Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Though 2016 will soon be coming to a close, we have yet to see one of the most anticipated titles still left to come out this year. Gareth Edwards' Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set to hit theaters on December 16th, but Disney has not yet held any screenings -- even for journalists doing interviews with the cast and filmmakers. As a result of this, the air of mystery surrounding the blockbuster is still at an extreme high... but now that fog is finally starting to clear. Last night, the studio screened a full 28 minutes of the upcoming movie, and it has us more pumped than ever to see the full thing.

With interviews happening in San Francisco this weekend, a group of journalists -- including myself -- were invited up to the famous Skywalker Ranch yesterday evening, where director Gareth Edwards showed off nearly a full half hour of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The scenes almost entirely came from the first act of the movie, and featuring some fantastic action, legitimate tension, and some great plot building elements, I was definitely left impressed.

As we've previously reported, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story doesn't open with the traditional scrawl, but instead a 15-years-earlier prologue that sets up the base of the story - though it does have the blue text "A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away...". On an unnamed ringed planet, a Lambda-class T-4a shuttle carrying Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) lands next to a small home -- immediately causing panic amongst the family inside. This is the Erso clan, including Galen (Mads Mikkelson), his wife, Lyra (Valene Kane), and his young daughter, Jyn (who will grow up to be played by Felicity Jones). It's a day that the Ersos have been waiting for, and as Galen goes out to approach Krennic , Lyra and Jyn try to escape out the back. Without going into too many details, it's a sequence that not only ultimately packs a solid emotional punch, but also propels Jyn on her journey, as she winds up being discovered in hiding by a character who winds up being crucial to the larger plot (no spoilers here!).

After the title card (which interestingly just says Rogue One instead of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), and a quick shot of an adult Jyn Erso sleeping in a prison cell, the footage quickly drove through a series of different sequences, all of them set on different planets and introducing the key players. The first is Cassian (Diego Luna), who meets with an informant in a marketplace on the Ring of Kafane -- learning not only that the Empire is constructing a "planet killer," but that an Imperial pilot has defected with orders straight from none other than Galen Erso. This pilot is Bodhi Rook, and as we learn in the next scene, he is in a bit of trouble. Having landed on Jedha, an Imperial Occupied Moon, he winds up in the hands of Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), an anti-Empire extremist who has his own plans that differ wildly from the organization of the Rebellion.

After a quick scene of Bodhi being roughed up by Saw's men, the Rogue One footage then moved to Wobani, an Imperial Labor Camp where the imprisoned Jyn Erso is being transported. While she is inside an armored vehicle and guarded by Stormtroopers, the transport doesn't wind up going as planned, as it winds up being attacked by the Rebellion... much to Jyn's surprise. Not willing to trust anybody, the heroine begins her own fight -- clearly on nobody's side -- but she winds up being knocked flat on her back by the droid K2SO (Alan Tudyk), who kindly tells her, "Congratulations, you're being rescued. Please do not resist."

Rogue One K2SO

She is then brought back to Yavin 4, where, in meeting with Rebellion leaders, she is informed about her father, the defector pilot, and the involvement of Saw Gerrera, and takes her first steps towards what will wind up being her mission.

Over all, there is a bit of choppiness to these post-prologue sequences, as you're learning a lot of different information from a lot of different sources in a lot of different places in quick succession. I couldn't tell if this was just the way the footage was edited, or if it will all play the same way in the final cut of the blockbusters, but it didn't come across as the smoothest series of scenes. That being said, it did effectively lay out the mission that Jyn Erso will be embarking on in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and raise anticipation about how it will all play out.

The choppiness did settle down for the final extended sequence we were shown, which also wonderfully demonstrated the war movie realism that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is going for in attempting to differentiate itself from the other films in the saga. Featuring Jyn, Cassian and K2SO together in a marketplace in Jedha, the situation escalates quickly when an Imperial tank surrounded by Stormtroopers is attacked with a grenade by Saw Guerra's men, and what unfurls as a result is one of the tensest big action set pieces we've seen from the sci-fi franchise. Not only does Gareth Edwards' direction and Greig Fraser's cinematography put the audience right at the center of the pulse-pounding, chaotic action, but it also features some terrific character moments -- specifically from the newly introduced Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yn ) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), two force-faithful warriors who enter the fray with beautiful and explosive style, respectively.

Percentage-wise, the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story footage that was shown represents about a quarter of the complete film, and I walked out of the screening definitely hoping that it is a slice that legitimately represents what the rest of the movie has to offer. Fortunately, with the blockbuster's premiere scheduled for next weekend, it won't be long until we find out if that's actually the case. For now, hopefully all of you are just as excited for Rogue One as we are -- so be sure to stay tuned in the next few weeks as we deliver a whole lot more about the latest chapter in the Star Wars franchise here on Cinema Blend!

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