The force is with many Star Wars fans right now at Disney's bi-annual convention D23, where the studio has been releasing a number of big reveals for upcoming movies, including Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Captain America: Civil War and - of course - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens.
It isn't just this year's return to the main Star Wars franchise that's getting attention, however. Perhaps the biggest Star Wars reveal to come out of D23 is an official title for Rogue One, the first in a series of spinoff movies set in the Star Wars universe, as well as the first cast photo for that film and the announcement of two new cast members.
The movie formerly known as Star Wars: Rogue One or Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One is now officially called Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and scripted by Chris Weitz (Cinderella), the movie will star Felicity Jones as the leader of a group of Rebel soldiers who plot to steal the plans for the Death Star. The rest of the cast includes Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Jiang Wen and - Disney today announced - Firefly actor Alan Tudyk, who has a performance capture role, and Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen.
Many of the aforementioned actors can be seen below in the very first official cast photo for Rogue One - A Star Wars Story. There are lots of interesting little details to spot in here, but the overall impression is that Rogue One will be much grittier and grimier than Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This ragtag group look like they lead pretty hard lives, and tangling with the Empire probably won't make those lives any easier.
The change of title is interesting, and raises the question of whether Disney has decided to do away with the 'Anthology' tag for its Star Wars spinoff movies. Although the new title keeps the main brand name, it also shifts the former subtitle to the front, suggesting that Disney is now interested in marketing Rogue One primarily on its own merits rather than as a tie-in to the franchise.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has now begun principal photography in readiness for its release at the end of next year, and there have already been set photos snapped courtesy of a drone equipped with a camera that flew over the Elstree Studios set. Now that production is underway, we're hoping to learn more about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in the near future.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 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.