It feels like just yesterday that we were all getting hyped for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but here we are a year later with the release of another new Star Wars movie on our hands. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first of many planned Star Wars spin-offs and will be the first live-action entry in the franchise that’s not part of the Saga films (Episodes I – VII).
Star Wars fans are already chomping at the bit to see how the Rebels came to be in possession of the Death Star plans that Princess Leia hands off to R2-D2 at the beginning of the 1977 film that started it all, but the average viewer might be a bit confused by the fact that they’ve been seeing trailers over the last few months filled with a bunch of characters that were nowhere to be found in The Force Awakens. Fortunately, we’ve assembled a primer of sorts to get you up to speed on what you need to know going into Rogue One (don’t worry, there’s not much in the way of SPOILERS here, given that we haven’t actually seen the movie yet).
It’s The First of Many Planned ‘Anthology’ Films
In addition to the new episodic trilogy that kicked off last year with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney and Lucasfilm are also developing a series of what they’re referring to as ‘Anthology’ films — spin-offs set within the larger Star Wars universe. Rogue One is the first of many planned Anthology films, with the next being a young Han Solo picture starring Alden Ehrenreich in the title role and Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian.
Lucasfilm was also reportedly working on a Boba Fett spin-off, but it was recently revealed that they pulled back on announcing the film last year, so it’s unclear whether or not that film is still in development. Either way, we will be getting a new Anthology film every two years until the well runs dry, with the Han Solo spin-off set to arrive in 2018 and the next film hitting theaters sometime in 2020.
It’s Technically A Prequel
While Disney has smartly avoided the prequel label in its marketing for Rogue One (“prequel” is practically a curse word among Star Wars fans), the truth is that it is still a prequel to George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy. The film is set long after the events of Revenge of the Sith and takes place prior to the events of Episode IV: A New Hope. The film will tie directly into the events of A New Hope and explain how the Rebels acquired the Death Star plans that come into the possession of Princess Leia and later R2-D2 in that film. In fact, it’s been confirmed that Rogue One will end just ten minutes prior to the beginning of A New Hope, which would make these two films the most closely connected in terms of chronology in the Star Wars franchise.
Gareth Edwards is Directing
Most moviegoers are likely unfamiliar with Gareth Edwards, but they will almost certainly know his name after the release of Rogue One, considering the film is on track to earn $130 million or more in its opening weekend. Edwards only has a few feature films to his credit, but his work on the indie monster movie (appropriately titled) Monsters and the 2014 Godzilla reboot helped earn him the director’s job for Rogue One. Monsters and Godzilla proved that Edwards is comfortable with large scale spectacle, a skill that will serve him well on something as big as a new Star Wars movie.
The Cast Features A Ton Of New Characters
Although Rogue One will see the return of a few familiar characters, including Mon Mothma and Darth Vader, its cast is mostly comprised of new characters played by a cast of relative unknowns. Led by Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, the Rebel team looking to snatch the Death Star plans from the cold clutches of the Empire is composed of a number of diverse characters who could potentially become favorites among fans, including Diego Luna as Captain Cassian Andor, Alan Tudyk as the reprogrammed Imperial security droid K-2SO (Kay-Tuesso), and Donnie Yen as the spiritual warrior-monk Chirrut Îmwe.
In some ways, Rogue One will be a litmus test for Disney and Lucasfilm to see how audiences respond to a Star Wars movie largely comprised of brand new characters. Yes, The Force Awakens had a number of new characters, but it also made sure to give beloved characters like Han Solo and Chewbacca prominent roles in order to entice older fans. That being said, judging by the fact that Rogue One’s ticket pre-sales were the highest of 2016, the lack of familiar characters probably isn’t going to be a problem at all.
The Plot Involves A Heist And A Rescue Mission
Even though a number of different trailers have dropped for Rogue One, especially in recent months, we still (thankfully) only know the basic outline of the film’s plot. What we do know is that main storyline involves Jyn Erso being recruited by the Rebellion to lead a team tasked with stealing the plans for the Death Star, the Imperial super-weapon brought down by Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. Things are complicated considerably by the fact that Jyn’s scientist father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is a crucial member of the Death Star’s development team, having been recruited and/or forced to work on it due to his advanced energy research.
Essentially, Jyn’s mission will also involve rescuing her father, but it’s unclear whether or not he even wants to be rescued. Much like previous Star Wars films, Rogue One is keeping the family drama stuff front and center, with Jyn’s relationship with her father set to be the emotional backbone of the entire movie.
The Title’s Meaning
Believe it or not, this is actually the first Star Wars movie in which the title of the movie is said. In one of Rogue One’s trailers, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) says the title, and even confirms what it refers to. It turns out that “Rogue One” is a military call sign and refers specifically to Jyn and her crew’s ship, a U-Xwing. The title can also be read as a callback to the legacy of Rogue Squadron in the original Star Wars, as the Rebel squadron has become extremely popular among Star Wars fans.
Additionally, you could also view Rogue One as a reference to Jyn Erso herself, who is depicted as being a bit of a ‘rogue’. Director Gareth Edwards also has his own interpretation, viewing the title as a reference to Rogue One being the sort of odd one out among the other Star Wars films: “…this is the first film that’s gone off-piste and is not part of the saga — or the Anakin story — so it’s the ‘rogue’ one, you know?” Let’s just hope that ‘Rogue’ doesn’t translate to ‘Black Sheep’.
John Williams Isn’t Doing The Score
Yes, you read that right. John Williams, who played an enormous role in making Star Wars one of the biggest franchises of all time thanks to his legendary musical compositions, will not be doing the score for Rogue One. Instead, Alexandre Desplat is the film’s composer, having worked with Gareth Edwards on Godzilla. This will be the first Star Wars movie not to feature Williams as the composer, although you can be sure that it will still feature many of the composer’s iconic compositions.
We’re confident that Desplat is more than up to the task and will likely do a great job with the film’s score, but many Star Wars fans (us included) may find it hard to adjust to the idea of a Star Wars movie without John Williams, given that he’s been such an integral part of the franchise from the very beginning. On the bright side, Williams is expected to return for Episode VIII next year, so we won’t have to go without him for long!
Jimmy Smits Will Reprise His Role As Bail Organa
One of the more surprising Rogue One cameos that has been confirmed is the return of Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa, the adoptive father of Princess Leia. Smits first played the character in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and again in Revenge of the Sith and much like his appearances n those films, his role in Rogue One will be small. “Can you say the word, “cameo?'” Smits coyly told CBS’s The Talk back in August. “Can you say the words, ‘small part?'” It’s unclear what Bail Organa’s role will be in Rogue One, but we’re still excited by the prospect of seeing a familiar face, especially when we know that his untimely demise is just around the corner in the Star Wars timeline …
Forest Whitaker is Playing A Character We’ve Seen Before
One of the most striking characters featured in Rogue One’s marketing is easily Forest Whitaker’s war-weary soldier Saw Gerrara, what with his cool-looking armor and what appears to be a robotic leg. While Saw is a new character in the Star Wars movies, he was actually introduced in Season Five of The Clone Wars animated series. Depicted as a daring, arrogant guerilla fighter, Saw appears to have wizened up in the intervening years and plays something of a mentor role to Jyn Erso in Rogue One.
However, that’s not to say that Saw has lost his rebellious streak, as Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy had this to say about him: “He’s on the fringe of the Rebel Alliance. Even [they] are a little concerned about him.” In other words, expect Saw Gerrara to be something of a wild card in the film’s ensemble — one whom we have a hard time seeing make it through to the end of the film alive (his history with Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. Darth Vader has us convinced the Sith Lord will be paying him a visit at some point).
Darth Vader Returns… and He’s Probably Going To Kick Some Ass
If you’re somehow on the fence about seeing Rogue One (if that’s even possible), perhaps the fact that Darth Vader is in it will be enough to change your mind. That’s right; one of the greatest villains in cinematic history is making his return and reports indicate that this will be much more than a cameo. According to Making Star Wars, Vader will have a substantial role, to the point where he will apparently have his own side story that is integral to the film’s plot.
That being said, Disney is smartly keeping Vader’s role in the film shrouded in mystery, but it’s rumored that he will have at least one showstopping scene that involves him showing off why he’s such a feared figure among Rebels and Imperials alike. Best of all, James Earl Jones is returning to provide Vader’s iconic voice, which goes to show that Disney is taking the character’s return very seriously.