Breaking down the most important moments from the Rogue One trailer

Contributed by
Apr 8, 2016, 7:14 PM EDT

It's been a little more than a day since the trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story landed, which means we've all had time to watch it 20 or 30 times by now. So, now that we've taken all the footage in, it's time to take a moment-by-moment look.

Below, we're breaking down, in roughly chronological order, the key moments in the footage, from new characters to new soldiers to plot hints. Check out the trailer (again) first, and then dive into our analysis.



First things first: We meet our lead, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Right away we learn that she's a bit of a rough character. She's been on her own since 15, she's got a laundry list of crimes to her name, and she's not exactly prepared to play by the rules. In one of the trailer's first shots, we see her in handcuffs being led to face Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly), and while she's on her way, we get a couple of intriguing looks at an X-Wing hangar and a new take on the classic Rebel soldier uniforms from the very first scene of Star Wars. I missed those helmets.



As Jyn listens to her new orders -- obtaining key information on a new Imperial weapons test -- we get a glimpse at more callbacks to classic Star Wars design, namely the radar screens in the background. This looks very similar to the Yavin IV base from the very first film.



And here's Mon Mothma herself, smiling at Jyn's naturally rebellious nature. O'Reilly was actually cast in Revenge of the Sith more than a decade ago, but her scenes were cut. Her costume here bears an even greater similarity than her Sith costume to that worn by Caroline Blakiston, who originated the role in Return of the Jedi.



Here's our first look at the Rogue One-era Star Destroyer model, a kind of hybrid between what we see by the time A New Hope rolls around and what we saw at the end of Revenge of the Sith. The most notable difference between this design and what we saw in A New Hope is the size of the dish at the top. We'll have to wait and see how many other Imperial ship design variants we encounter in the film.



And here's our best look at the Death Star itself. It seems basically near completion, which could place this film very close indeed to the start of a New Hope. The very-recognizable dish which focuses its planet-destroying beam is being lowered into place, and we can see Star Destroyers in the foreground to give us a sense of this thing's scale. No wonder Luke Skywalker thought it was a moon.



OK, time to take a look at a few more members of our supporting cast. Here's Alistair Petrie giving Jyn her mission. We don't yet know his character's name, but we know from his insignias that he's a Rebel general. We'll see how much he turns up in the final film.



Here's Jyn seemingly heading out into the field with Diego Luna at her side, surrounded by Rebel pilots and soldiers. Again, no character name here, but he does have an Alliance insignia on his chest, and he appears quite a bit in the trailer, so expect to learn a lot more about him.



Ah, one of the most striking moments in the trailer: The first appearance of Ben Mendelsohn as a high-ranking Imperial officer. We don't know who he is or what role he plays just yet, but he seems set up to be our main antagonist, and his uniform is very reminiscent of the Grand Admiral uniforms set up by the original Star Wars Expanded Universe.



Here we see some Stormtroopers taking some prisoners in, but the real gem is in the background. It's an Imperial tank, something rarely seen in the original trilogy, where Walkers were the main event. Gareth Edwards promised us a war movie, and this is an early look at a new war engine.



Here's Forest Whitaker, walking with a cane and covered in armor. We don't know his character's official name yet, but he seems to be a grizzled veteran of war, and his narration throughout the footage suggests some very big influence in Jyn's life and mission.



Early snapshots from the Rogue One set hinted at new Stormtrooper designs, and here's the most prominent one so far: an all-black Trooper who looked very menacing indeed. In the old Expanded Universe, these might have been "Dark Troopers," elite soliders dispatched for the most important missions the Empire has to offer. We don't know what they're called here yet, but this is yet another hint that Edwards and company are really expanding the Empire's military versatility with this film.



There's not necessarily any major plot significance in this shot (though, of course, we have to wait and see), but it caught my eye because, again, this is evidence of Edwards making a real war movie in the Star Wars universe. This is something we don't see all that often in the original trilogy. It's gritty, but it also feels authentic to the franchise.



Here's Jones and Luna running through some kind of terminal, but the real interesting tidbit is what's in the foreground. See that robot? It's quite likely that's the motion capture character played by Firefly alum Alan Tudyk. 


Here we see Stormtroopers sprinting through what's apparently the same terminal, and check out the new uniforms. They look very similar to the Scout Trooper design from the Endor scenes in Return of the Jedi, but with a different tint designed either for desert or jungle combat. Again, Edwards is really fleshing out the Imperial military in very interesting ways.


Here's martial arts legend Donnie Yen as a still-unnamed character taking down a Stormtrooper with nothing but a stick. What's interesting is the shot right before this one features him staring down several Troopers, all armed with blasters. Either they're just letting him do this for some reason, or he's even more awesome than this moment would suggest.


We see different shots of a beach battle throughout the trailer, and this is one of the most intriguing. These Stormtroopers are decked out in all-black, and yet their design is different from what I dubbed the "Dark Trooper" earlier. They even have a different blaster design with a wider barrel. So, who are they and what do they do on the battlefield? We'll have to wait and see.


Based on the wing designs remiscient of shuttles in both The Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi, we can safely guess that this is some kind of Imperial landing craft exploding during the same beach battle. However this battle is resolved, it looks like it's going to be the biggest infantry match-up we've seen in Star Wars since Hoth.


And here's Mendelsohn again, carelessly dragging his cape through the water at what would appear to be the same beach battle. This would seem to be the aftermath of that battle due to the Stormtrooper corpses around him. Depending on how it turned out, he's either triumphant or very, very pissed. 


For me, this is the most intriguing shot in the trailer: a hooded figure approaching some kind of tank guarded by the Emperor's private sentinels. Who's in the cloak? Well, it could be Darth Vader, but he has no history of a hood. It could be the Emperor, but the posture and silhouette suggests maybe not. Plus, what's in the tank? Is it the last remnant of the Imperial cloning program? Is Vader recuperating? Is The Emperor undergoing some kind of life-extension treatment? It could be anything, but this shot is a lot of fun because it suggests the Empire still has plenty of secrets for us.


Here's anothers hot of Whitaker's character, which I mostly included to note the design of the starship set behind him. I'm not saying it's the Millennium Falcon. There's no reason to suggest it is, but I like how similar the design is. Edwards' attention to detail is on full display.


Here's our brief look at Jiang Wen's character, charging into battle covered in armor and heavy weaponry. I don't know how much we'll see of him in the film, but he looks amazing, and shows another side of the Rebel military.


Ah yes, the return of the AT-ATs. This looks to be a glance at the same beach battle from before, as our heroes charge toward the heaviest armor the Imperial army has to offer. It's hard to tell from these shots, but these particular Walkers might be somewhat different in color from what we saw in Empire.


Then there's the final shot. The corridor Jyn's in clearly reflects Imperial design, and she's obviously wearing some version of an Imperial pilot's uniform, as indicated by the both the breastplate and the insignia on her shoulder. She also looks like she's equipped with some kind of stun baton. Is she switching sides? I doubt it. It's more likely this is a scene from some kind of infiltration mission similar to what we saw in A New Hope. Whatever the case, it's a great moment.


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives December 16. What was your favorite moment from the trailer?