Anyone following RO's production might have read stories about heavy reshoots; it's one of those things that sounds worse than it is. Plenty of big-budget movies have done this, include The Force Awakens. When all's said and done, the supposedly tumultuous time on set doesn't show on the screen. That being said, if the early trailers were anything to go by, the Rogue One we saw in theaters was once substantially different.
We're not talking just a few snipped shots or some narration that didn't make the cut -- whole scenes and sequences were either altered or outright deleted. Above you can see a shot from an early trailer that appears to show the Erso Homestead on fire. This isn't something that we see in the movie, but may well have happened. Maybe Disney didn't want to evoke the destruction of the Lars Homestead, figuring the rest of the movie was enough of an homage to A New Hope. This kind of change is understandable.
What's odd, however, is the removal of what appear to be entire themes from the movie. Remember the very first teaser? The one where Forrest Whitaker warbles foreboding dialogue? Yeah, that stuff's not in the movie.
Judging from this teaser, it would almost seem like Jyn was going to struggle with what she's willing to do and how far she's going to go to fight for what she believes in. While those ideas are briefly touched upon in the movie (some of the Rebels do some pretty dirty shit), it's not part of Jyn's character arc.
But that kind of seems like a small tweak in comparison to the huge plot changes that were made before release. Remember this bit from the trailer?
It's a really neat shot, but there's plenty of AT-AT action in the final product. So what's the big deal? Well, consider the fact that's Jyn running next to Cassian. And Jyn's got the Death Star plans.
Yep, that's the hard drive named "Stardust" alright, which either contains the Death Star plans or an underrated 2007 fantasy film based on a Neil Gaiman book. But those who saw the movie in theaters never saw this scene. In our version, Jyn got to the top of the tower and plugged in the hard drive and successfully transmitted them just in time to see Whitey McCaperson get shot in the back. In these shots, we see Jyn and Cassian running head-on into the fray with hard drive in hand, meaning that in some other cut something probably happened to the tower and the team had to improvise.
What happened up there that didn't make it in the cut? Well, you might also remember this badass bit from the trailers:
As it stands, we may never get to see what happens when a puny human with nothing but a blaster stands off against a full-size TIE Fighter. And that might be Rogue One's biggest crime of all.
Special effects have made leaps and bounds since the prequel trilogy, but even now, no one has managed to animate a believable human face. Sure, there's been some visible advances in making old actors young again, but any attempt to build a realistic person from scratch has almost always resulted in creepy rubber un-people. Rogue One takes it a step further than the nightmare shitshow that is The Polar Express and places real actors next to a disturbing CGI wax dummy of Wilhuff Tarkin. And it was totally unnecessary.
Yeah, Tarkin is pretty heavily involved with the Death Star during the events of A New Hope, and yeah, it makes total sense for him to be around in Rogue One. But Disney went out of their way to have several scenes with an unsettling animatronic-looking version of deceased actor Peter Cushing. Really, just one cameo would have been fine -- the CGI model looks okay in a certain light or in profile. But it seems like Tarkin got more screen time than the likes of Mon Mothma, who as far as I can tell is played by a flesh-and-blood human being and is not in fact a computer-animated pod person. To say that it looks like something out of a video game is an insult to video games, which at least know better to keep all their characters in the same art style.
As you know, the whole plot of Rogue One revolves around the origin of the Death Star. As our characters learn throughout the movie, the superweapon was built while shrouded in secrecy. Nobody really understood why the Empire was hoarding kyber crystals until a slow-moving wall of CGI death rolled slowly towards them.
But that doesn't make any sense.
If you're unlucky enough to remember the prequels in detail, you'd know that the Death Star is under construction at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Newly-crowned Emperor Palpatine and a minty-fresh Darth Vader sort of zone out while looking at the skeleton of their moon-sized baby.
About 19 years pass between this moment and the end of Rogue One. That it takes a while to build a Death Star is kind of understandable, given the size of the station and the superscience required to make it blow up planets. But a project this size has to be touched by thousands, maybe millions of different Empire agents and, as Clerks suggests, government contractors. To think that a secret this monumental could go unnoticed by the Rebellion is not only laughable, it's kind of implausible.
Cassian Andor is introduced to us as a jaded Rebel spy. Despite his years working for the Alliance, he initially hears of the Empire's scary new toy is from the mouth of a dopey goon early on in the movie. How he never even caught a whiff of this unbelievable undertaking either speaks to how incompetent he is as an intelligence agent, or it might just show you how big of a plot hole Disney was willing to create to make sure the story was as dramatic as possible.
The action, the plot and even the one-liners are are decent to great in Rogue One, but it's missing a little bit of the character work that made The Force Awakens stars so instantly lovable. We want to like Gerrera, the borderline insane leader of the Rebel splinter group that took Jyn under his wing. And for what it's worth, Forrest Whitaker does a hell of a job bringing ratcheting up the intensity of those crazy eyes.
When the reunion is cut short by a field test from the Death Star's cannons, does Gerrera go with Jyn to make amends for abandoning her? Well, no. He just sort of hangs back and mumbles something generic about not running anymore, and watches as the heroes proceed to the rest of the movie.
How does his fruitless death help the Rebel cause? Isn't this act of "defiance" really just giving up in the face of overwhelming odds? How does this complete Gerrera's character arc, which dates back to the canonical Clone Wars cartoon? How does it do anything but take a player off the board that isn't useful anymore? Don't get me wrong, dude is clearly a few bolts short of a bucket, but refusing to escape when rescue is within reach is downright stupid.
What's strange is that the behind-the-scenes featurette almost makes it look like Gerrera was going to have an outdoor scene with Jyn (which doesn't happen in the final film).
As SlashFilm suggests, maybe Gerrera was originally going to try to make it off Jedha with Jyn via an exciting escape sequence. If that's the case, it could be that the production team figured it already had enough father figures dying dramatic deaths. Speaking of...
Galen Erso eventually bites it, because we knew it had to happen, but the way that it happened is kind of strange. He has his one last moment with Jyn, and does the dramatic limp head-turn to the side. We know in movie language that means someone's dead, but to anyone else that could just mean they're unconscious. But despite only seeing some PG-13-ass surface level wounds, Jyn immediately assumes he's dead. Cassian is even worse, tugging at Jyn's shoulder, insisting that "He's gone" after getting all of a half-second glimpse of Galen. Either a) Cassian saw a grevious wound that we didn't, b) Cassian spared Galen's life on the ridge with the sniper rifle, only to change his mind and try to get Jyn to ditch her dad's body or c) Cassian assumes everyone who has their eyes closed is dead and has killed many friends by burying them alive in their sleep. Knowing how effortlessly Cassian murders people on all sides of the conflict, we're going to go with C.
Minus that blue fish guy that kind of looks like Admiral Ackbar, pretty much every major new Star Wars character eats it in Rogue One. Most of them perish on the mission on Scarif, and of those, a handful do so while trying to get a message through to the Alliance. The size of the Rebel Fleet's heart grew three sizes that day, you see, and they decided to barge in and help out the crazy bastards storming the beaches of Scarif.
The only problem is that there's a huge shield around the entire planet, and only one gateway in or out.
That's a scene from Spaceballs, but you might not have noticed because it's pretty much the exact same thing
The Rebels manage to slip a few of their fighters in there before the doors close and a few dummies splatter themselves against the force field. It should go without saying that the Alliance knows that getting the shield down should be a top priority. It should go without saying, but apparently everyone in this movie just came down with an acute case of moronus goddamnus.
Bodhi and the others desperately want the shields down so that Jyn and Cassian can transmit the Death Star plans and so everyone can have a chance escaping certain death. This is not something that needs to be communicated to the Rebel fleet. They literally warped in because they heard of an attack on Scarif, and their fighters are suddenly stuck beneath the force field bubble too. That the shields need to be shut down is painfully obvious not only because "shutting down the shields" is the key to winning every Star Wars movie, but also because the backup that arrived to Scarif came to the rescue because they believed the Death Star plans were down there somewhere.
When Bodhi gets his message through to the Rebels, it's not some brilliant plot to take down the shields that can only be accomplished from orbit. No, Bodhi's big idea is just the concept of taking down the shields, and Blue Ackbar acts like he never even thought of that idea... but it's crazy enough to work! I guess up until then, the Alliance was just going to steadily lose ships for no real reason other than it looks neat. Which would make for a great GameCube game, for sure, but it's the kind of dim behavior you'd expect out of arrogant Imperial officers, not scrappy Rebels with nothing to lose.
Felicity Jones, who plays Jyn in the movie, is pretty short. 5'3, to be exact. So how in the world did she fit perfectly into the Imperial disguise she nabbed off of some rando trooper on Scarif? This movie about magical lightsaber crystals destroying planets has some logical inconsistencies, you guys.
To close out the movie, we come full circle and get our Princess Leia cameo. Granted, CGI Carrie Fisher sort of looks like someone messed with the "eye height" slider on a Skyrim character, but it's nice to see her all the same. But what's strange is how we come to meet her in the first place.
Even though Darth Vader tore through Rebel scum like damp one-ply toilet paper, he wasn't able to catch the Tantive IV before it broke free of its restraints and took the Death Star plans and Leia along with it. We see Vader gazing at the ship as it escapes. No doubt the few survivors would tell tales of their terrifying brush with a Sith Lord for the rest of their lives. Until Vader boards the Tantive IV himself at the beginning of A New Hope and wrecks pretty much everyone else.
Then there's this exchange between Vader and Leia, which remember, takes place shortly after the end of Rogue One:
Okay, a couple things here. Vader, come on bro, you just made a dozen Rebel kebabs before you made your way over here. Everyone knows there weren't any "transmissions" sent to the ship -- the Death Star plans are on a hard disk, and you saw it physically transferred to the Tantive IV.
And Leia, you sure as shit know what Vader is talking about. Dude stared at the ass-end of your ship while you escaped the battle on Scarif. What in the blue fuck is the point of pretending the events of the last hour didn't happen? Besides uh, you know, tying up your ending in a nice little bow.
If someone could try to justify this, I'd be glad to hear a logical solution. If I pass out trying to follow your mental gymnastics, please consider checking my pulse before leaving me for dead.Tristan Cooper can be found on Twitter.