With the first, official cast photo and the cast announced yesterday for Star Wars: Rogue One, we thought we'd give you a quick rundown on the facts, rumours and everything else concerning the very first spin-off in Star Wars history.
It's pretty exciting to see director Gareth Edwards take a completely different tack on what we've seen in the series, but what or who exactly is Rogue One? What are they stealing? And who's Mads Mikkelsen playing?
OK, FIRST OFF - WHAT'S A ROGUE ONE?
In Star Wars, a squadron of fighters - like X-Wings (that's the ships sorta shaped like an X) come in groups that have a specific name. When the Death Star was being attacked in the first Star Wars movie, each fighter were broken up by colour codenames - Red One, Red Four, Red Three and so on. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker formed a new squadron called - you guessed it - Rogue Squadron. It was initially formed out of the remaining pilots from the Death Star assault, but we're guessing that may change because...
WHEN EXACTLY IS ROGUE ONE SET?
Before A New Hope, the first of the original trilogy. From what we can postulate from the cast photo and sneaky on-set photos, it'll feature a lot of period details. In other words, it won't feature those cool-looking new Stormtroopers we've seen for The Force Awakens. Instead, it'll be the original Stormtroopers. Whether or not flares and '70s haircuts will feature is another story. We're hoping yes.
WHO'S BEEN CAST?
Felicity Jones, she of A Theory of Everything fame, was first announced. Yesterday saw Casino Royale / TV's Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen, Asian cinema stars Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, Academy Award-winning Forest Whittaker, Milk's Diego Luna, Firefly's Alan Tudyk (in a motion-capture performance) and Nightcrawler's Riz Ahmed all announced as castmembers. From the cast photo, we can see Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed with the beard working, Felicity Jones and Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen looking seriously bad-ass.
SO WHAT'S ROGUE ONE ABOUT?
Rogue One focuses on the plot to steal the plans for the Death Star. It'll tell the story of how the plans made it into Princess Leia's possession at the start of A New Hope and what the Rebel Alliance went through to get it. Director Gareth Edwards mentioned that he's using Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and modern war movies as his inspiration for this. Producer Kathleen Kennedy, meanwhile, said that the film is being told from a 'ground-war' perspective.
Edwards pointed to the fact that is set in the so-called Dark Times, i.e. the Jedi's absence is keenly felt by the galaxy. They're all either dead or in hiding, so it's up to ordinary people with no special powers to do what they can. That's a take that hasn't been examined in any of the Star Wars films. It has, however, been examined to a degree in some of the videogames, specifically Republic Commando. That game was set during the prequel trilogy and followed a group of Commandos from a dirty, grimy, gritty perspective. There may be parallels between Republic Commando and Rogue One, but that's educated speculation at this point.
WHY DOES EVERYONE LOOK SO DIRTY IN THE CAST PHOTO?
Again, that tracks with Edwards' vision of a ground war film like Black Hawk Down. It's not meant to be as clean and shiny as, say, The Force Awakens. It's positioning itself as the gritty take that Star Wars fans have always wanted. It's an interesting take, to say the least. Each spinoff, if you like, is going to look at the Star Wars universe from a unique perspective. Rogue One is a war movie of the modern variety. The young Han Solo movie is almost closer to an adventure-comedy like, say, The Goonies. The eventual Boba Fett spinoff will be closer to a Western.
Essentially, Lucasfilm is following a strategy similar to Marvel. Have the big event films like The Force Awakens / Avengers and use the smaller films to explore the universe and do a particular genre. For The Winter Soldier, it was conspiracy thriller. For Rogue One, it's a war movie. In fact, director Gareth Edwards chose the cinematographer who worked on Zero Dark Thirty, Greig Fraser, and the special effects supervisor from Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator to get that real-world, gritty feel.
WHY FELICITY JONES? WHY A WOMAN LEADING A GROUP OF REBELS?
She's a fantastic actress, for one. The Rebel Alliance was led by women from the very start, if you know your Star Wars trivia. Mon Mothma, one of the original senators who rebelled against the Empire, was a woman. So was Padme Amidala, who joined with Mon Mothma. After she died, Mon Mothma went on to become the leader of the Rebel Alliance. Who was her second in command? Princess Leia. So it's no surprise, frankly, that a tough, resourceful woman should be leading a group of hardened Rebel agents to steal the Death Star. They get the job done.
SO WHEN'S THE FIRST TRAILER DUE AND WHEN IS ROGUE ONE RELEASED?
Not for a while yet. They've only begun principal photography so it'll be quite some time before we see anything. A short, 30-second teaser was made by ILM and shown at Star Wars Celebration. It showed the Death Star, in construction, over a jungle planet with some static and creepy music. Our guess is we'll get a snifter of something either with The Force Awakens when it's released OR something tied into the home release of The Force Awakens. Either way, it won't be any time soon.
Release date's been scheduled for December 16th, 2016 so it's more likely that the trailer will be with the home release.