There’s been quite a bit written in the last few weeks about moments that were prominent in the marketing of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story but which didn’t make it into the actual movie, as well as how discarded dialogue changed a lot about the meaning and tone of the finished movie. I’m not so much concerned about specifics – these kinds of stories can be written about most any big tentpole effects-heavy movie but they’ve received more attention because of the stories of extensive reshoots – as in how the overall tone of the movie was or wasn’t conveyed by the campaign.
To quickly recap, the story (set just before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope) follows Jyn Erso, a young woman with a history of getting into trouble and acting out, taking no one’s bullshit and carving out her own unapologetic path in the universe. She’s broken out of an Imperial prison by operatives of the Rebel Alliance, who are interested in her connection with her father, one of the designers of the Death Star. They want to find out if there’s a weakness to be exploited before the battle station comes fully online. But she doesn’t know where he is, as he was taken away by the Empire when she was still a young girl, her mother being killed in the process. So it’s a search for her father and the secret plans, all while Jyn comes to grip with her destiny as a woman with a cause to fight for.
Yes, there were a lot of moments from the marketing campaign that didn’t make it into the finished movie. That may be because of the reshoots or it might be the result of alternate takes being used to craft one movie as opposed to another, with the real storytelling being done in the editing room. But that’s not the real story of how the marketing did or didn’t accurately sell the movie.
Toward the end of my column I mentioned that there was a shift in the tone of the campaign, from one of it being about Jyn’s journey to being more broadly about the small band of Rebel Alliance fighters who she rallies to take down the evil Empire in what amounts to a war movie set in the Star Wars universe. And *that’s* the movie that was on display when I saw it last week. While Jyn is certainly central to the story, it’s much less about her emotional journey through the events than the first teaser trailer lead the audience to believe. It’s not about her propensity to rebel, it’s not all about her running a solo adventure involving infiltrating Imperial stations.
Instead it’s much more similar to the movie being sold in the last two trailers that made up the campaign. It’s not Jasmine Bourne taking down the Empire, it’s the Rebellious Seven dropping grenades down outer space chimneys if you get my meaning. While there are plenty of shots that didn’t make it into the final cut even from those trailers, the tone is more spot-on to the finished product. There are elements of the “Jyn’s Journey” story that made it in, but none of those are even hinted at in the trailers, which don’t show anything from the portion of the movie devoted to Jyn’s upbringing and history before being unwillingly co-opted into a fight she previously had little apparent interest in, at least when we meet her at the outset of the story.
Which is a shame since when the teaser trailer debuted that was the part that got most of my interest. Sure, I was hooked in by the shot of the Death Star’s focusing dish (I’m reading the “Catalyst” novel that sets the stage for Rogue One now) being lowered into place and other big epic space stuff. But after rooting hard for Rey in The Force Awakens I wanted to see another take-no-prisoners-and-give-no-fucks female character playing an integral role in the Star Wars Universe.
That’s largely what the movie *did* show, but it was almost as if the reshoots and recuts showed off the second-guessing that may have taken place. While I greatly enjoyed Chirrut and Baze in particular (Cassian was largely a non-entity for me), you can see where someone in the process decided to turn the spotlight their way more frequently, which means Jyn isn’t as integral as the initial wave of marketing promised.
Don’t get me wrong, I still had a great time at Rogue One. And being a fan of the Expanded Universe (both new and old), I loved how it lead right into the events of A New Hope. But I’m more and more intrigued to see the movie that was shown off in that teaser trailer. Unfortunately there’s zero history, with the exception of George Lucas’ Special Editions, of anything like a “Director’s Cut” of a Star Wars movie making its way to home video. So while some deleted scenes are likely to pop up on the eventual Blu-ray release, it’s likely they won’t fill in significant enough gaps to show what might have really been.