Among the awesome array of Star Wars-related reveals at this past weekend’s D23 Expo, the debut cast photo of the inaugural spinoff movie, which now goes by the tweaked title Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, proved to be the most profound.
The wide-shot photo manages to speak volumes about the grimy, gritty, war-torn tone of the film. Taking place shortly before the canonical timeline of 1977’s Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope, spinoff Rogue One depicts the daring secret mission of a small group of ragtag rebels to retrieve the Empire’s plans for the planet-pulverizing Death Star that, as we all know, eventually winds up hidden in R2-D2’s “rusty innards.”
Gareth Edwards, the visionary behind 2014’s Godzilla reboot, steps into the director’s chair for Rogue One, which will apparently be a thematic departure from typical Star Wars films while maintaining certain key elements. While appetites were undoubtedly whetted by the cast photo, fans will still need to exercise Jedi-like patience until the film’s Dec. 16, 2016, release date. Of course, it shouldn’t be too hard a wait, considering that the sequel trilogy kickoff, Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens, looks to leave minds blown in just four weeks on Dec. 18.
In the meantime, coupled with the latest revelations, here are 10 things that we are expecting/likely to see when Rogue One looks to take aim at the proverbial ventilation shaft of its box-office competition.
The Events Referenced In A New Hope’s Opening Crawl
A New Hope’s expositional opening crawl describes “Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base” winning their first victory against the Empire in a battle in which “Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR.” Thus, it wouldn't take the most discerning investigator to come to the conclusion that these events and the plot description of Rogue One are, indeed, the same. It’s an angle that gives this spinoff effort some additional importance. With that in mind, we can only hope that the previously mythical battle will live up the magnitude of our imaginations.
While Rogue One is said to focus its action-packed attention toward ground-based skirmishes, it’s not hard to imagine, just by virtue of the title, that the referenced spectacular sequence with “Rebel spaceships” seems certain. Thus, it still bears repeating that this film depicts the critical events that are described in the opening paragraph of the very text that kicks off the first Star Wars movie. To put it in other words, this movie will play out the previously unseen inciting event only described in the iconic first vertically rising set of yellow text.
In essence, Rogue One is looking to directly and retroactively set the entire stage for the traditional beginning of the grandiose Star Wars mythology. No pressure, right?
An Entire Band of Scruffy-Looking Nerf-herders
Recent The Theory of Everything Oscar nominee Felicity Jones is seen in the cast photo, clad in black, showcasing some serious grit, with a blaster strapped to her side as the film’s yet-to-be-named central character. She doesn’t seem to be a traditional aesthetically untouchable, unapologetically bellicose femme-fatale film archetype. Yet there is attitude in her eyes that seem to reveal a mix of sadness and determination that hopefully reflects her performance.
Jones is joined in the photo’s dusty hangar by her cabal cohorts in Diego Luna (Elysium), Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler), Jiang Wen (Let the Bullets Fly) and Donny Yen (Ip Man). This group certainly appears to be a highly combustible mix of unshaved scallywags and stoic, abrasive badasses. Despite Jones’ character, herself, being a potentially untraditional character, the eclectic makeup and demonstrable specialties of this Rebel unit seem to have her positioned to be the empathetic foil to the idiosyncrasies of this ragtag group. Thus, we should expect a fascinating and unique cast chemistry.
It will be interesting to see where the other members of the cast fall into the picture. Names such as Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline), Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) and Alan Tudyk (Firefly/Serenity), who will portray a still mysterious motion-capture character, are all attached.
Familiar Rebel Faces
Rogue One shouldn’t become beholden to obligatory, non-cohesive walk-on scenes with familiar Star Wars characters just to remind moviegoers of the franchise. Yet, given the pre-A New Hope timeline, it would still be hard to resist paying some lip service to the mythos. Thus, the film could benefit from some small appearances by familiar members of the Rebellion who we’d meet later in the continuity in the Original Trilogy films or even further down the line in the Sequel Trilogy, since the first film, The Force Awakens will have already hit.
It’s difficult to determine if there would be enough effort and temerity to cast a young Carrie Fisher lookalike to briefly play a character with the importance of Princess Leia Organa. However, characters important to the Rebellion who had little screen time like the aforementioned Old Republic politician-turned Rebel leader, Mon Mothma (Caroline Blakiston) would be a prime candidate for continuity-connecting. Plus, seeing as early reports are indicating that an older, more trap-weary Mon Calamari, Admiral Ackbar may appear in The Force Awakens, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility to show us a slightly younger, pre-Battle of Endor version in Rogue One. The same would go for Jimmy Smitt’s Prequel character Bail Organa, who proved to be an integral part of the nascent Rebellion.
There may even be room for cameos for some other personnel such as Wedge Antilles, the cockpit-filling Jek Porkins, the eye-patch-sporting commando from the Battle of Endor, Orrimaarko, a.k.a., “Prune Face,” or even the grey-bearded Battle of Yavin overseer General Dodonna would be a welcome sight.
Insight Into The Rebellion
The Star Wars Original Trilogy was notably absent of backstory and poeticism when it came to the proprietary characters in the Rebellion who were mostly there just to fill the background and get snarked at by Luke over the applicable experience of bulls-eyeing womp rats to firing torpedoes into small ventilation shafts. Yet, one look at the reprobate peanut gallery in Rogue One and it’s clear that these characters, seemingly The Dirty Dozen of the Star Wars mythos, have each suffered the Empire in their own unique way; something that should become clear in the film.
Such an approach will require an artful narrative balance, especially considering that Felicity Jones’ character appears to be the proper protagonist focus. Yet, with Rogue One being promised as a different kind of Star Wars movie that’s seemingly rooted in the dirty telluric trenches of ground combat, the immediacy of the crises at hand could end up evoking those backstories in a more organic way. To some extent, director Gareth Edwards accomplished this method with his Godzilla remake.
Additionally, some fans have observed that the 1970’s locks and disco-ready mustachioed look of Diego Luna’s character in the Rogue One cast photo bears a striking resemblance to Luke’s eventually ill-fated former Tatooine fly buddy, Biggs Darklighter, who was played by Garrick Hagon in A New Hope. The timeline does seem to line up and IF that does turn out to be the case, then not only would such an angle fulfill our wish to see more familiar Rebel characters, but it would also be perfect way to glean from the emotional significance of the original movie by exploring Biggs’ motivations for defecting to the Rebellion upon his graduation from the Imperial Academy; something that was previously touched upon in a Tatooine-set deleted scene from A New Hope.
A Look At The “Many Bothans”
In Return of the Jedi, Rebel leader Mon Mothma famously lamented over the retrieved Second Death Star plans, saying that “many Bothans died to bring us this information.” Unfortunately, neither the films nor any other acknowledged source of Star Wars canon has officially given us a glimpse of the Bothans, other than the presumption of their apparent loyalty to Rebellion.
However, that often-quoted line of dialogue has spawned quite a number of different versions of the alien race in the Expanded Universe novels and comic books, which for the most part, have had their canonical status revoked during Disney’s recent much-needed streamlining of the property. Yet, Rogue One seems like the perfect opportunity to officially codify this much-discussed species by giving them a role in the film’s close look at the Rebellion.
Bothans have been traditionally portrayed as diminutive, sometimes with a long-snooted vague animalistic visage and their innate pragmatism results in a widespread culture of politicians and spies; notably with the Bothan Spynet. Thus, their eventual (and tragic) involvement in the theft of the Second Death Star plans could be prospectively paralleled in Rogue One with their involvement with the film’s depiction of the theft of the FIRST Death Star plans.
Star Wars Rebels Live-Action Cameos
Being the first proper canon-acknowledged addition to the Star Wars mythos since the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm, animated series Star Wars Rebels has become a prototype for the newfound compelling, carefully-curated approach to the canon. Its characters are likably believable and the storyline, presumably set slightly before the era of Rogue One, generally adheres to the straight and narrow of the new story bible.
With that in mind, what better way could there be to elevate the status of the already-celebrated animated series than by having at least one character make the jump from the realm of animation to a live-action capacity? Yet, having Jedi characters like Kanan Jarrus or Ezra Bridger would probably be counterproductive to the film’s gritty, grounded, non-mystical tone. Perhaps, in that respect, either the enchanting emerald Twi’lek pilot Hera Syndulla or the furry, irascible Lasat enforcer Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios could make that important transition.
After all, it worked wonders for Boba Fett, who was first seen an animated antagonist in a segment of the infamous The Star Wars Holiday Special to the stoic badass in The Empire Strikes Back.
As the aforementioned Star Wars Rebels proved with its recent advance Season 2 premiere teaser, the post-Revenge of the Sith, pre-A New Hope era makes it fortuitously feasible to utilize the villainy of Darth Vader. Likewise, rumors have already been floating about that Rogue One will, indeed, have a cameo from the wheezing Sith Lord. While the idea of featuring a character in Vader whose fate is generally set with his demise in Return of the Jedi might seem like a path towards a Hobbit-like formula for a generally inconsequential climax, it makes sense for the practical purpose of the story that’s being told.
Besides being the most identifiable and iconic character in the Star Wars franchise, the timing of Rogue One falls in line with the presumed heyday of Vader’s tenure as the merciless enforcer of The Empire’s malevolent will. With the black-clad butcher of Jedi expressing fundamental doubts about the effectiveness of the Death Star in A New Hope, calling it a “technological terror” that was no match for The Force, we might even catch an intriguing glimpse behind the curtain of where he actually stood in the Imperial leadership structure.
All of that aside.. it's freaking Darth Vader and fans want to see him! Hopefully, he'll be back, voiced by James Earl Jones, swinging that lightsaber, "altering deals" and finding the "lack of faith" displayed by space muggles to be disturbing.
Grand Moff Tarkin
Tarkin, played by former classic cinematic vampire slayer Peter Cushing, is the often unsung administrator of the First Death Star and the man who, out of spite, actually ordered the destruction of Leia’s home planet of Alderaan. While his judgment on when to “evacuate” fatally sucked, he was, for all intents and purposes the true villain of A New Hope. Just as with Darth Vader, Star Wars Rebels seems to be taking advantage of its continuity position to utilize Tarkin as a behind-the-scenes antagonistic force against the show’s heroes. Likewise, his prospective usage in Rogue One is fueling a strong rumor.
In A New Hope, there were sporadic moments when it was made clear that even Darth Vader, the Emperor’s apprentice, is a rank subordinate to Tarkin. (Even Leia makes a joke about Tarkin holding Vader’s leash.) He was briefly seen at the end of Prequel swan song, Revenge of the Sith staring out at the under-construction Death Star played by Wayne Pygram, who could easily reprise that role.
While it is more likely that the primary antagonist(s) of Rogue One would either be the characters of Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, or Ben Mendelsohn, even some brief expository scenes with Tarkin would be an excellent opportunity to further expound the Imperial dynamic.
Donnie Yen Decimating Imperials
The addition of Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen to the Rogue One cast could potentially inject an exciting new martial arts action dynamic into the Star Wars mythos. A practitioner of a myriad of martial arts disciplines, Yen made appearances in a handful of films hitting stateside such as Blade 2 and the import release, Hero. Lately, he has been starring in the renowned biographically based IP Man film series, which brings a special brand of rapid fire chopsocky carnage, including a headline-making sequence in the upcoming third film in which Yen will step into a ring with boxing legend, Mike Tyson.
While nothing about Yen’s Rogue One character is explained, the picture tells quite a story. Sitting stoic in black robes while holding a staff, a closer look at his face shows that his eyes are whitened, implying that he is blind. While a Hong Kong tabloid previously reported that he would be playing a Jedi character in Episode VIII, it is does seem inevitable that, Force powers or not, Yen’s character is going give some hapless Imperials a very unpleasant time with some old-school blind master-style devastation.
That, alone, might be worth the price of admission for Rogue One and serve as the true U.S. cinematic coming out party of this magnificent martial arts master.
A Closer Look At Death Star Planetary Destruction
With the destructive powers of the Death Star being the ominous focus of the very first Star Wars movie, it stands as a practical synonym in any vernacular for a planet orbiting ball of destruction. While Tarkin wantonly demonstrated its power on the oblivious inhabitants of Alderaan, the battle station that is definitely “no moon” will at least play an integral part of the plot in Rogue One. Thus, with movies being all about spectacle, it would be great to get another aesthetically improved demonstration of the orbiting annihilator’s destructive powers, graced by the advances digital technology.
In the definitive danger-setting sequence in A New Hope, we simply saw Alderaan explode from orbit, silencing “millions of voices.” Consequently, any Death Star demolition that looks to outdo the magnitude of Alderaan’s destruction would be counterproductive to the linear continuity. However, from a filmmaking standpoint, it certainly would still be intriguing and potentially memorable to see the ground view from either a smaller planet or inhabited asteroid as it gets zapped into space crumbs by the Death Star’s devastatingly demoralizing primary weapon.
While Rogue One is clearly about a ground war and the killer caper to obtain the Death Star's weakness-revealing plans, the film would need its own demonstration of the consequences of failure. Such a scene with updated destruction sequence seems integral to that cause.
What do you think? After the D23 reveals, are you expecting anything in particular from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? Head on down to the comments section and let us know!