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It’s an awesome time to be a Star Wars fan. When Disney bought out Lucasfilm back in October of 2012, they laid out a plan to expand the world George Lucas created to a degree we’ve never seen before. They may have scrapped all of the Expanded Universe material that accumulated over the years (or at least decreed that it’s not official canon), but they’re working their tails off to fill in that void with projects like the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue One.
At this point we already have new novels, an animated television series in Star Wars Rebels, a handful of comic book titles from Marvel, and, of course, J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens. All of the expanded universe stuff is great, but the movies are what fans really want to see, and in addition to a new trilogy of interconnected Episode movies, we’re getting a series of standalone, so-called anthology films that examine different areas of Star Wars, illuminating various corners of that far, far away galaxy.
Within these anthology movies – which have also been called "Star Wars Stories," we’ll get to peer into the hidden crevices of this universe we love so much, explore different times and places, and possibly learn about events we’ve only ever heard about. The first of these is Star Wars: Rogue One, and while it will be a while before the movie’s release, we have a lot of questions. Who is going to star? What does the plot? Will we see familiar characters? Will this impact/be impacted the other films? We don’t know a ton about Rogue One, but let’s take a look at what we do know so far.
The DirectorPretty much the first thing we learned about Star Wars: Rogue One, even well before the title was revealed, was that Gareth Edwards was going to direct. Edwards only has two feature directorial efforts under his belt, but they certainly made an impact. His first film, 2010’s micro-budget Monsters, is a tense, unique take on the creature feature - one where the filmmaker handled all the visual effects himself. While that movie wasn’t exactly a blockbuster hit, Edwards’ talent caught the eye of Hollywood, and he was given the reins of 2014’s Godzilla revamp, and his attempt to bring the King of the Monsters back to the metroplex was a rousing success.
These two very different films showcase a varied skillset that should serve Edwards well on Star Wars: Rogue One. He’s shown he can tell a character-driven story, as well as one that relies on action, large-scale special effects, and spectacle, and both of those elements will come in handy in deep space. In Monsters, the titular beasts are relegated to the background, adding an extra layer of mood and tone to the story that is really about two people wandering the wilderness. This shows that he has the ability to get you emotionally invested in the people onscreen, without relying solely on special/visual effects to keep your attention. While Star Wars has always been full of eye candy, it’s the characters that stick.
The PlotSince early on, we’ve heard rumors about the plot of Star Wars: Rogue One, with whispers of bounty hunters, a daring heist, and an Ocean’s Eleven-style ensemble of characters coming together to pull off a job. At Star Wars Celebration 2014, we got confirmation that the story does indeed follow a band of rebel fighters who steal the plans for the first Death Star. That definitely covers the heist element, not to mention it sets the action in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, as resistance to the Galactic Empire begins to build momentum.
While this links the story to the main narrative thrust of the Star Wars saga, it also looks like it might do something no movie in the franchise has ever done: focus on normal people in the universe. The Jedi mythos has figured prominently into every extant Star Wars film, and while we’ve seen and encountered non-powered people, with the exception of Han Solo, they’ve never really taken center stage. If nothing else, this is going to be a drastically different view of this universe we’ve spent so much time in, and it’s been promised that, while most of the Saga has been rather black and white, Rogue One is one big shade of gray. Perhaps that’s where the bounty hunter element we’ve been hearing about fits into the story.
Felicity JonesWhen the cast for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens was first announced, one of the immediate reactions was that there were only a few female characters. That was addressed by the production, but perhaps to head off similar issues, the first actor confirmed to be in Rogue One was Felicity Jones. In addition to popping up in 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the 31-year-old British actress received an Academy Award nomination this year for her role as Jane Hawking in the biopic The Theory of Everything.
While we don’t know the specifics of Jones’ role just yet—and given the Star Wars track record, we probably won’t until we sit down to watch Rogue One in the theater—she’s being called one of the leads, and could well be a Rebel fighter (there have been reports suggesting her character’s name is Lyra Erso) . Most of the actress’ notable roles have been dramatic ones, so we’re interested to see how she handles the action inherent in this movie. By the time this film rolls around, however, we should have a better idea, as both the action movie Collide and the horror flick A Monster Calls will have hit theaters, and they are distinct departures from Jones’ typical roles.
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