'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' Trailer Breakdown: Going Through The New Footage Frame-By-Frame

A new Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer arrived last night, which means that I've spent the time since then going through it frame-by-frame and trying to squeeze out every little interesting detail. Join me, won't you?

And while this post won't contain any direct spoilers, I will be over-analyzing, jumping to conclusions, and utilizing readily available information from various other sources to figure out what's going on in every corner of this trailer. If you want to go in as blind as possible, you should consider turning back.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 1

The trailer opens with this stunning shot of the busy airspace over Jedha, a planet that was once vital to the Jedi Order and is know a site of great importance to the believers in the Force. However, every pilgrimage has to deal with the presence of the Empire, who have occupied the planet for its own nefarious reasons. In fact, it's been heavily suggested that Jedha is home to something that was of great importance to the Jedi and it now of great importance to the Empire. Also, this shot reveals that this unnamed city, seen in much of the released footage so far, is built on some kind of plateau.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 2

"The world is coming undone. Imperial flags reign across the galaxy." Here's another look at Saw Gerrera, the Rebel extremist played by Forest Whitaker who was first introduced as a young man in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. We now know that the armor he's wearing isn't just for protection in a fight – it's keeping him alive after a lifetime of injuries collected in various battles. As we saw in previous trailers, he seems to be meeting with with Jyn Erso in this scene. Or rather, she's meeting with him, as Jedha is his current base of operations. Perhaps Jyn journeys to Jedha in the first place to recruit him to her cause?

Rogue One trailer breakdown 3

Here's a magnificent wide shot of that Jedha city (you can tell it's the same one because of that large tower) with a Star Destroyer hovering over it. Although some fans have already noted that a ship the size of a Star Destroyer couldn't possibly enter a planet's atmosphere without plummeting to the ground, it's hard to argue with the astonishing scale of this shot. Director Gareth Edwards has always been good at selling size on screen and this Rogue One trailer is full of shots where he takes familiar iconography and allows you to feel just how big everything really is. We've seen dozens of Star Destroyers, but this one actually looks, well, terrifying.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 4

"Can you be trusted without your shackles?" As we saw in the previous trailer, Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso is a prisoner of some kind when she is given her mission by Mon Mothma and her fellow Rebel commanders. We still don't know exactly what she did to get on their bad side, but she's obviously the One Woman For the Job since they're willing to let her take on such an important task.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 5

"A major weapons test is imminent. We need to know how to destroy it." The incredible shot of the Death Star slowing coming out of the shadows was seen in the previous trailer, but equally eye-catching is this Star Destroyer. After years of jokes about incompetent Stormtroopers and easily defeated TIE Fighters, Rogue One looks to remind us that the Empire is a force to be reckoned with and a source of pure terror. After all, what good is a desperate mission if the odds aren't stacked against the hero?

Rogue One trailer breakdown 6

"If you're really doing this, I want to help." So it seems that Captain Cassian Andor isn't assigned to oversee Jyn Erso, but actually volunteers to join her on this suicide mission. Interesting. Anyway, meet the U-Wing, the latest ship in the Rebel roster and one that will allow Lucasfilm to sell millions of toys to even the most jaded Star Wars fan! In all seriousness, it's a nifty ship, looking just rough around the edges enough to feel like it belongs in the same fleet as X-Wings and Y-Wings. You'll also note that this ship is taking off from the Rebel base on Yavin IV, first introduced in the original Star Wars. Note the giant temple ruins in the background!

Rogue One trailer breakdown 7

It's not clear which planet this is (could it be Jedha at night?), but once again, the sense of scale is palpable. The Star Wars universe has always been small throughout these movies, with everything connected by familiar faces and surnames. The universe of Rogue One looks gigantic, both literally (look at how tiny that ship is!) and figuratively (not a Skywalker to be found!).

Rogue One trailer breakdown 8

Meet Baze Malbus, played by Chinese actor Jiang Wen. We briefly saw him in the first trailer, but he's given a proper introduction here, with dialogue and everything! We know that he's a hardened brute who's good with heavy weapons and has grown jaded after years of conflict. We also know that he's the best friend of the spiritually-minded warrior Chirrut Îmwe, acting as his protector. In exchange, Chirrut acts as Baze's conscience.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 10

"They destroyed our home! I fight the Empire now." And fight the Empire he does, because here's Maze using a heavy blaster weapon to mow down a whole bunch of Stormtroopers. Keep that line of dialogue in mind because we're going to revisit it in a bit. Also note the blue, rainy background of this shot. Whatever planet this is, it's the same one glimpsed in that shot with the tiny ship navigating that massive landscape seen above.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 9

Here's another "tiny ship, gigantic landscape" shot, although the arid desert environment makes it pretty clear that this is Jedha.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 11

We could talk about how this shot of an Imperial tank patrolling the streets of Jedha, which has a distinctly Middle Eastern vibe because these scenes were shot in Jordan, is a loaded image. We could talk about how the original Star Wars drew a certain amount of influence from the politically-minded George Lucas observing the guerrilla tactics of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War and how Gareth Edwards is similarly using pictures torn straight from contemporary conflicts as an uncomfortable shorthand. Star Wars could use a healthy dose of politics. It deserves a shade of grey here and there. But really, can we talk about why the guy on the far left side of the frame seems to be missing his head? What's up with that?

Rogue One trailer breakdown 12

"I fear nothing. All is as the Force wills it." Enter Chinese actor and martial artist Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe, a blind warrior who draws his strength from his belief in the mystical energy that binds the universe together. There are no Jedi in Rogue One and it's highly unlikely that Chirrut has any special abilities, but his deep commitment to his faith has apparently transformed him into a noble space Zatoichi. We're looking at a sightless man, armed only with a staff, willing to wade into a crowd of Stormtroopers to show them he means business.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 13

And he really means business. You don't hire the star of Ip Man unless you want to let him decimate and humiliate a small army of enemies. In a film full of CGI, Donnie Yen's hands may end up being one of the most impressive visual effects.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 14

"The captain says you are a friend. I will not kill you." It's one thing to hear that Alan Tudyk is playing a seven-foot tall security droid named K-2SO, but it's another thing altogether to see that droid looming over Jyn Erso. Tudyk has adopted a deadpan posh accent for this hulking metal monstrosity, which really helps sell the humor of his dialogue in this moment. We know from previous stories that K-2SO lost all of his social graces with Cassian reprogrammed him to join the Rebel cause, so this is probably the first of several occasions where he's a big ol' weirdo to the other characters.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 15

The Death Star like you've never seen it before: upside down! In all seriousness, it's about time that a Star Wars movie acknowledged that there is no up or down in space and everything doesn't have to occur on a flat plain. But really, this shot is worth examining because the desert planet beneath the Death Star is clearly not Scarif, the tropical paradise where it was built. Hold that thought. We'll get back to it in a moment.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 16

Actually, let's get back to it right now, because this shot seems to depict the Death Star blocking out the sun and hovering over some kind of structure. Go ahead and note the tower on the far end of that structure. Yep, this looks like Jedha and it certainly looks like the Death Star is in position to open fire. There's one more piece to this puzzle and we'll get there momentarily.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 17

Sorry, Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. Director Orson Krennic is the best-dressed villain in Star Wars history. It's not even a contest. Anyway, the planet he's looking at through the window appears to be Jedha again and that should conjure up another question: is he on a Star Destroyer or could he be on the Death Star?

Rogue One trailer breakdown 18

Unfortunately, the trailer doesn't give Krennic a proper introduction or any lines of dialogue and that's a shame. Anyone who isn't excited to see Ben Mendelsohn play a Star Wars villain probably hasn't seen Ben Mendelsohn act. This look of barely contained rage actually has me more intrigued than any brief, fan-teasing glimpse of Darth Vader.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 19

Between the first trailer and the sizzle reel screened at Star Wars Celebration, we've already seen a number of beats from the big battle on Scarif, which certainly looks like the climax of Rogue One. And yet, the glimpses shown in this new trailer reveal just how much cinematographer Greig Fraser seems to be bringing to this film. You don't hire the man who shot Zero Dark Thirty unless you want something raw and real. These shots, handheld and immediate, feel like nothing we've seen in a Star Wars movie.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 20

More loaded imagery! Made all the more fascinating by Fraser's past work!

Rogue One trailer breakdown 21

"There is a 97.6% chance of failure." He may be a massive robot designed to intimidate and kill, but there is definitely a little bit of C-3PO in K-2SO. I'm curious to see how Cassian and his antisocial droid companion get along, with early word suggesting that these two function like a more dysfunctional Han and Chewbacca.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 22

Here is the trailer's only look at the Death Troopers, Director Krennic's specially trained team of elite Stormtroopers. They're being kept in the background right now, but expect to see them everywhere come December as they become the public face of this movie on every toy package and every Burger King cup.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 23

This trailer gives much of the cast a proper introduction, but can't find time for Riz Ahmed's Bodhi Rook, the Imperial cargo pilot who switches sides when he has a crisis of conscience.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 24

Much of the action we've seen in the trailers for Rogue One is ground-based, but this shot of three X-Wing starfighters cruising through a canyon suggests that we may get at least one classic dogfight.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 25

Baze Malbus has been described as a heavy weapons guy since the original character details dropped and this trailer shows off his skills. Here he is, armed with the Star Wars equivalent of a rocket launcher...

Rogue One trailer breakdown 26

...and here is his target, an Imperial walker that takes an explosion right in the face. Note that while these look like AT-AT walkers, they are actually AT-ACT walkers, a slightly larger version designed to haul cargo and supplies. After all, Scarif is the Empire's big construction yard and you need something to carry all of the big stuff.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 27

Remember that shot of the Death Star seemingly getting into position over Jedha? And remember Baze being full of righteous fury because the Empire destroyed his home? Well, this shot of Jyn and Cassian barely escaping a massive explosion suggests a major plot point: what if the first Death Star was initially tested out on Jedha? It may not be powerful enough to destroy an entire planet, but it could certainly decimate an entire city, especially a city full of Rebels led by a dangerous foe like Saw Gerrera. Alderaan may be the first planet to be completely blown up by the Empire, but the citizens of Jedha could be the first victims of the Death Star.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 28

This entire shot seemingly finds Cassian entering hyperspace to escape that (Death Star-created?) explosion, but this frame is particularly stunning. We've seen this many times across six Star Wars movies, but it's astonishing how unique and special even the most familiar imagery can look when a new filmmaker is putting his own spin on a universe he clearly loves.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 29

Remember those X-Wings flying through that dark and rainy canyon? This looks like their handiwork. This is another intimate shot that places you straight into the POV of the soldiers on the ground, which transforms a crashing TIE Fighter (and we've seen plenty of those) into an intense and unnerving moment. You know what they say: war, even a star war, is hell.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 30

Here's your Jyn Erso hero shot! The blue sky and bluer ocean in the background suggest that she's on top of some kind of structure on Scarif, because of course the theft of the Death Star plans would require scaling a large building.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 31

TIE Fighters may be paper mache in a space battle, but what happens when you plant one right in front of a single Rebel soldier? You shit your pants, if you're you or me. If you're Jyn Erso, you probably make an impossible escape. This is easily my favorite shot from the trailer.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 32

We can safely assume that the Rebel assault on Scarif is the climax of Rogue One and this looks like the transport full of the brave soldiers and volunteers willing to risk their lives to make off with those Death Star plans. Amidst the cannon fodder, you can see Chirrut, Baze, and K-2SO...and since this is a spin-off movie, there is no guarantee that they will make it out of this one alive.

Rogue One trailer breakdown 33

Oh, yeah. Darth Vader is back. No one saw that coming. Anyway, the Emperor's chief enforcer appears to be examining the Death Star plans here and he (along with everyone else who worked on this project) doesn't notice that troublesome little thermal exhaust port that's just big enough for a torpedo.