Rogue One: Setting Expectations For The First Star Wars Spin-Off

Rogue One is going to be the most unique Star Wars movie to date.

Rogue One Official Trailer 2 Still - Darth Vader - featured

Since shortly after Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, we’ve known we’re going to get at least one Star Wars movie a year for the foreseeable future. Up to this point, every cinematic movie in the franchise has been an episode in the Skywalker saga -- the story of the Chosen One -- but in just a few weeks, we’re going to get the first of many bi-yearly Star Wars spin-off movies in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Sure, there were non-episodic movies before. There’s Ewok Adventure movies, the Holiday Special, and The Clone Wars, but the Ewok films and the Holiday Special have never been a part of serious canon, and The Clone Wars was really just an amalgamation of several episodes from the first season of the show. Rogue One will be the first of its kind and is, therefore, a trailblazer. As such, Rogue One finds itself in a weird audience cross section between those that have lofty expectations for the film, and others that have no idea what to anticipate. From the various trailers, interviews, and other releases available, it is clear that, while it is very much a Star Wars film, Rogue One will be a new breed entirely. Here’s a look at What You Can Expect From the First Star Wars Spin-Off.

16 A Visceral Aesthetic

AT-ATs Attack Rebels on a Beach in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

If you didn’t already pick this up from the trailers, Rogue One is going to look a little different than the Star Wars movies that came before it. Star Wars has always featured epic cinematography, mostly composed of wide static shots and slow camera movements, but in all the footage we've seen so far, Rogue One is going to be a little different through the eye of cinematographer Greig Fraser.

Fraser is known for his work on movies like Zero Dark Thirty and Killing Them Softly, both movies that have a much more visceral tone and much darker lighting that Star Wars is known to employ. This grittier look will take the franchise from the tone of an epic like Lawrence of Arabia into territory more appropriate for a war movie like Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan. So far, most trailers suggest this aesthetic will really pay off, even if it isn’t what most fans of the series are used to seeing.

15 No John Williams

John Williams Star Wars Composer

Star Wars has always been an excellent source of iconic music. From the booming main theme at the opening crawl to the end credits, everyone knows and loves the music of Star Wars. The franchise has had its ups and downs, but the one thing that everyone always enjoys, no matter the episode, is John Williams’ music.

Rogue One will be the first Star Wars movie John Williams won't be composing, as he's instead passed the baton to Michael Giacchino. Giacchino has a lot of big blockbuster credits in recent years, including major franchise credits like Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Jurassic World, Doctor Strange, and several Pixar films. His work is nothing to shake a stick at to be sure - he even won an Oscar for the music he wrote for Up -- but, needless to say, his name doesn’t instantly bring the memory of iconic scores to one’s ear in the same way the name John Williams does.

Giacchino won’t be the first composer to follow in Williams’ footsteps, though. Kevin Kiner did the music for The Clone Wars and Rebels, and has admirably created original music that stays within the same tone that people have come to expect from Star Wars. Whether Giacchino takes the same approach as Kiner or does something entirely different with the music remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say that Rogue One’s score won’t be exactly what audiences are used to. Rest assured, you can expect to see a few nods to classic themes like the Imperial March Theme sprinkled in. Die-hard Williams need not fret either, as he'll soon make his return to the franchise by scoring Episode 8.

14 It Probably Won't Have an Opening Crawl

Star Wars A New Hope Opening Crawl

It’s been one of the most hotly debated points about Rogue One since it was announced, but it sounds like there’s not going to be an opening crawl, instead opening “way different than the classic Star Wars films.”  That’s right. The way every Star Wars movie has started since 1977 isn’t going to appear when Rogue One opens. It’s only a brief segment of each movie, but it’s an easy way to alert audiences from the get-go that they’re in for something altogether different.

On one hand, the crawl is a fixture of every Star Wars movie so far, but in another light, it could be considered a cumbersome trapping that forces the movie to follow a similar tone to the 7 episodes that have preceded it. Foregoing the crawl means the movie can open literally any other way, as any other normal movie would, allowing director Gareth Edwards and company to strike a very different tone. All that being said, don’t be surprised to still see “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away…” After all, they’re not complete monsters.

13 Darth Vader Isn't a Main Character

Rogue One Official Trailer 2 Still - Darth Vader - featured

Many fans have been thrilled to see glimpses of Darth Vader in several trailers for Rogue One, but don’t get too excited. Rogue One is not a Darth Vader story, and he likely won’t even get as much screen time as he had in A New Hope, where he clocked in at around 12 minutes. The problem with Vader is that he’s almost too iconic and all of the other movies revolve around him, so it’s easy for him to become a scene-stealer (hell, even a movie-stealer).

That doesn’t mean his impact in Rogue One will be limited. He’s the Emperor’s enforcer and a Dark Lord of the Sith. He’ll be a menacing force to be reckoned with, and if he sets foot on the battlefield, it’ll probably resemble Sauron slaughtering Elves and Men in the prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring, but expect any such scene to prioritize restraint over indulgence. That might be a hard pill to swallow when so many people are disappointed in Jared Leto’s Joker screentime in Suicide Squad, but fortunately, marketing on Vader has remained on the lighter side. We haven’t even heard him talk yet!

12 Prequel Ties

Tarkin, Palpatine, and Vader Oversee Death Star Construction in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

The Force Awakens drew a lot of criticism for how heavily it draws from original trilogy nostalgia (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but also drew some praise for minimizing ties to the prequels (which it really didn’t reference). Still, fans that are looking for movies that are heavy on the original trilogy ties and light on the prequel references might be sorely disappointed come December 16th.

Rogue One is a prequel. Sure, it only takes place about 5 minutes before A New Hope, but that means it takes place before most of the main protagonists of the original trilogy ever even enter the scene. The OT presence won’t be entirely missing. There’s obviously T-65 X-Wings, Yavin IV, and the Death Star, but the movie includes too many prequel threads to have its foot entirely out of that camp. It even has its own prequel novel -- Catalyst -- which takes place during the Clone Wars.

11 Most of the new characters may not be long for this world

Rogue One explosion

Like the other prequels, we already know how it ends: everyone dies. Well, not everyone. Mon Mothma lives, for example, but Darth Vader very clearly spells out the fate of the Rebel team that steals the plans in one of his first lines of dialogue in A New Hope: “I have traced the rebel spies to her. Now she is my only link to finding their secret base.” If Leia is the only remaining link, what does that say about Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and the rest of the gang? It sure sounds like Vader kills them.

A lot of main characters are bound to die in this movie. When A New Hope takes place almost immediately after Rogue One and both movies take place on Yavin IV -- yet only one team is seen on stage getting awards at the end of A New Hope ,-- it seems we already know the fate of manyof the franchise's newest additions. So, while the movie is about the first major Rebel Alliance victory, that victory won't likely come without sacrifice. Don’t expect the main cast in Rogue One to be as casualty-free as most other Star Wars movies.

10 It's not going to be setting up Episode VIII

Rey and Jyn Erso Star Wars

The shared universe model of franchise filmmaking popularized by Marvel Studios has trained audiences to look for connections between every entry, and many movies exist more to set up future films than they do to tell their own story. Just look at the popularity of post-credit scenes for proof of that. Star Wars is playing that game a little differently, though. Rogue One fills a very specific place in the timeline and doesn’t need to throw out new plot points to set up future stories -- the story it sets up has already happened.

So don’t expect to leave the theater with some new juicy clue about who Rey’s parents are or who Supreme Leader Snoke is. It’s understandable that those are the topics on the top of everyone’s brain after seeing The Force Awakens last December, but the Star Wars universe is so much bigger than the stories told in the main episodic films. Rogue One isn’t being made because Episode VIII and IX need help laying groundwork for their plot, but because there’s a worthwhile story to be told about the first major Rebel victory.

9 Limited Original Trilogy Character Cameos

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in Star Wars Rogue One by Stephen Colbert

As we prepare for Rogue One, there’s been a lot of speculation about what familiar faces we’ll be seeing. The first trailer was a pleasant surprise, when it revealed Mon Mothma and a white-bearded man that appears to be General Dodonna had each been spotted. The movie takes place so close to A New Hope that it only makes sense for some of the Rebels from Yavin IV, like Mon Mothma, or Imperials in the Death Star, like Wilhuff Tarkin, to make an appearance here. And those all make sense, but don’t get your hopes up for characters like Alden Ehrenreich’s young Han Solo to make an appearance.

First of all, Rogue One takes place immediately before A New Hope, so an Alden Ehrenreich cameo is at least a decade off age-wise, and second of all, Han Solo has no business being involved in the events of the movie. The same goes for all the other original trilogy characters, except for maybe Princess Leia, who has a very direct connection to the events or Rogue One. We all want to see fan-favorite characters make appearances, but in a world as vast as the Star Wars universe, it only gets reductive to see the same people showing -- up unless it works well with the plot.

8 A Focus on Unknown Characters

Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), and Diego Luna With X-Wing and Rebel Pilots in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

So far, both Star Wars trilogies, plus the start of the new trilogy, have all revolved around the same basic set of characters. Even The Clone Wars animated series is mostly about Skywalkers and Obi-Wan. Anyone wanting to know what to expect for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story should look to Star Wars Rebels. Rebels introduced an entirely new set of characters and has mostly stuck to them, keeping most known characters out of the story entirely, or just on the periphery if necessary.

It should go without saying, but just watching any of the trailers for Rogue One should be enough to show that this is a story about a brand new set of characters. In addition to boosting action figure sales, this is a great move in terms of storytelling potential, since the stories of all the new characters aren’t bound by pre-existing arcs (other than the ultimate fate of their mission).

7 It Will be Self-Contained

Rogue One Rebel Council

The story of Rogue One takes place in a very specific slice of the Star Wars pie, making it a true stand-alone experience. Yes, it ties to a much larger franchise, and we already know that it connects to both the prequels and the original trilogy, but Rogue One is a stand-alone spin-off, not a spin-off franchise a la Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Or, more clearly stated: Rogue One will not be setting up a Rogue One: 2.

Having said that, there is room for a Rogue Two, or something of that nature. After all, we still haven’t seen many Bothans dying to bring the Rebels this information. A similar story focused on the Death Star II, however, would be more of a spiritual sequel, as the majority of the Rogue One cast wouldn’t be returning, since -- as we already mentioned -- they most likely don’t survive the events of Rogue One.

6 Don't Expect To See Any Jedi

Rogue One A Star Wars Story Trailer 3 - Jedi Mountain

Probably the most unique part about Rogue One is the fact that the story being told doesn’t (seemingly) feature Jedi. So far, every single Star Wars movie (and both animated shows) center around Jedi characters. The prequels chronicle the fall of the Jedi and the original trilogy sees their return, but Rogue One takes place in the middle of those events, leaving little room for lightsaber-wielding heroes.

While the Jedi will be absent, that doesn’t mean their presence isn’t felt. We know from interviews with Gareth Edwards that the planet Jedha is a holy place for the Jedi, and the trailers even show a giant fallen Jedi statue. Kyber crystals, the gems Jedi use to power their lightsabers, also play a major role, as it’s been revealed that the Death Star superlaser is also powered by a giant kyber crystal. The international trailer even shows that Jyn wears a kyber crystal around her neck.

5 It'll Break Star Wars "Rules"

Young Jyn in Rogue One

Rogue One is also set to break several perceived “rules” about Star Wars movies, namely through the use of flashbacks, as revealed in several trailers. While Star Wars movies have dabbled in the area of visions and dream sequences, full-on flashbacks as a storytelling tool have not occurred in any of the 7 episodic installments thus far.

Everyone has a different list of “rules” they think Star Wars needs to follow in order to “truly” be Star Wars, and those lists include a myriad of requirements like the opening crawl, John Williams music, practical effects, screen wipe transitions, or the avoidance of flashbacks. We already know Rogue One breaks several of those rules, and it’s certain to violate many more closely held Star Wars “rules” held by different fans. We weren't kidding when we said that this was going to be a very different Star Wars tale, folks.

4 It's A War Movie

Baze Malbus in Star Wars Rogue One

The word “war” might be half of the words in the title of the franchise, but none of the Star Wars movies can really be considered “war movies.” They’re space westerns, adventures, operas, and fantasy epics set during wars, but none of them are war movies in the way Apocalypse Now, Fury, or Black Hawk Down are war movies. Rogue One is set to be the first Star Wars film to delve into this new genre territory by focusing the story on a group of soldiers in the war between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire.

A few months ago, reports of serious reshoots suggested that the war movie vibe didn’t fit well with the rest of the franchise, and the tone was getting a significant overhaul to produce something more in line with the feel of The Force Awakens. While it’s impossible to know exactly what the movie will be like until December 16th, the tone established in all the trailers hues way more toward war movie than anything seen from the Star Wars universe yet, so it’s fairly safe to say those reports were overblown.

3 A different side of the Galactic Civil War

Rogue One A Star Wars Story Trailer 3 - Rebel soldiers on Scarif

The Star Wars original trilogy told the story of the Rebel Alliance standing up to the might of the Galactic Empire, highlighting several major battles like the destruction of the Death Star at Yavin, the Battle of Hoth, and the destruction of the second Death Star at Endor. While those battles were all significant, they weren’t even the tip of the iceberg in a galaxy-spanning war.

The battles featured in the original trilogy were comprised of two space battles and a ground assault on Hoth, but the actual war was fought with ground troops, tanks, air speeders, submarines, and ships in almost any conceivable environment. We’ve had a sampling of some of these events, but the main grunt work of the war wasn’t carried out by the likes of Han Solo or Luke Skywalker, it was carried out by the Rebel soldiers we’re going to see in Rogue One. One thing is certain: a whole new light is about to shine in the Star Wars universe

2 A New Female Protagonist

Jyn Erso in Star Wars Rogue One

In case you missed it, men aren’t the only ones that can be action heroes anymore. It’s actually been that way for years, with characters like Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley sitting right up there with John McClaine and Martin Riggs on the Richter scale of badassness. Female action heroes are no stranger to the Star Wars franchise either, with Princess Leia -- the Hutt slayer -- and Padme Amidala, but those female characters have always played second fiddle to the male protagonists. This changed with The Force Awakens when Rey hit the scene, and is set to continue with Jyn Erso in Rogue One.

Star Wars hasn’t been completely taken over by women, of course. Rey and Jyn are both the most prominent female role in their respective films, and it’s clear the franchise is putting an emphasis on this front. Jyn might be surrounded by male characters, but it’s pretty clear from the trailers that Rogue One is her story.

1 It’ll still be Star Wars

X-Wing battle in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

If you haven’t gotten the gist of it yet, Rogue One is going to be different. But it will still be Star Wars. The franchise  has never been exclusively defined by things like the opening crawl, John Williams, wipe transitions, or any specific tone. Sure, many of those things are iconic elements and a big part of what made Star Wars popular, but the saga is something much more simple than that -- it’s a story set a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

When George Lucas first tried to make Star Wars, he wasn’t trying to make something new or original. He was trying to bring back the swashbuckling wonder and excitement of the epic serials he enjoyed as a child. There are many different ways to capture those feelings on the screen, but as long as you smile when the theater lights dim and the movie on the screen takes you to another time and place, it’s doing its job as a Star Wars film. And at the very least, it’s all but guaranteed to have a Wilhelm scream, so there’s always that.


What are you expecting in Rogue One? Are you excited for Star Wars to branch out into more unique movies, or do you think the franchise should always emulate the original George Lucas films? Let us hear about it in the comments!

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