Hey everyone! Below is a ridiculously long post about an edit of Rogue One I have been working on. For those of you who don’t have the time to read it all, here are my three major goals of this edit:
- Make the first act less jumpy.
- Make Jyn a more active protagonist.
- Save Galen’s message as a reveal.
- I’ve also made personal changes here and there.
If you’d like to check it out and give some feedback, feel free to pm me.
I liked Rogue One, but I definitely think that the lack of characterization and other common criticisms were justified. Without deleted scenes, you can only do so much, but I wanted to see what can be done with what we were given.
I have been sitting on my own edit of the film since August, but I finally made the time to sit down and write this post.
I think the biggest criticism of the film was its lack of character development. This falls hard on Jyn, especially. An informative video essay by Lessons From the Screenplay highlights the faults in the two newest Star Wars films’ central protagonists, Rey and Jyn. While Rey is another topic, Michael delves into Jyn’s character and describes her as a passive protagonist, meaning Jyn rarely makes decisions that have any influence on the story as a whole. Link to video below.
A few months ago I also stumbled across a Tor article by Max Gladstone titled “How to Fix Rogue One with the Least Amount of Effort”. While some of his changes are impossible to make, he had some ideas that I thought could be doable. Please give it a read when you can; he explains his own ideas much more elegantly than I could.
So, after reading these criticisms, along with many others on here and other websites, I decided to work on an edit with these major goals.
- Make the first act less jumpy.
- Make Jyn a more active protagonist.
- Save Galen’s message as a reveal.
Even when I saw it in theaters, I felt that the first act jumped around too much. In this version, I have removed the planet title cards (ala DigMod) to possibly help alleviate information overload, and I have also completely removed Bodhi’s first scene. There’s no information that doesn’t get repeated in his next scene with Saw, and I also think his second scene is a more interesting way to introduce him. And this way, we don’t go to Jedha until Jyn and Cassian do.
In the first act, I have also changed the nature of their mission. Their objective is to convince Saw Gerrera to just give them the Imperial pilot, who has information regarding a secret weapon that the Empire is building, and bring him back to Yavin. When Jyn asks what this has to do with her father, Cassian reveals that they believe Galen is building a weapon that has the power to destroy entire planets, rather than saying the Emperor is building a weapon. The Rebels don’t know Galen has anything to do with the pilot and the message.
I thought it was strange that the Rebels were so eager to kill Galen if they knew that he sent this message. Now, their motivation to kill him is a little more understandable because they still have reason to believe Galen is loyal to the Empire. This change also helps simplify their mission. Find Saw and get the pilot.
This also ties in with another big change in this edit: trying to make Jyn a more active protagonist.
There’s a few more moments I’ve altered where Jyn’s actions have more of an influence on the story.
When Jyn saves the little girl on Jedha, we now see that Chirrut senses her act of selflessness from nearby, which explains why Chirrut returns the favor a few minutes later. In the original cut, I felt her saving the girl was an cheap way to show that Jyn was a “good person”, and I had trouble understanding why Chirrut would feel the need to save Jyn and Cassian just because he’s “no friend of the Empire”. Now, tying these two moments together helps give Jyn’s actions consequence and helps explain Chirrut and Jyn’s connection. It also parallels Cassian’s actions in the same scene resulting in their capture by Saw’s rebels.
I’ve also changed the U-Wing scene after they escape Jedha. As Max points out in his article, Jyn and Cassian’s argument about what to do next seems strange since they are going to Eadu regardless, but since I’ve also changed the mission and left Galen’s involvement as a reveal, at this point in the story Cassian would want to return to Yavin IV with the pilot. Now, I’ve rearranged this scene so Jyn makes the argument to extract her father instead (since Bodhi knows his location). So Cassian contacts the Alliance, they give them the green light, but they think Galen is too much of a risk, so they order Cassian to kill him instead. Max goes into more detail about why this change can work, but most importantly, I think this gives Jyn another moment where she makes active decisions within the story, because she alters the direction of the plot.
A common complaint I hear about the Eadu segment of the film is that it has no real lasting impact on the story. It lets Jyn have one final moment with her father, but that’s about it. I’ve tried to change this by having the last thing Galen says to Jyn be, “Jyn, I have to tell you… star… dust…”. There is not much context for why he says that at this point of the story, but I’m hoping with this, and by cutting two or three of the other Stardust name drops, it helps imply that he was trying to tell Jyn that the project codename was Stardust. Yes, Jyn figures it out anyway in the original cut, but maybe someone who hasn’t seen Rogue One, or hasn’t seen it in a long time, would mentally tie these moments together. This change brings some lasting value to their mission on Eadu, even if it was only a little bit.
On their way back to Yavin, I’ve also removed a few lines to Jyn and Cassian’s argument, namely, the last two. Now, the argument ends with Cassian saying, “You’re not the only one who’s lost everything. Some of us just decided to do something about it.”
Before, I thought the ending of the conversation felt childish and nothing was gained from it. Now, we, and Jyn, are left to ponder Cassian’s final words before he walks off. At this moment, Jyn could leave the Alliance after this betrayal, or she could “do something about it” like Cassian suggests. So instead of giving up on the rebellion, like many thought she would have done in this situation, she decides to try and convince the Rebellion to go to Scarif so her father didn’t die in vain.
Originally in Jyn’s speech scene, it didn’t seem like her speech had any real impact on the story. The rebels refuse to go, and Cassian recruits a team for the mission on his own anyway. In this version, though, I’ve added Cassian to this scene. While I don’t think this change is the most seamless, since I had to move shots of him from the first briefing scene to this scene, even though it is a different part of the base, I think the change is worth it. And when I cut to him, I’ve lowered the volume of the discussion to help imply that he’s listening in from a distant, off-camera corner. When Jyn gives the same line he said to her earlier, “Rebellions are built on hope.” Cassian gives a little grin, which is an unused shot that I took from one of the trailers. After Mon Mothma says they can’t go, and some of the rebels are sitting there, looking defeated, one of the rebels looks over at Cassian, who then gives him a knowing look. Coincidentally, this rebel turns out to be one of the guys that is standing right behind Cassian in the next scene, hopefully implying that Jyn’s speech motivated them to join this new mission.
I’ve pretty much done nothing to the final act of the film; most people seem to enjoy it as is. But I do think it has a few issues. My biggest gripe though is regarding why they decided to transmit the plans instead of escaping with them if they have to take down the shield gate either way? I just don’t understand why they changed their plan at this moment, when they learn the shield gate has been closed. It seems like the transmitting option would only be chosen after their means of escape was gone.
And then when they get Bodhi to contact the Alliance and tell them to take out the shield gate, they were already trying to do just that. So his, Chirrut’s and Baze’s deaths feel almost unnecessary.
There are three ways to tackle these problems that I’ve considered:
- Alter some dialogue.
K2: They’ve closed the shield gate.
Jyn: We’re trapped?
K2: They have to take out that shield gate.
Change Cassian/Bodhi lines accordingly.
Their plan is still to escape first, but when their way out is blocked by troopers, K2 tells them to climb up the tower and transmit the plans instead. You can write off the rest by assuming Raddus just isn’t focused on the shield until Bodhi contacts him, so changing that is not necessary.
Do 1, plus readjust space battle so they don’t start probing shield gate until after Bodhi contacts Raddus.
Readjust battle so Raddus doesn’t attack shield until after Bodhi contacts them, and rearrange deaths so K2 doesn’t tell them transmit the plans with his dying words until Bodhi has been killed and their means of escape gone. This also means that Chirrut and Baze have to die before K2 as well. You could have Cassian check up on Bodhi as he blows up, then have a reaction shot of him and Jyn when they only hear static through the commlink. Now they know they’re stuck there.
While I think 3 would be the strongest change, I think it would be very difficult to make it seamless, partly due to the music underlaying most of the third act as well as all of the changes being more noticeable.
I like to think that the changes in the first two acts would be subtle enough that someone who has not watched the movie in a long time might not notice what has changed. They might notice something is different, but not exactly what. With this, I do feel like the #3 option would be pretty obvious and maybe against what I’m trying to achieve.
I’m still floating ideas around. If anyone has any thoughts, ideas or opinions on the third act please share them. As of now, I’ve only removed Cassian’s line when informing Bodhi of the transmitting plan “it’s the only way we’re getting them out of here”. Even though he probably means they can only get the plans out by destroying the shield gate, it removes the possible assumption that he means they can only get the plans out by transmitting the plans to the fleet. As of now, I’m just assuming that once the fleet arrives, K2 realizes that transmitting the plans successfully is more likely than escaping with them physically, and the group goes along with that plan, even if it means risking their own escape. I know I’m overthinking this.
These are the main changes I have made. I’ve had to make minor cuts/changes here and there to maintain the objectives of the edit. I have also made some minor cuts here and there unrelated to the main objectives as well. (I may have forgotten a thing or two).
Slightly darkened the Rogue One title card.
I’ve trimmed the Bor Gullet scene. I know many people don’t like Bor Gullet, but I do think the scene serves a purpose. I think the reason people didn’t like it is because it doesn’t really affect Bodhi in the way Saw implies. Sure, he acts weird for a scene, but he didn’t “lose his mind”. By simply removing that line, I think the focus now of the scene is to show how far Saw has gone off the deep end. I’ve also darkened the scene as well in order to keep it a little more eerie and hide the CGI-ness of the creature.
I’ve kept the Ponda Baba and Evazan cameo, but I removed the last shot of them that just sits there for several seconds. I think the last shot was gratuitous, screaming, “Do you recognize them yet?!?!” By just cutting out that last shot, I think it becomes more like an easy-to-miss easter egg rather than a blatant nostalgic callback. It doesn’t call as much attention to them anymore.
I removed K2’s line, “That doesn’t sound so bad to me” from his first Jedha scene. Just to see him silently dropping Jyn’s bag might be funnier considering we’re already used to him being the droid that says funny things.
I ever so slightly trimmed the scene of Jyn kicking Stormtrooper ass. I didn’t cut any of her shots, but instead I trimmed Cassian’s reaction. Both Rogue One and TFA had a moment where a guy reacts with surprise when a girl actually knows how to fight and doesn’t need help. I don’t think this should be a surprising thing in the Star Wars universe. So Cassian simply turns around and sees she’s handling it. No surprised look.
I’ve also lovingly borrowed two ideas from Digital Modification, where he removes Chirrut’s line, “Is your foot alright?” and implements the continuous Baze firing shot from the Jeddha scene from his own edit, Rise of the Rebellion. I think he makes a lot of great changes, which some I would be interested in implementing with his blessing, like his color corrected scenes of Tarkin and Leia.
Shortened Bodhi’s struggle to remember himself in prison cell.
Cut Saw’s line “I will run no longer”. Another major complaint was Saw just giving up on life and not going with Jyn and company as Jeddha was being destroyed. For a man who has fought oppression his entire adult life, how could he just give up so easily? I think a simple answer why is because he literally can’t run away. He’s encased in a large metal suit and has two ill-fitting robotic legs, so he would only slow them down. So all I did was remove the line. Now, he is not necessarily staying because he wants to, and I like to think that fresh viewers would connect the dots and assume that he’s too slow and doesn’t want to risk slowing down Jyn.
Cut Bodhi first saying “Rogue?” unconvincingly to the Rebel flight dispatcher.
Flipped shot of stolen imperial shutting flying through hyperspace to Scarif in order to maintain left to right movement that is continued in next shot.
I didn’t remove the R2 and 3PO cameo in my current version, but I’m on the fence about it. I did change 3PO’s line to, “Scarif? WE’RE going to Scarif?..” to help alleviate the almost-plot hole and maintain the cameo.
I began the fade to white slightly earlier when Jyn and Cassian die in order to hide Cassian opening his eyes at the last second.
And to reiterate, removed all of the title cards. I think they are partly to blame for the jumpy feeling of the first act, overloading us with info. But I’ve considered keeping them just because their removal/cropping might feel obvious to some. Would love some thoughts on this. Might keep them to keep it different enough from DigMod’s.
Well, sorry for the long post. I’ve been sitting on these ideas for awhile and decided to see if they could work. I wanted to post a breakdown of my ideas here though just so I could get some thoughts from you all. If any of you would like to view the current version of this edit just pm me.
Any feedback/ideas that could help me with this edit would be greatly appreciated!