The titles of the films in the Star Wars franchise have all been relatively straightforward. The Empire Strikes Back refers to the Imperial army retaliating against the Rebels following the destruction of the Death Star; The Force Awakens underscores Rey discovering her abilities and becoming strong with the Force. In short, there's usually some correlation between the name of the movie and the actual plot. This is what makes Rogue One: A Star Wars Story so interesting.
Gareth Edwards' installment details the daring mission to steal the original Death Star plans, and some have been wondering what the meaning of the Rogue One title is. Longtime fans of Star Wars know that the Rebel fleet was part of the popular Rogue Squadron video game series, and the Alliance used Rogue as their call sign during the Battle of Hoth in Empire. Now, Edwards has elaborated on the name of the spinoff, revealing that it has multiple interpretations depending on your point of view.
In an interview with Empire magazine, Edwards discussed the title, mentioning the military connections. However, Rogue One can also invoke the movie's standing in the franchise as the first of the Star Wars Story line of projects:
"I’d been thinking about it. What does it mean? ‘Rogue One’ is a military call sign to some extent. But this is the first film that’s gone off-piste and is not part of the saga – or the Anakin story – so it’s the ‘rogue’ one, you know?”
It's amusing to consider, and some fans may not even have had this thought cross their mind. In a way, Rogue One is blazing a new trail for the future of Lucasfilm's prized cash cow, showing how the live-action movies do not have to be exclusively dependent on the Skywalker family saga for narratives. From that perspective, it is indeed the rogue entry of the eight films to date, breaking off and doing its own thing in a different manner from its predecessors (see: the war drama tone compared to Episode VII's space opera feel).
Rogue One can also have an in-universe denotation, one that goes beyond the Rebel forces gathering to take down the Empire. It's an apt description for protagonist Jyn Erso, whose rough past has been hinted at in the trailers. She has been on her own since she was a teenager and seems to have a brash attitude. If Rey was designed to parallel Luke Skywalker, Jyn is modeled at least somewhat after Han Solo, who had his own (ahem) roguish charm when audiences first met him. Says Edwards:
“It’s kind of describing her as well in a similar way. It has [all] these split, multiple meanings that made it feel like the right choice.”
Rogue One is being set up as Jyn's tale, especially since her father Galen Erso (played by Mads Mikkelsen) will factor heavily into the film as well. The international trailer revealed that the Rebels intercepted a transmission from Galen that made note of an impending weapons test. Details about the relationship between parent and daughter are being kept under wraps for now, but it will no doubt be an intriguing element of the spinoff. The Jyn and Galen dynamic could very well be the emotional center for Rogue One, giving it the heart that's necessary for a Star Wars film to thrive.
So, like much about it, Rogue One is shaping up to be a change-of-pace from what's come before in the galaxy far, far away. The title has no singular definition, and how it's read is up to the individual viewer. This shouldn't be that big of a deal in the end. As long as the final product is another thrilling adventure, it won't matter what the movie is called.
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.