Rogue One was supposed to be a significantly different film than we got. And I think we’re better off for it.
Update 1/3/17: An Interview with John Gilroy and Colin Goudie in Yahoo Movies UK tells more of the story areas touched by the reshoots including some of those below.
The lead-up to Rogue One’s release was rife with rumors of significant re-shoots and unhappy executives. We (the fans) were told repeatedly that these were standard occurrence in Hollywood. This is true, but this felt different. We already know that the original ending had Jyn and Cassian living. But it’s also clear from the trailers that the film underwent some significant plot changes.
So let’s speculate a bit. I suspect that there were many critical changes to Rogue One during the re-shooting process. Frankly, if these speculations are in any way accurate then the changes were for the better.
Let’s look at the First, Second and Third Acts separately.
Act I: Beginning until Jyn and Cassian are tasked to go to Jedha.
What we got:
Cassian learns that an Imperial pilot has received a message from Galen Erso and trying to deliver it to Saw Gerrera. The Rebellion frees Jyn Erso from an Imperial prison camp in order for her to contact Saw Gerrera’s Partisans.
The original plot called for the Rebellion intercept a coded message from Galen Erso detailing the existance of a superweapon. The Rebellion frees Jyn Erso from an Imperial Prison and give her the mission of verifying the nature of the message. Jyn seeks out Saw Gerrera for help and Saw connects her with the Imperial Pilot who recently defected.
How do we know: In the first Teaser Trailer, we see a younger/less crazy Saw Gerrera give a passionate soliloquy: “What will you do if they catch you? What will you do if they break you?” At Star Wars Celebration, the local audience was shown a teaser trailer featuring a speech from Jyn imploring (to Saw) that this was “their chance to make a real difference.”
So my guess is that the story changed to be more character-driven. It’s not clear why Jyn, who clearly wasn’t trying to cause issues at the start of the film, would choose to go on this mission for the Rebellion. The final film doesn’t show her brashness in her first meeting with the Rebels – we don’t get that cheesy, but declarative line “I Rebel”. She also doesn’t state her name “for the record” because she has an alias. This plot also begs why the Rebellion would need Jyn at all given their ability to monitor Imperial communications and gather intelligence. Jyn needs more motivation herself in order to be able to have the type of convincing speeches. And Bohdi is kind of just along for the ride.
So I suppose they changed the story from the Rebellion having intercepted an encoded message, but rather some ground-level intelligence gathering (a rumor) that information from Galen Erso was given to Saw Gerrera by a (former) Imperial Pilot.
This doesn’t, however, explain why Saw’s appearance was changed, per se. The Second teaser trailer shows a more deshevled, grey haired Saw Gerrera than the one from the first teaser. I suspect this was a stylistic change, in order to make Saw more of a grey area ally/enemy (after 15 years of fighting) than a mentor as seemed to be the case in the first trailer. This seems more like a stylistic choice to make him paranoid and rather than a mentor (not sure I like that). Saw is a complex figure with significant information and insights that could have been useful – and merit a more dignified presence in the film.
Lastly, I think the notion that the Galen Erso built a defect into the Death Star that could destroy it probably wasn’t an added plot element. It seems like the only impetus for taking the risk of going to get the Death Star plans.
These are actually great changes (again, if they’re true). I really enjoyed the characterization of Cassian, the Rebellion, and Saw Gerrera’s group that this more complex web of interactions illustrates. While some have complained that the first half of Rogue One was confusing, I thought it was great and really enjoyed the complexity of the plot. Making it a straight forward “we have a mission for you” isn’t as exciting and doesn’t let the audience learn more about the Rebellion, its methods and intentions.
Act II: Jyn & Cassian go to Jedha until the end of the Rebel leadership meeting
It’s not clear that there was a lot of wholesale changes to the middle act of Rogue One. One significant change that I suspect happened was around the divided Rebel leaders wasn’t part of the original script. I suspect that this dynamic was an added to add another dramatic point to the script removing the specter of easy linear decision-making in what is a critical moment for the Rebellion. The suspicion comes from the omission of this scene.
This seems like the same setting as we see in the final Rogue One, but we don’t get the image of the Death Star; Cassian is in this version; We don’t see but three senators (and I think Admiral Rattus’ hand is on the left). So this scene seems very different than what we got (it’s possible this was an initial briefing the preceded the meeting we got that was ultimately edited out; it’s hard to believe Cassian would have left after this meeting
This is a critical scene in the film (and the Star Wars Saga). The Rebel leaders are ultimately posed with the testimony of Jyn and Bodhi and asked to make a critical decision about their future. It would have been a bit unbelievable that all of the Alliance Council would be fully on-board with taking on such a daring mission given their individual reputations and specter for a real escalation.
This also would add the dynamic of the Rogue One team actually going Rogue from the Rebellion and stealing the impounded Imperial shuttle. This is the same tactic that we see them deploy in Return of the Jedi. This plot change helps to understand why the Rebellion would have the guts to try that plan years later.
The other big change in the second act may have been the confrontation between Vader and Krennic. I suspect having it take place on Mustafar was a re-shootand edited together with that original shot of the hooded figure kneeling in front of the Bacta tank (which perhaps took place at a different place). My guess is this took place on Vader’s Star Destroyer and included the “the POWER we are dealing with is immeasurable” line from Krennic. The decision to put it on Mustafar and have it be Vader summoning Krennic was a choice to elevate Vader’s position and sacrifice the rather bold language from Krennic.
Act III: Stealing the shuttle until… Vader shows up and.. you know
It’s not clear how much changed about the third act, but I suspect not much was broadly changed about the storyline of the third act but a LOT of it was changed/edited. The “evidence” of this come from the scenes from the trailers that we don’t see in the final film and actually seem contradictory to the story:
Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO are running through the citadel with the plans.
Note the transmission tower that Cassian et al are running towards.
Jyn and Cassian are running with the rest of the rebel fighters away from one set of walkers into another (this shot including a large transmission dish).
The Rebel Team (including K2/Alan Tudyk and Baze in mo-cap suit) running through water
Jyn, Cassian, and the Rebels engaged in bunker combat.
This awesome shot of Krennic walking away/towards something during this shot on Scarif.
These scenes (not to mention the Jyn Erso “May the Force be with us” shot which had scarif in the background in the BTS reel, but the Rebel base in the Japanese trailer) show a very different scene. I suspect that the original script was for Jyn and Cassian to steal the plans pretty readily and them running out of the Citadel (with a living K2), through the beach, through trenches, in order to reach the transmission tower in order to beam the plans. For the sake of run time, I think the scenes were cut to omit Jyn, Cassian, and K2 and have them transmit the plans at the top of the citadel tower (requiring only a CGI edit).
In the final film, K2 never leaves the Citadel so seeing him running in any scene in the citadel or outdoors is the first sign of a big plot change). I believe the scenes with Jyn & Cassian fighting Krennic in the data vault as well as the confrontation on top of the tower were all re-shoots.
The bit about the master switch may have always been a part of the script, but it may have been expanded in order to write in death scenes for the Rebels (who had names), Chirrut, and Baze. It also left an opportunity to include the Death Troopers in the final battle which we never saw in any of the other shots.
There are also suspicions that Vader ultimately killed the Rebel team during/after they were able to beam the plans off planet. This might explain why K2 and Baze were still alive in the other trailers/reel while Jyn still had the plans (they died differently than in the final version). I think this was changed to focus the conclusion on a confrontation between Jyn and Krennic.
This specific change perhaps shortened the overall plot of the battle, but made it more streamlined for time.
And lastly, I guess the entire last sequence with Vader fighting his way to the Tantive IV was added in order to add that last bit of drama to set up the interchange with Princess Leia and Vader in A New Hope. I suspect the Princess Leia shot was original as well as the CGI required was probably significant as well.
I really like the final Rogue One and think these changes were for the better. The scenes I suspect were a result of the reshoots are significant, but perhaps not too significant to implement given how isolated the scenes are (they usually required only a few people to be present).
I’d love to see the original version of Rogue One (even unfinished). It seems like there were some really great scenes that we never got to see. I’d love the opportunity to see that original vision as well – even if it’s not as good. I was really looking forward to seeing the Rebels running through Scarif with the Death Star Plans. I would have liked seeing how Vader killed them (if that happened). I would have liked to see where Krennic was walking with his cape dragging in the water (is that the Death Star blast wave on the horizon?). I really hope Lucasfilm gives us some of this on the BluRay.
Take another look:
First Teaser Trailer
Star Wars Celebration Teaser
Celebration BTS Reel: