounds cool, but really listen and try to understand what he’s saying: it’s meaningless. He’s only in the trailer because he is an Oscar Winning Actor and he’s Black.
Guess what guys, Star Wars has a diverse cast, come see our movie, people of all ethnicities. I know you’ll love it!
You know what other teaser pulled this stupid trick? Suicide Squad with Viola Davis. The fact that they’re both black actors seems to suggest a trend, but I’ll let that go for now and point out that meaningless dialogue is only more apparent without context. It didn’t work for Suicide Squad, it works even less with Star Wars. These phenomenal actors deserve better, dammit, and instead they’re used as marketing ploys.
All of that being said, I’m still excited for the movie. Sure, Rogue One’s teaser underwhelmed me, but maybe that’s because I’ve spent too much time researching movies and watching trailers on the internet. I’m sure in a few months we’ll receive a much stronger trailer with some more plot details and more context, but, until then, we are left with a subpar teaser that gives no reason for why this movie should exist or why we as audience members should spend twelve dollars to see it.