There has been much hype – and, it turns out, some trepidation – regarding Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first-ever Star Wars film to be a standalone adventure, as opposed to a main installment of the Skywalker family’s involvement with galactic history. And Lucasfilm and corporate parent Disney have tried hard to remain mum on the subject, not allowing much information to sneak through (perhaps taking their cue from how director J.J. Abrams built up the suspense to his Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year).
Recently, however, the gates are starting to be slowly lifted. Darth Vader, for example, is now confirmed to be making an appearance in the film. Furthermore, a bevy of background and other biographical details about the film's characters - including the villains and a new droid character - have been revealed, providing more clues about Rogue One’s plot and possible impact on the greater Star Wars mythos.
Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is, of course, the protagonist, and we now have confirmation of what many suspected after seeing the first Rogue One trailer (thanks to EW): she’s a prisoner of the Rebel Alliance’s that’s being given the opportunity to commute her sentence. Abandoned at the age of 15, Erso has been on her own ever since, developing both her fighting skills and a knowledge of the galactic underworld along the way. You can check out EW's profile picture for Jyn Erso, below.
The rest of the crew is just as colorful and dynamic as you might expect. Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is a “by-the-book” Rebel intelligence officer and, now, Jyn Erso’s handler.
Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) is a blind warrior who has devoted himself to the Jedi Code, becoming a fearsome – but still quite spiritual – fighter.
Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) is Chirrut’s close friend (and self-described bodyguard), using his armor and array of blasters to do the fighting for him.
Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) is the new Rebel team’s pilot – and a “volatile” hot-head.
K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) is a tough-as-nails security droid that is neither fragile, like the prequels’ battle droids, nor all that concerned with human-cyborg relations, like C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) – instead, he’s seeking to atone for past sins.
Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), Jyn’s estranged father, is still mostly under wraps, but he is compared to J. Robert Oppenheimer in the article, one of the fathers of the nuclear bomb – doomsday information that both the Rebels and the Imperials are desperately seeking.
And, finally, the enigmatic baddy has been revealed to be Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), who seeks nothing but to gain the good graces of his enforcer, Darth Vader, and his emperor, Palpatine, by using his elite squad of Deathtroopers to quell the Rebellion once and for all.
Eagle-eyed readers will note that there’s one character missing from EW’s coverage – the one played by Forest Whitaker, who, according to rumors, is a Clone Wars vet. Given that the magazine is playing coy with his identity, saying only that SW fans will instantly recognize his name once they see it, we’re betting that he’s from one of the many Star Wars television shows, novels, comics, short stories, or video games, making him the first character to be realized on-screen after being originally introduced in the larger canon. [UPDATE: The identity of Whitaker's Rogue One character has been revealed!]
And, indeed, this is the greatest potential that Rogue One has (beyond establishing the template for what further – and potentially endless – anthologized films can offer): integrating the brand-new backstory that the Disney-owned Lucasfilm has been spinning from the ground up over the course of the past two years, creating a shared cinematic universe model that could match, say, the Marvel Cinematic Universe in scope and ambition (and then some, perhaps).
But, then again, this could prove to be the downfall of this mightier, annualized Star Wars empire. If viewers will need to have all of this prior information from the already-formidable collection of television episodes and books in order to fully appreciate or, even, just follow along with these supposedly-standalone movies, the Star Wars Story entries will become more limited in their audience appeal and pop culture impact. You best believe all eyes will be on Rogue One, Lucasfilm, and Disney to see how this film is received, for these reasons.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in U.S. theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.