As the release date of Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens draws near, principal photography is already well underway for the next film in the franchise. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be the first of a number of planned standalone films (a.k.a. Anthology movies), including a young Han Solo movie and possibly a film centered on the bounty hunter Boba Fett.
Directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), Rogue One will serve as a prequel to A New Hope, telling the story of the the group of rebels that originally stole the Death Star plans and ultimately allowed Luke Skywalker to destroy the Empire's super weapon. Details about the film and its characters are largely being kept under wraps, but it has been confirmed that Felicity Jones will star as the leader of the rebel soldiers. Firefly star Alan Tudyk and Hannibal's Mads Mikkelsen were the most recent additions to the cast, with Tudyk landing a performance capture role.
Speaking with THR, Tudyk talked about his experience working on the set of the upcoming Star Wars film. While there are no story details, Tudyk confirmed the film's focus on practical effects and sets. The actor mentioned that after long days of shooting, he has trained himself to look around and appreciate the set.
"You are amazed at what you can look at, because it is a physical world. If there are creatures, then there are creatures; if there are spaceships, then there are spaceships. It's not huge swaths of green hung from the rafters. You have it all there, and if you don't have it there then you go fly some place that does."
Recent set photos revealed a life-sized downed ship constructed in London, where Rogue One is currently filming. The ship is surrounded by scorched sand and what appear to be the remnants of a platoon of Stormtroopers. The set looks surprisingly convincing and while the spy photos are haunting in their own right, the final product is sure to be even more impressive.
Whether it's the emphasis on nostalgia or, more likely, a desire to distance themselves from the maligned prequel trilogy, the creators behind the upcoming Star Wars films have been enthusiastic about practical effects. It's a big selling point of the films, marketed as a return to form and a way for the new entries to share a spiritual connection with the originals. So far, from the little that's been shown of The Force Awakens and Rogue One, it appears to be paying off. There's a sense of tangibility and grimy realism to the material, especially in the above Rogue One image, that helps inform the setting and overall tone of the films.
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.