"A rebellion built on hope."
So states the official poster for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This should be the first indication that Gareth Edwards' anthology film is filled with death and destruction. In this galaxy or the next, history books are replete with the bloody histories of rebellious people making sacrifices for future generations. Indeed, Episode IV - A New Hope builds on the actions of the early rebellion that Rogue One depicts.
Luke, Leia and Han may eventually be able to stave off the Empire, but only because of the countless fallen soldiers that came before them. If the first trailer is any indication, Rogue One may offer the heaviest tone in all the Star Wars films, telling the tale of the heroes who fought and died on the frontline of the resistance.
Here are the 12 Ways Rogue One Could be the Darkest Star Wars Yet.
Rogue One may tell a story in which we already know the ending. Indeed, Darth Vader's imposing entrance in Episode IV: A New Hope stated the near total neutralizing of the enemy: "I have traced the Rebel spies to her. Now she is my only link to find their secret base!" The implications are ugly, hinting at merciless torture, murder and the extinction of the Rebel marauders. Unfortunately for the warrior squad in Rogue One, we may already know their fate.
As one-part heist film and another war, Rogue One combines the two genres that frequently guarantee the protagonists' demise. Surrounding the projection table at the rebel base, Mon Mothma and her right-hand man grimace as they order Jyn on her mission. They know they will have blood on their hands.
11 "I Rebel"
Rebellions begin with an idea and often materialize in a single person. With Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the Star Wars universe gets an unapologetic leader of the dissenting minority. She appears humorless, vindictive and angry. Like William Wallace, Spartacus and Joan of Arc before her, Jyn is a rebel with a very significant cause. Something for which she appears willing to die.
While we have only spent a few fleeting moments with Jyn, her eyes and physicality signal a woman with a devil-may-care attitude. As the trailer depicts, she is highly trained and capable of fighting several Stormtroopers at a time. Her rap sheet is impressive, and her terse response to it shows little compunction: "I rebel." So did William Wallace, Spartacus and Joan of Arc. They also shared another quality: early death.
10 Old Villains
Thanks to rumors that Spencer Wilding is playing Darth Vader, the table is set for everyone's favorite mouth-breather. Without the presence of any Jedi or Han, Luke and Leia, Rogue One has a rare chance to explore the ascension of Darth Vader. Nearing the peak of his powers in A New Hope, Vader could finally get the attention he deserves in Rogue One.
While Gareth Edwards has hinted the movie avoids clear-cut heroes and definitive villains, James Earl Jones is also rumored to be involved with the film along with Spencer Wilding. If that's the case, there will be ample opportunity to display the berserk violence for which Vader is famous. The simplicity of the premise is what makes it so appealing. Rather than delving into origin stories, Rogue One would present Vader as a force of unbridled violence, more of a weapon than a man.
9 New Villains
The mysterious introduction of the cloaked figure in Rogue One rivals the tracking shot of Kylo Ren. In this brief moment, an almost religious air of reverence and respect makes the occasion all the more alarming. With steam emanating from a Bacta tank and two Imperial Guards flanking its sides, a shrouded man appears to kneel before whatever lurks inside.
Whether its Emperor Palpatine in the tank or a new Sith lord in the cloak, Rogue One will introduce new villains to add to the pantheon of Star Wars evildoers. It also remains to be seen if Tarkin will make an appearance and who a white-caped Ben Mendelsohn plays. Anyone who has watched his work on Bloodline or The Place Beyond the Pines knows we can expect an insidious and devilish performance.
8 Warrior Cast
Imagine a Star Wars movie where leading and supporting characters frequently die. This would be unprecedented in George Lucas' sandbox. Sudden and unexpected death is the nature of war, and if Rogue One commits to its premise, no characters will receive special treatment. When the opening credits scroll away, we will meet this warrior cast at the top of their game.
The ragtag team looks like a motley crew of death-wishing mercenaries. In each frame of the trailer, they appear fearless, able-bodied and committed to destroying the Empire. How expendable are these new characters? It remains to be seen how kindly Gareth Edwards will treat them in both life and death. Rarely has a new Star Wars character been introduced and killed in the same episode, but with Rogue One, expect the unexpected.
7 All Out War
War reveals our true identity. What better way to uncover the secrets of Star Wars than by heading straight into battle? George Lucas was a master-builder of foreign worlds, creating systems of wonder, danger and mystery. His Original Trilogy laid the groundwork for directors like Gareth Edwards to take a tour through the immensity of the galaxy far, far away.
Rogue One has a unique opportunity to diverge from Skywalker storylines and examine something more criminal and dangerous. The first trailer emphasizes the rebellion's sole focus on investigating and disabling the Death Star, a mission akin to Claus von Stauffenberg's assassination attempt on Hitler. While side stories may surely be incorporated, all signs point to a narrative dedicated to war. The AT-AT beachhead attacks are highly reminiscent of the Saving Private Ryan invasion of Normandy, and if history repeats itself, there will be many casualties for the rebellion.
6 No Han, Luke or Leia
As soon as the Rogue One opening crawl ends (provided one is used), we will enter the world of Star Wars without a clue. When we meet Jyn Erso for the first time, we'll be ready for a friend, because Han Solo and the Skywalker siblings won't be coming to the rescue. To put it bluntly: the cast of Rogue One are on their own.
While Mon Mothma and Grand Moff Tarkin may provide some welcome familiarity, Rogue One asks audiences to travel to remote places of the Lucas universe without the characters they've come to love. That puts a huge burden on Disney and Gareth Edwards to put us at ease as we strap on our helmets and prepare for intergalactic war. For the first time in Star Wars history, the galaxy will contain a storyline outside the reach of the Original Trilogy. The first transport is away, indeed.
5 No Jedi
In a world without Jedi, Sheev Palpatine would be proud. Rogue One presents a world where survival isn't guaranteed. The presence and likelihood of death pervades all elements of the rebellion, a sense of vulnerability that director Gareth Edwards wants to maintain. As he told audiences, “[Rogue One is] about the fact that God’s not coming to save us, and we’re on our own. The absence of the Jedi is omnipresent in the film. It hangs over the whole movie.”
As a result, Rogue One will explore a world where warriors must survive by their own accord, placing an emphasis on their skills and acumen like never before. On the contrary, while Jedi may be absent, the Sith may be heavily involved in battling the rebellion. If that's the case, expect a mismatched bloodbath of epic proportions.
4 Dark vs. Light
Star Wars has never feared engaging in morality play. Yoda may have offered ambiguous advice, but he always knew the best course of action. In Rogue One, Jyn will not be left completely to her own devices. A mysterious and well-armored character (played by a limping Forest Whitaker) admonishes her before she fully engages in battle. He prods her, asking, "What will you do when they catch you? What will you do when they break you?" Whether a pacifist or a realist, he assumes that the Rebellion's fight will be fraught with difficulty. Rather than appealing to her safety, he questions her internal constitution, asking, "If you continue to fight...what will you become?"
It seems unfathomable for Erso to turn to the dark side, but in the midst of war, she might lose her way. This sort of philosophizing is very much at home in the world of Star Wars.
3 3. Directed by Gareth Edwards
Disney made a brilliant move in choosing Gareth Edwards to make the first Star Wars standalone movie. In his foundational thriller, Monsters, Edwards demonstrated a keen talent for suspenseful storytelling. On a shoe-string budget, he accomplished more than most directors of blockbuster films with blank-checks.
In Godzilla, he prioritized restraint over senseless action, developing the atmosphere around the titular creature before fully revealing him to the audience. As a result, the monster movie evolved into a truly chthonic affair. In a well-liked HALO jump sequence, Edwards blended rich visuals with narrative to achieve a haunting overall effect. At the helm of Rogue One, expect Edwards to build a violent Star Wars story along with ample doses of horror.
2 Menacing Soundtrack
Blending image with sound is essential to defining a film's tone, a key reason to be excited for Edwards re-teaming with his Godzilla composer, Alexander Desplat. King of dramatic sound, Desplat remains one of the most employed composers of the last ten years, working on films like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Tree of Life and Zero Dark Thirty. If his work on Godzilla is any indication, then we can expect a truly imposing score in Rogue One.
In contrast to the promotional trailers for The Force Awakens, which played up the hopefulness of Star Wars, Rogue One sounds more like a dirge. Just listen to the isolated piano diminishing John Williams' theme into a minor key, then embrace Desplat's siren call in the middle of the trailer. While it may be a rebellion built on hope, Rogue One sounds more like a movie built on pathos.
1 Birth of the Death Star
"That's no moon. It's a space station."
Destroying the Death Star is a herculean feat. Estimated at around 75 miles in diameter, the weapon's mega-deflector dish clocks in around a quarter that size. While much of this technical knowledge is already well known, Rogue One could be the first Star Wars movie to display the true magnitude of the Death Star. The shadow of the installed deflector-dish alone blot outs everything in its path, dwarfing local Imperial-class Star Destroyers that are otherwise menacing in their own right.
In Rogue One, the Death Star is the reason for fighting. More than a defence mechanism, the Empire has devised a holocaustal weapon designed to bring destruction to countless millions. The Star Wars stakes are at their highest in Rogue One.
Do you think Rogue One will be the darkest Star Wars yet? Let us know in the comments below!