Decades ago in a galaxy not so far away, George Lucas gave birth to a franchise which took us to strange new worlds and surrounded us with fascinating new creatures. While Rogue One: A Star Wars Story isn’t cut from the quite same cloth as the Skywalker legacy films, it still operates in that same wondrous world. The first standalone feature will primarily focus on the human facets of the Rebellion as it faces its most terrifying threat yet: the Death Star.
At the same time, a Star Wars film that ignores its alien cohorts and their struggles simply wouldn’t feel right. For that reason, Rebels Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), and their courageous band will find some not-so-human help in Rogue One as well.
Last week, director Gareth Edwards revealed two new alien characters – designed by Oscar-nominated creature-maker Neal Scanlan – during a sizzle reel at the Star Wars Celebration in London. Fans quickly dubbed the two rebels “Bigmouth” and “Space Monkey.” In a recent chat with EW, Edwards revealed a little more about the two intriguing insurgents. The Rogue One director explains:
“It wasn’t like, ‘We’ve got this character, we need to design a creature for it, and here’s what this creature’s like.’ It was more like we told the creature department to come up with a thousand ideas, and then it was like casting the movie. There were walls and walls of these different types of characters that we could’ve picked from. We just went through them, like, ‘God, he’s fascinating…. Who’s that…? And she looks amazing…! And what’s that there?’ Slowly, we got it down to our top hundred, and then it got even more refined.”
Although he earned the nickname “Bigmouth,” the character named Pao is actually a commander of sorts. He’ll be responsible for coordinating the Rebel forces against their imperial foes. Edwards describes his “casting” choice as:
“There was this great design of this creature that’s mouth would open really wide, and he looked like he was really good at giving orders and shouting at people during a battle. I was like, ‘We’ve got to give him that moment in the film,’ and so [Pao] was born out of that.”
Lucasfilm officially introduced several fresh classes of vehicles at Star Wars Celebration. One of them, titled the U-Wing, acts as a transport and gunboat for the Rebel forces. Bistan apparently serves as a gunner on board the new troop carrier. Despite his resemblance to a coupling between a Wookiee and an Ewok, he’s no relation to either. Pablo Hidalgo of Lucasfilm story group named his species as the Iakaru on the latest episode of The Star Wars Show. Edwards explains Bistan's role:
It’s not necessarily a character that we get to know, but I think he has a very memorable, iconic look. [He’s] one of my favorites. I can’t give away what happens to him.”
While it sounds as though these two new characters won’t play major roles in the upcoming Rogue One, they will go a long way towards easing audiences into a relatively Skywalker-free Star Wars feature. Fan willingness to name them already indicates that, rain or shine on the first standalone, they’ve accepted a couple of new occupants into the Star Wars universe. If Rogue One proves successful, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a wealth of background (and even foreground) story build up around the two creatures and their species, as has happened before with other favorite aliens like Bossk, Bib Fortuna, and Ponda Baba.
At the same time, without several major Star Wars tropes, such as the familiar opening crawl, Rogue One will succeed or fail on the merits of its original characters (with a few exceptions) and as a unique entity – while remaining a thread within the overall Star Wars tapestry. Two new Rebel aliens will definitely help establish the film’s place in a far-away galaxy. However, much like Wedge Antilles’ wounded X-Wing in the trenches, two alien companions won’t provide much protection in against the hail of laser fire from hypercritical fans if the film doesn’t live up to its pedigree.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in 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.