Just as Star Wars: The Force Awakens finishes its theatrical run and releases on home video, not two days went by before focus abruptly shifted towards the next Star Wars adventure. Coming again this December is another entry into the saga. Titled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 2016's journey into a galaxy far, far away represents the first standalone spinoff movie in the franchise for Lucasfilm.
There's no Finn or Rey, or Poe Dameron and his lovable droid BB-8 in this adventure. For Rogue One, director Gareth Edwards is bringing moviegoers back to a time when the Empire hadn't lost either of their Death Stars and when Luke Skywalker was still a teenage farmer on Tatooine. The Rebellion is in its infancy and but they know the Empire has built something terrifying and need to find a way to stop it.
Rogue One follows that group of Rebel spies who risk everything to steal the plans of the original Death Star and we finally got a glimpse of these heroes and what they're up against in the first teaser trailer this morning. Let's take a closer look.
A Rebel Among Rebels
According to Imperial criminal records, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is a physically violent thief... perfect for recruitment into the Rebellion! Erso is the lead of the film but within her ragtag squad of resistance fighters and soon-to-be spies, she might be the muscle as well. Battling Stormtroopers with a baton in one hand, a blaster in the other, and later wielding two of each in different scenes, Jyn Erso is a soldier in every sense of the word.
The final shot of the teaser may make some question her loyalty, but fear not, there's no chance she enlists with the Empire. She's simply in disguise. It's a heist movie after all. But what, specifically, does the film's title "Rogue One" refer to?
As for who Jyn Erso is in the grander Star Wars universe, the over-zealous speculation began as soon as Felicity Jones was cast as the Rogue One's lead. Is she Rey's mom? Luke's eventual love interest? We're hopeful that it's none of the above because the Anthology movies are building out the larger universe, and connecting every character together in an intimate little family can make the universe feel too small as we discussed on today's Total Geekall podcast dedicated to this trailer.
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) April 7, 2016
Star Wars Legends Connection
Jyn Erso may remind hardcore Star Wars fans of a certain character from the old Expanded Universe (now branded as non-canonical Legends stories) named Jan Ors (played by Angela Harry). Ors was also a young, feisty, female brunette who served as a spy helping the young Rebel Alliance. She was born on Alderaan (the planet destroyed by the Death Star in A New Hope) featured in the Dark Forces video games and recruited, worked with, and eventually fell in love with fan-fave Legends character Kyle Katarn (the protagonist of several classic Star Wars video games).
It gets better. Ors, like we see in the Rogue One teaser in Erso, worked directly for Mon Mothma and (with Katarn's help) stole the Death Star plans. Coincidence? We're not even done. Ors also helped put an end to the Empire's "Dark Trooper" project - super Stormtroopers that look very similar to the black-armored "Death Troopers" also featured in the Rogue One teaser.
Since Jan Ors was known to use an alias given her... career choices, it's possible Jyn Erso isn't even the real name of Felicity Jones' character.
Mon Mothma herself, a character previously seen in Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith deleted scenes, and several episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars makes a triumphant introduction in Rogue One - years before her dedication and success will lead her to becoming the first chancellor of the New Republic after the Empire falls.
In Episode III's deleted scenes, Mothma was played by Genevieve O'Reilly who now she gets to play the role again, returning as Mon Mothma (for real this time) in Rogue One. Smart casting and a great nod to fans and George Lucas's prequel casting! The costume designers even got the jewelry details down (yes, we know the chain is slightly different but maybe Mothma has a collection).
The Massassi Temple
The nostalgic elements and settings of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be a major selling point and for long-time fans, seeing the first ever Rebel base created in the Star Wars universe is smile-inducing. The timeline of events between Rogue One and A New Hope might even be closer than we originally thought since the Rebels are already setup at Yavin IV's Great Temple.
This place, housing X-Wings and Y-Wings, built by a now-extinct alien race is believed to be an old Sith temple which is especially interesting given Luke's mission and whereabouts in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the focus on temples in the Star Wars Rebels animated series. We know that it doesn't take long for the Empire to locate this and send the Death Star its way, but before that, Mon Mothma and her loyal allies seem to operate out of here before Princess Leia joins in.
The Imperial Grand Admiral
After watching Netflix's wonderful original series Bloodline where Ben Mendelsohn plays a complex antagonist, it was obvious that when he was cast for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that he'd be playing a key villain. And he is. Rocking very fancy white Imperial garbs, we're not quite sure who this character is but there are obvious similarities to Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) from A New Hope who was widely rumored to be digitally rendered as a character in this movie.
But for fans of the Expanded Universe, there's one particular Imperial leader who for years was speculated (read: hoped) to show up in The Force Awakens: Grand Admiral Thrawn. Pictured on the right, Thrawn is a major player post-Return of the Jedi in the comics, novels and even the wonderful game Tie Fighter. The old school art of his design and costume was clearly used to inspire Mendelsohn's official dudes and he may very well be a Grand Admiral himself. But wow, we cannot stop thinking about Thrawn from the looks and poses of each.
Still, in this era, where Emperor Palpatine reins, where Grand Moff Tarkin runs the Death Star project, and where Vader is active, we're not sure where Mendelsohn's high-ranking official fits in.
A New Hope had Obi-Wan Kenobi to mentor young Luke Skywalker and The Force Awakens had Han Solo and Maz Kanata to sort of mentor Rey. For young, troubled Jyn Erso who's tasked with the most high-stakes mission ever for the Rebellion, she might have Forest Whitaker.
It's unclear who Whitaker is playing, but his reveal in the Rogue One teaser trailer confirms rumors from earlier this week that he'd be rocking a massive, power suit of sorts with cape reminiscent of Boba Fett's. He's battle-hardened and heavily equipped, by why? Is he a mercenary or bounty hunter? Neither would fit his dialogue which narrates the back-half of the trailer. His role seems bigger and more important.
“What will you do when they catch you? What will you do if they break you? If you continue to fight, what will you become?”
The New Droid
Master character actor, geek icon, and all-around funny guy Alan Tudyk is a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe. While details on his role are entirely unknown in any official capacity, it's bee widely believed for a while now that he'd be playing the film's main droid character - because what's Star Wars without a droid, right?
He played the main robot in I, Robot opposite Will Smith over a decade ago and we're guessing this time he's playing a slightly less-humanoid looking droid pictured above running beside Felicity Jones and Diego Luna's characters. According to Making Star Wars, the droid is an "Enforcer Droid" designed as a potential combat unit for the Imperials. He's of course reprogrammed to help the Rebels for the specific mission of the movie.
The Old Droid
There are explosions, walkers, the Imperial fleet, new types of soldiers, etc., but one of the most exiting elements of the Rogue One teaser for us is the Gonk droid. That's right, every legitimate Star Wars fans should feel a little special something for the GNK power droids, commonly referred to by fans as the garbage bin droid.
Listen with the video below. And then listen again, and again...
New Soldier Types
The original trilogy made sure to grow its tie-in massive toy lines by offering additional variations on pretty much every asset from film to film, and we're seeing more of that when it comes to the Imperial infantry in Rogue One. Where Episodes IV, V, and VI had Sandtroopers, Stormtroopers, Snowtroopers, Scouts and Pilots, the first Anthology Star Wars spinoff has black-armored "Death Troopers" with a new type of helmet and weapon, and a tan-colored variation of what could be scouts or commandos picture running above.
They don't appear in the original trilogy, and same goes for the Death Troopers, so their role may be plot-specific. Perhaps there's more to our "Dark Trooper" project theory when it comes to the black-armored soldiers. As for the tan-colored ones, they could be for the beach battle featured in the trailers.
Masters of Teräs Käsi
Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi wasn't a particularly great video game, but it did base itself on a neat "deep cuts" part of the Expanded Universe. Teräs Käsi is an unarmed type of martial arts featured in many Star Wars books and video games, and believed to be a fighting style employed by several key familiar characters, from Darth Maul to Jedi Master Plo Koon. It even featured in the Episode III - Revenge of the Sith video game and Darth Plagueis novel (a source of much potential information regarding theories about Supreme Leader Snoke from Star Wars: The Force Awakens).
Consider this just speculation but there's a good reason director Gareth Edwards and Lucasfilm cast martial arts master Donnie Yen to play a blind character who can easily take out a squad of Stormtroopers using only a quarterstaff. Yen says has only said that his character is "important" to the story, but he's definitely a combat master despite not being a Jedi. And given his fighting style and weapon choice, perhaps he's our introduction to Teräs Käsi into canon.
When we heard the first Star Wars Anthology spinoff would be about the theft of the original Death Star plans, the idea of a heist movie in this setting was enough to warrant excitement. But it was the setting, this time period, and the idea of serving as an expansion to A New Hope, or lead-up to the events of the original Star Wars told from another perspective that made it special.
We would see the Empire and Rebellion as they were originally introduced once again. So, while Star Wars 7 continues the saga 30 years later with new iterations of Stormtroopers, Star Destroyers, Death Stars, X-Wings, and TIE Fighters, we could once again revisit the original variants of all of these. An original Incom T-65 X-Wing for instance, was spotted on set a while back and we knew it was a must-include vehicle. This trailer showcases the Yavin IV base, X-Wings included (no Y-Wing bombers though!) and a fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers patrolling the Death Star perimeter.
It's exciting for fans seeing the original Rebel starfighters back as much as it is for Disney to be able to sell a whole new (but really not new at all) line of vehicle toys come Force Friday this fall.
The Bigger Shuttle
The Imperial Lambda-class T-4a shuttles featured in the original Star Wars films - among many other vessels - featured folding or extending wings. That iconic wing-fold shuttle design (seen in games and the animated series as well) was seen again with Kylo Ren's personal First Order transport in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A very similar sized transport with a very similar wingspan and structure appears briefly in the Rogue One teaser, this one featuring two sets of wings, before being blown to bits.
We're guessing the Rebels blew this one up since it's surrounded by Stormtroopers, but the ship design adds to the idea that ship manufacturers have many designs for many purposes, and that they evolve over the years. Also, think about the toys.
All Terrain Armored Transport
We're seeing the Galactic Empire's "AT" walkers live up to their "all-terrain" description. The four-legged, heavily armored AT-AT troop transports featured heavily in the epic opening Hoth battle of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and another one briefly appeared in Return of the Jedi on the forest moon of Endor. So, with snow and jungles covered, now it's time to see the AT-ATs in action on sand and in the water.
Jyn Erso (wielding two blasters) and her Rebel allies are seeing running away from something but right towards multiple AT-ATs so we can't imagine this sequence ends well, unless there's a Force Awakens style rescue from Rebel vehicles.
When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story director Gareth Edwards said the film takes place in an era where there are no Jedi, that "it comes down to a group of people who don’t have magical powers who band together to bring hope to the galaxy," we didn't know he'd be substituting lightsabers with... sticks and batons. We're not sure how practical and effective blunt objects should be against Stormtrooper armor but there's more of that than laser fire in this first teaser.
Jyn Erso battles troopers in an alley with a baton while wielding a familiar E-11 Stormtrooper blaster rifle in her offhand, and the final shot of the trailer features her (seemingly undercover) wearing dark Imperial armor with two batons on her back. And of course, there's Donnie Yen's staff-wielding character we discuss above (see: Teräs Käsi).
The Sith Connection
The dark side is strong in this teaser. After all, the evil Empire is finishing construction of a weapon of mass destruction. But there's one little shot that piqued our interest when a dark robed figure kneels to something or someone (his master or perhaps a hologram?). At a glance it looks like Darth Vader given what we know about the movie, but the robes clearly don't match. Vader doesn't wear a hood over his helmet and the silhouette wouldn't work. The shot is carefully edited right after a third-person shot of Ben Mendelsohn's character wearing his white cape walking through the water.
This figure could be Mendelsohn's character or that could be misleading, as in typical modern Star Wars trailer style. If it's not, and since it can't be Vader, could it be another entirely new villain? Is a non-Force user dressing like a Force user for the sake of misguiding viewers in this teaser? Or is there any possibility that Darth Vader is not alone in characters potentially strong in the Force?
What's intriguing is seeing the Emperor's Royal Guards leading us to believe that we may get a look at Emperor Palpatine near the time of A New Hope. That could also mean this sequence takes place on Coruscant and not the Death Star itself. We're certain at least some fans are hoping that's Darth Maul making his return to the live-action universe. And yes, if you didn't already know because you've not kept up with the animated programs (which are canonical), Maul lives.
Star Wars Rebels
Speaking of Star Wars Rebels, let's talk about what's not in this trailer. In the Rogue One footage, concept art, and limited details we know about the film, there's nothing mentioned about the characters from Star Wars Rebels. And that's arguably a little strange since both are covering the early days and formation of the Rebellion against the Empire.
It's an issue the animated show is currently dealing with and had to deal with in its season 2 finale last week. As we covered in the 'No Lightsabers' section, director Gareth Edwards made it clear that this era in the Star Wars saga is one where Jedi don't really exist, but at least a few do. You could say many do given that there were eight force users with lightsabers featured in the season 2 finale of Rebels.
Of course, it's not explicitly clear how far apart in the timeline the events of Rebels and Rogue One really are, but we do wonder if season 3 of Rebels (which begins this fall) will setup or connect to important elements of Rogue One which releases in December.
We can't talk Star Wars without talking about the iconic sound that drives it, and no, we're not talking about Imperial alarms and laser blasts. John Williams has scored every Star Wars film to date (we're not counting The Clone Wars) but he's not the composer behind Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Instead, director Gareth Edwards is re-teaming with Alexandre Desplat after having worked together on Godzilla. Desplat's score, combined with cinematography from Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty), will ideally make Rogue One have a unique style and feel from the main saga Star Wars entries, though we can't tell yet how unique this may be from the teaser. The main theme is Williams' work after all.
There are two shots in the Rogue One teaser featuring characters running down a larger corridor-esque area, except this is a very familiar location. The sequence where we see a small army of Stormtroopers (classic and the new tan-colored ones) running, and another sequence where Jones, Luna, and the droid (Tudyk?) are also running, actually take place in a dressed up Canary Wharf tube station.
The location use isn't too surprising considering Rogue One was primarily shot a Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, about an hour's drive out from the underground London station.
— Marc ▫️MFC▪️ (@marcfc) April 7, 2016
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in 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, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.Darth Vader's Real Sequel Trilogy Role Confirmed By Star Wars 9