At Star Wars Celebration 2015 in Anaheim, California a year ago, Lucasfilm unveiled concept art and story details for the first non-episodic Star Wars spinoff film – a concept Disney and Lucasfilm execs had been teasing ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm. At the time, these spinoffs were going to be labeled as “Anthology” movies but they’ve since been re-branded as “Star Wars Stories,” and the first of them opens in theaters this December, titled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Rogue One is directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and tells the tale of the young Rebel Alliance stealing plans for the first Death Star. It takes place between the events of the original and prequel trilogies, but closer to the film that started it all (Episode IV – A New Hope).
For consumers of all things Star Wars, stories about the young Rebel Alliance are nothing new. Disney XD’s successful Star Wars Rebels animated series has been exploring the origins of the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire for two seasons, the second concluding this week. What that series depicts and how – even though the series is in-canon – is very different from what the films do, especially with what’s planned for Rogue One. So, for them to fit together and for Star Wars Rebels to actually feel as if it’s a legitimate piece of the canon, changes needed to be made.
When showrunners and executive producers Dave Filoni, Greg Weisman, and Simon Kinberg first began discussing Rebels as a followup series to Clone Wars, it was described as another story in the Star Wars universe that could offer something for all audiences. It’s a little different than Clone Wars but those fans will find a lot of familiarity, and for old school saga fans, the show would be exploring iconic elements of the original trilogy too. It’s another type of Star Wars story within the larger film universe but one that’s stylistically and aesthetically different.
Making Star Wars Rebels Fit The Saga
But Rebels also includes characters, designs, and ideas that arguably don’t fully mesh with the movies – things that never appear in films or at first glance, don’t seem like they ever could. In the movies, there are no Jedi-hunting Inquisitors, let alone a mention of them. And outside of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, no other surviving Jedi have been mentioned either. It’s said that they’re extinct. And in Rogue One, Edwards explicitly announced at Celebration that “it’s set in an era where there are no Jedi, or they’re but extinct.” He continued, “it comes down to a group of people who don’t have magical powers who band together to bring hope to the galaxy.”
There are no Jedi in Rogue One although Darth Vader will play a role. This is a problem for Star Wars Rebels – which literally featured eight (8!) force-using, lightsaber-wielding characters in its season 2 finale, in an era where the Rebellion is growing against the Empire, an era where we’ve always been told these characters didn’t exist, and it’s something the Star Wars Rebels season 2 finale seemingly made a concerted effort to partially address. Spoilers ahead.
The two familiar Inquisitors of the episode, and a third new one, were all killed off in this week’s episode, and Ahsoka Tano’s (the apprentice of Anakin Skywalker) fate is left up in the air as she’s seemingly written out of the show. Even Darth Maul, who made a return appearance, ran off on his own by the end. These game-changing plot happenings of the season 2 finale of Rebels, as Filoni tells IGN, needed to happen. The show would be contradicting the story needs of the Anthology movies – and potentially, the larger Star Wars universe – otherwise.
Dave Filoni on the “we had to do it” death of the Inquisitors:
Yeah, it was. You know, you don’t see these guys in A New Hope, either, so I had to start eliminating them. It was something we had to do, and we had to do it kind of quickly. Still, they were interesting characters that I know a lot of people were getting into. Especially Sarah [Michelle Gellar]’s Inquisitor. She was like, “Ah, you’re taking me out,” and I was like, “Yeah… Sorry!” I felt bad, because she was really enjoying portraying that character. I feel bad. You never really enjoy this when it happens, taking out these characters, but it was right for the story. Philip, he did a great job as the Inquisitor, but his number was up.
If Star Wars Rebels was its own standalone thing, not a part of the film canon, but a Legends-branded tale like the old Extended Universe novels and game stories, the Inquisitors could live on and their lore explored more. But as Filoni puts it, “continuity puts you in chains sometimes” so he’s hesitant to talk about whether or not fans will see more Inquisitors. For this writer, I’m glad to see them pushed out. Their gimmicky spinning lightsabers (which inexplicably can be used as helicopter blades too) just don’t fit the universe as presented in the upcoming blockbuster features and they arguably were the only downside of the season 2 finale.
Still, if Rebels wants to fit in the canon of the saga (which it’s supposed to), then these changes needed to happen. The Rebel Alliance never had force-sensitive characters outside of Leia during this time period, so to see this faction built on the backs of three Jedi in the animated television programming does seem a little weird, especially if none of them appear in Rogue One or the other upcoming episode installments and Anthology spinoff stories.
What’s Next For Star Wars Rebels Then?
As for what’s next on Star Wars Rebels, the key point that co-creator and showrunner Dave Filoni emphasized in his chat with IGN after screening the finale this week is that the show is about Kanan, Ezra, and their team of Rebels – not Vader/Ahsoka. They served their purpose this season, as did the Inquisitors, so when season 3 returns this fall perhaps we’ll start to see it take a shape more familiar to what will be depicted in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The timing (both in terms of release dates and within the continuity timeline) is too good for them not to connect.
And that fact makes certain rumors, like yesterday’s report from Cinelinx about Star Wars Rebels potentially ending with its third season, all the more believable. Their sources seem to corroborate a late 2014 report from /Film which claims that Lucasfilm knew the exact plan for all of Star Wars Rebels from the get-go; when it would end (after only 3 or 4 seasons), what its ultimate purpose would be (leading into Rogue One), and even what comes next on the animated front (a potential series set in the new trilogy era).
We’ll have to wait and see if there’s truth to those multiple insider reports, but we do know that the story for Rebels can only go so far. Rogue One and the original trilogy deal with the Rebel vs. Imperial conflict,so it begs the question of what’s next for Kanan, Ezra, and the crew of the Ghost during and after the events of Rogue one.
But if we assume there’s at least some truth to these reports, it sure makes sense that Gary Whitta – who wrote the original Rogue One draft – is writing for Star Wars Rebels season 3.
Fellow Rebels exec producer Simon Kinberg is also attached to the film side, producing/writing the third, unannounced Star Wars spinoff. It’s all connected!
And who knows, maybe an older Ezra can show up in the movies? Here’s a fun piece of fan speculation I’ve always been behind: Maybe he’s played by Benicio del Toro in Star Wars: Episode VIII. Perhaps we’ll learn more on the early Rebels and how the show and movie may or may not connect in the Star Wars: Rogue One prequel comic and novel coming this fall.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.