Lost in space: the Rogue One Disney didn't want us to see

Rogue One’s diverging trailers give some idea of how the Star Wars spinoff might have turned out before the widely reported reshoots

SPOILER ALERT: this article contains spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Misleading trailers are nothing new. Back in 1991, a teaser for David Fincher’s Alien 3 whetted fans’ appetites by suggesting that the slasher-in-space threequel would take place on Earth. It didn’t.

Then there’s the trailer for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which barely mentioned the movie was a musical; the one from Star Wars: The Force Awakens that suggested Luke Skywalker would play a prominent part in JJ Abrams’ blockbuster space opera revival; or even the early looks at Suicide Squad that gave the impression we would see a lot more of Jared Leto’s cackling Joker. And yet all these pale into insignificance next to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s publicity campaign, which seems to have hyped a completely different movie to the one we ended up with.

What did the film look like before Disney ordered reshoots and hired Bourne alumnus Tony Gilroy, for a reported $5m, to oversee the edit process and rewrite the ending? By piecing together scenes that appeared in trailers but failed to make the final cut, we can at least get close to imagining.

For a start, something very strange appears to have happened to Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso during the process. April’s debut teaser trailer presented her as a generic reluctant hero, a snarky Han Solo-style outsider who is so mistrusted by the Rebel Alliance that she is forced to wear handcuffs during her encounter with Mon Mothma on Yavin 4. Erso comes across as arrogant and completely disinterested in the anti-Imperial cause, hence her famously cut line: “This is a rebellion, isn’t it? I rebel!”

Then there’s the section in which Erso is warned against getting involved by surrogate daddy Saw Gerrera, also completely missing from the final movie. “What will you do when they catch you? What will you do when they break you? If you continue to fight, what will you become?” he asks, hinting that Galen Erso’s daughter might also find herself being manipulated for Imperial ends. Given Star Wars’ history of documenting its heroes’ struggles to avoid turning to the dark side, this was a pretty big hint that Jyn might find herself similarly tempted. But the speech never made it to the big screen. The fact that he has a shaven head, rather than the scruffy grey afro seen for most of the theatrical cut, suggests these scenes featured a younger Gerrera. The obvious conclusion here is that additional scenes between the pair – scenes that might have made more sense of their relationship and the rebel leader’s decision to cut Jyn loose at the age of 15 – were dropped.

By August’s trailer, Jyn is still moody and obnoxious, but has begun to morph into a cheery rebel-rouser clinging to hope in the face of almost impossible odds. By the time October’s effort rolls around, she has become a messianic hyperdrive in human form capable of supercharging the jaded resistance in their fight against the Empire (the trailer also hints Krennic originally had a different scene with Darth Vader). But this wasn’t the version we saw in the final cut either: Erso plays her part in convincing a small band of the rebels to help her in her mission to steal the Death Star plans, but whoever cut the trailer seems to have been laying it on a bit thick, to say the least.

Jones, in the final movie, never seems so sure of herself and is far more sympathetic. Moreover, her sense of doubt feeds into the veneer of gloom that envelops Edwards film and makes it such a fascinatingly offbeat addition to the canon. Presumably, somebody spotted that hyping up your audience with expectations of hope is a mite cruel when all the Rogue One crew are destined to cop it at the end. Or perhaps that’s not even what happened in the original script?

Which brings us to a new report in the Hollywood Reporter suggesting Jones had a clause in her contract committing her to a sequel should Disney wish to go that route. This in turn leads us to the second major change we suspect took place during filming of Rogue One; namely, the imposition of a completely reshot and rescripted final act.

A close examination of the sizzle footage from Star Wars Celebration Europe suggest that Erso and her team spent far more time on the lush planet of Scarif from which they steal the Death Star plans than we see in the final movie. It’s also clear that Ben Mendehlson’s Orson Krennic once took part in deleted scenes at the Empire’s high security data installation, as the Imperial meanie is seen chasing the rebels on a beach. Taken together with deleted scenes in which Erso is carrying a huge data disc (presumably with the plans for the Death Star installed) while involved in running battles on Scarif, this suggests the denouement of Rogue One might have all taken place on the ground.

Could the crackerjack final space battle, which delivered the blast of cosmic brio that brought Edwards’ film to such a satisfying conclusion, have been a last-minute addition? Perhaps Erso and some of her team even made it to the end, rather than being split up and finally all dying in separate locations?

All this makes sense, to paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, from a certain point of view. Without the space scenes, and Darth Vader’s ruthless crushing of the rebel troops onboard the Rebel command ship, Rogue One would have felt even less like a Star Wars movie – perhaps even too little like a Star Wars movie to really connect with its core audience. In the end, the denouement felt like Disney had chosen to shower us with Easter eggs: from Luke Skywalker’s future X-wing pals (some of the footage reputedly ripped from Star Wars outtakes) to the wonderfully realised scenes onboard the Mon Calamari ship, not to mention the final handover of the plans to Leia.

The survival of the film’s key players would have been one way to lift spirits in the wake of Rogue One’s bloody torrent of intergalactic death and destruction, but that would have felt like a cop-out. In the end, a whirlwind of classic space-opera motifs was able to achieve the same goal without undercutting the film’s uniquely sombre tone.

We’ll probably never get to see the movie Rogue One might have been, but the more times I see the remarkable version that reached cinemas, the more I suspect that’s probably for the best.


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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