The new trailer for Rogue One has the distinction of explaining the film’s title (unsurprisingly it’s a callsign), and it also reveals something of the film’s plot. The character played by Felicity Jones, named Jyn Erso, is actually the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star, played here by Mads Mikkelsen. She is chosen to lead the mission to gather intelligence on the Empire’s ultimate weapon, in part, because of this link. A team is assembled, and the raid is carried out. Part of the challenge of this film is we all know how it ends: they get the plans to the rebels. What casualties are incurred in the process are really the only dramatic stakes, and those depend upon the film’s ability to get us to care about these characters in two hours. It doesn’t have the advantage that other Star Wars films might, with back-loaded characters who we know and love, as was the case with The Force Awakens. Therefore it seems the worst case scenario for Rogue One is that it tells an entertaining little side story but ultimately doesn’t amount to much. We shall see on December 16 for ourselves.
One potential issue here is that, once again, the film revolves around a strained relationship with a father, and fathers switching sides. This deliberate recycling of old ideas from the Star Wars universe is getting tiring. The Force Awakens did as well as it could, but they really have to come up with a more original story for Episode VIII. And with Rogue One, here we are again with “daddy issues”, just like in every Star Wars movie except the prequels. (There, the psychological issues were around mothers, but the themes were played so clumsily with all the pointless plots that it’s difficult to compare.) Without doubt, there will be a contingent of fans who want the Star Wars films to keep doing the same as always, and repeat themes, and they’ll be happy with whatever Lucasfilm gives them with this new post-Lucas aesthetic. The numbers are uncertain, but one suspects that there’s a vast legion of other film viewers out there who would love Star Wars to take narrative risks and go to places it hasn’t been before. That would feel bold and daring, although at the risk of alienating the fans that just want the same thing over and over. It’s a delicate balance to reach, and it appears (at least from the trailer) that people at Lucasfilm are still trying to figure it out.