ByEleanor Tremeer, writer at Creators.co
MP staff. I talk about Star Wars a lot. Sometimes I'm paid for it.
Eleanor Tremeer

Warning: If you proceed, there is a 100% chance of Rogue One spoilers.

Rogue One is one of the best Star Wars movies, with a thrilling plot, nuanced characters, and stunning action sequences. And to some people (myself included), this was both a pleasant discovery upon viewing the film, but also a bit of a surprise, as Rogue One infamously underwent weeks of intense reshoots earlier this year.

Shrouded in mystery, the reshoots for Rogue One concerned many a fan. We all wondered exactly what was being changed, and why. Now, with a huge amount of the trailer footage not appearing in the final film, we're starting to get an idea of the impact the reshoots had — and why they were the best thing for the movie.

It's likely we'll never know precisely what the original cut of was like, but by piecing together footage from the trailers and comparing them to the film, there are some very interesting conclusions we can draw... especially when it comes to that emotionally fraught third act.

Changing The Tone

Most of the snippets of footage from the trailers that were cut are just little shots and snatches of dialogue. However, a few scenes seem to have been completely redone. If you watch the first teaser trailer, Rogue One seems very much like a heist movie: A rebel without a cause is sent on a mission to steal plans, as her companion tries to recruit her for the Rebellion. In the scene with Mon Mothma, Jyn's crimes are read, and she seems slightly swaggering and snarky, delivering that now-famous line.

Mon Mothma gives Jyn her mission. [Lucasfilm]
Mon Mothma gives Jyn her mission. [Lucasfilm]

Yet in the final cut of the film, Jyn is more subdued in this scene, craftily scanning her surroundings. She's on edge, but grounded, and we get a very different idea of what kind of person she is: A criminal, yes, but a survivor above all else. Also, her hair and makeup are slightly different from in the initial teaser trailer, pointing towards this being a reshoot.

So why was this changed? It seems likely that this was to alter how we are introduced to the adult Jyn, and keep this scene more in keeping with the tone of Rogue One as a dark war film — not a heist movie about a spunky protagonist. Both versions of the scene are good — and personally I really liked the "I rebel" line — but the second cut seems to flow better with Jyn's ultimately tragic story.

Similar changes seem to have been made to the conversation between Jyn and Saw. In the first trailer, Saw warns Jyn that if she continues to fight for the Rebellion, she may not like what she becomes.

This shot was also cut from the film. [Lucasfilm]
This shot was also cut from the film. [Lucasfilm]

"What will you do if they catch you? What will you do if they break you? If you continue to fight, what will you become?"

That all seems very part and parcel for Saw, but it's what comes before that is really different from the final cut: Jyn is persuading Saw to join the fight, saying "this is our chance to make a real difference!"

This is a stark contrast to how the scene played out in the final cut, in which Jyn was disillusioned and couldn't care less for the Rebellion. At this point, she's just making an introduction, saying that once this is done she's "out". Saw is the one to argue the importance of their "cause", while Jyn professes that the Empire's rule "isn't a problem" to her.

Jyn is held captive by the Rebellion. [Lucasfilm]
Jyn is held captive by the Rebellion. [Lucasfilm]

Again, this scene seems to have been completely rewritten, changing Jyn's journey for the better — it's far more satisfying in the final cut, as she starts believing in the mission once she hears her father's message. And of course, this makes her ultimate fate far more poignant.

An Alternate Ending

Rogue One is refreshing not just because it adds another perspective to a well known story, but because it is bold. Very few of us expected all the main characters of the film to die because hey, it's (and Disney too for that matter). And yet, kill the lot of them is exactly what Gareth Edwards and writer Gary Whitta did — but the ending could have played out very differently.

In the trailers, we see shots of Jyn and Cassian escaping the Citadel on Scarif: They run through the corridor (famously shot in London's Canary Wharf station), then we see them on the beach, facing down an AT-ACT. And crucially, Jyn is carrying the Death Star plans.

Jyn and Cassian take the plans out of the Citadel. [Lucasfilm]
Jyn and Cassian take the plans out of the Citadel. [Lucasfilm]

Of course, now we know that the plans never made it out of the facility. Jyn carried them from the databank right to the top of the tower, inserted them into the transmitter, and beamed the data to the Rebel fleet. So what happened in the original cut of the movie?

It's easy to jump to the conclusion that Jyn and Cassion escaped in the first version of Rogue One, taking the plans physically up through the forcefield, and living to fight another day. Indeed, in the first draft of the script Jyn and Cassion didn't die. But, as Gareth Edwards revealed to Empire, that ending was never even shot, because Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy (and everyone else in charge) liked the idea of the whole team dying.

"I kept waiting for someone to go, ‘You know what? Could we just film an extra scene where we see Jyn and Cassian, they’re okay and they’re on another planet?’ And it never came. No one ever gave us that note, so we got to do it."

Jyn and Cassian prepare for the assault on Scarif. [Lucasfilm]
Jyn and Cassian prepare for the assault on Scarif. [Lucasfilm]

And yet, we still have these shots of Jyn and Cassian escaping the facility with the plans. It's obvious that the ending of the film originally had a completely different sequence of events, as in the final version Jyn and Cassian didn't make it to the beach until the Death Star had already fired on Scarif. But without further information it's difficult to deduce exactly what happened in the original cut of the movie. Maybe they had to take the plans somewhere else in order to transmit them to the Rebellion, or they passed the plans physically on to someone else, who managed to get them through the shield gate.

While the shots of Jyn and Cassian running towards an AT-ACT are very dramatic — which is why they were kept for the trailer — it's much more poignant to see them on the quiet beach, lit up by the Death Star's blast, clinging to each other as the explosion engulfs them. So whatever the original sequence of events, one thing is clear — the reshoots did an excellent job of making the story flow, as every change we can detect seems to have made the plot tighter, and a bit darker, and very satisfying.

Tell us in the comments: Did you notice any other reshoots?

Jyn and Cassian run towards AT-ATs. [Lucasfilm]
Jyn and Cassian run towards AT-ATs. [Lucasfilm]

[Source: Empire via io9]