Disney and Lucasfilm teamed up to bring Star Wars back in a big way last year with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The seventh episode in the Skywalker family saga, the film was well-received critically and a smash hit at the box office. It destroyed the all-time domestic record and became just the third film in history to pass $2 billion worldwide, trailing only Titanic and Avatar. There was a tremendous amount of pressure for Star Wars 7 to deliver, and by all accounts it did in spades. The new era of the galaxy far, far away got off to a tremendous start.
The sequel trilogy will continue in 2017 with Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII, but before then, audiences will be treated to a much different Star Wars film. This December's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes viewers back to a time before Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were famous faces, detailing the Rebel Alliance's dangerous mission to steal the original Death Star plans. It stars Felicity Jones as protagonist Jyn Erso and will feature the big screen return of famed villain Darth Vader. Lucasfilm has already put together a sizable and visible marketing campaign with two well-received trailers, and now a third one has made its way online. You can watch it above.
One of the biggest things this preview does is shed some light on what seems to be the emotional core of the film - the relationship between Jyn Erso and her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen). It begins with a flashback of Galen telling his young daughter that whatever he does, he does it to protect her. We see Director Krennic and a squad of Death Troopers come take the elder Erso away to work on the Death Star project. Fast forward to the present, and Jyn is busted out of an Imperial prison by the Rebel Alliance so she can embark on the mission to steal the weapon's plans and even the odds in the rebellion's favor. Finding Galen looks like it will be a pertinent part of the task, and Jyn will be personally invested in the team's success.
Director Gareth Edward's handle on the visuals is also highlighted, and it should come as no surprise that Rogue One looks stunning. The trailer shows more shots of the ground combat sequences, teasing set pieces that are very epic in scale and unlike anything seen in Star Wars before. It'll also come as a pleasant surprise to fans to see X-wings engaging in what looks to be a space battle. Though The Force Awakens featured plenty of aerial set pieces, some were disappointed that J.J. Abrams didn't take the fights to the stars. It'll be interesting to see how the space battle factors into the plot, but it's another aspect of Rogue One to look forward to.
Of course, many moviegoers are excited by the prospect of seeing legendary villain Darth Vader on the big screen once more. Lucasfilm has obviously made the dark lord part of the marketing (given his recognizability), but they were smart about the way they worked him into the trailers. Like the last one, this final preview has only glimpses of Vader; once when Director Krennic is describing the power of the Death Star and again as Vader emerges from smoke to speak with someone - most likely Krennic. Some may be disappointed that the Sith Lord hasn't appeared more, but it's better that the studio only teases his involvement and focuses more on the new characters. Vader's role is said to be brief, yet impactful, so it would be a shame if something was spoiled in advertising.
All in all, Rogue One looks like the intense war drama that Edwards has been promising since day one. Though the film endured some negative press over the summer due to the highly-publicized reshoots (which have been said to be nothing out of the ordinary), the promotional campaign has continuously raised the levels of excitement, hinting at an emotionally-charged film that blends the new with the familiar. It looks like a Star Wars film, but the approach is different, which is the ultimate goal of the anthology films. If Rogue One can live up to its potential, moviegoers will be in for a treat this holiday season.
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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.