We’re just a few days away from the release of the cumbersomely titled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s the latest entry in the Star Wars franchise, which will continue to release installments every year until humankind is naught more than forgotten dust scattered in the cosmic wind. Unsurprisingly, Rogue One has been the subject of a brutal publicity blitz for nearly a year ahead of its December 16 release date, as per Star Wars tradition. But despite that massive exposure, the movie’s marketing campaign has done a questionable job of explaining some really basic aspects of the movie’s premise. If you have simple questions you’ve been afraid to ask for fear that nerds might mock you (what a world we live in!), we’ve got you covered here.
When does Rogue One take place in the Star Wars timeline?
It’s set right before the events of the original Star Wars movie from 1977.
Wait, but wasn’t there just a Star Wars movie last year? This isn’t a sequel to that one?
Confusingly enough, it isn’t. Last year’s The Force Awakens was set decades after Rogue One, and the two have basically nothing to do with one another.
Okay, so it’s a prequel, like those other Star Wars prequels that everyone hates?
Well, yes and no. It’s definitely set before the so-called Original Trilogy of Episode IV — A New Hope (colloquially just known as Star Wars), Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back, and Episode VI — Return of the Jedi. But it’s also set after the so-called Prequel Trilogy of Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Episode II — Attack of the Clones, and Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. It’s stuck in the middle, between the two completed trilogies, and waaaay before Episode VII — The Force Awakens and its upcoming sequels. Think of it as a mid-quel.
So what episode is this one? Three and a half?
There is no episode number. It’s the first Star Wars movie to lack one, because it’s not an episode of Star Wars — it’s what Lucasfilm calls a “Star Wars Story.”
But aren’t all the Star Wars movies Star Wars stories?
Yes, but they don’t have the specific branding appellation “A Star Wars Story,” which is a new technical term. Lucasfilm is starting this thing where, every other year, they’ll put out movies that aren’t part of the main Star Wars plot, but are instead mostly self-contained tales set in the Star Wars universe. They’re called Star Wars Stories. The next one comes out in 2018 and it’s an as-yet-untitled spinoff about the young Han Solo, who’s played by Alden Ehrenreich.
Let’s get back to Rogue One. What’s the story about?
It follows a rebellious woman named Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who leads a ragtag band of misfits on a mission to steal the plans for the evil super-weapon from A New Hope, the Death Star. Remember how, at the beginning of A New Hope, Princess Leia is trying to smuggle the Death Star plans to her Rebel friends? These are those plans. Meanwhile, Jyn tries to find her father, a scientist named Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), who is being used by the Empire to help build the Death Star.
What other Star Wars movies do I have to see before I see this one?
It’s probably helpful to watch A New Hope so you understand the significance of the Death Star and the basic concepts of the Galactic Empire, the Rebel Alliance, and the Force. It also might be useful to watch Revenge of the Sith so you can see what led up to the stuff you’re seeing here, but those events aren’t likely to have a big impact on the plot of Rogue One.
Where does it take place? Some of the ads look like they’re set on Tatooine, that desert planet from the old movies. Are they on Tatooine?
No, oddly enough. The desert scenes are set on a previously unseen planet called Jedha, and there are other scenes set on a tropical planet called Scarif, which we also haven’t seen before. Jedha is also different from the other desert planet we’ve seen in the Star Wars movies, The Force Awakens’ Jakku. You’d think Lucasfilm could come up with more varied terrain, wouldn’t you?
Who are the main characters?
There’s Jyn and her aforementioned ragtag band of misfits: rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), spiritually minded warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), heavily armed assassin Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), shy tech wiz Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), grizzled war veteran Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), and reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). The main bad guy is a big-deal Imperial muckety-muck named Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and the other big figure is Galen.
Those names are completely unfamiliar. Are they new characters?
Nearly all of them are new, yes. The only previously seen dude is Saw Gerrera, but he hasn’t appeared in any of the movies — a youthful version of him was in a CGI Star Wars TV show called Star Wars: The Clone Wars that aired on Cartoon Network a few years ago.
Will there be any recognizable characters?
A small handful. Genevieve O’Reilly will be playing Rebel leader Mon Mothma, who first appeared in Return of the Jedi, and Jimmy Smits is reprising his role as Princess Leia’s dad, Bail Organa, whom he portrayed in the Prequel Trilogy. Oh, and Darth Vader’s in it.
Whoa, Darth Vader’s in it? Who’s playing him? Isn’t the original guy who played him dead now?
First off, there were two people who originally played him: David Prowse did the physical acting and James Earl Jones was the voice. Second, neither of them are dead! That said, Prowse is not stepping into the obsidian hockey pads this time around — a rotating cast of bulky, not-famous men are doing that job. But Jones is returning to voice the Dark Lord, thank goodness. He’s probably not gonna be in a ton of the movie, but he’ll be there, basso-ing and profundo-ing.
Are the Knights of Ren going to be in it? Also: Who are the Knights of Ren? I sorta remember hearing about them but can’t remember who they are.
The Knights of Ren are the gang of masked jerks who hang out with The Force Awakens’s main baddie, noted emo dweeb Kylo Ren. They only popped up in that movie for like four seconds during a dream sequence, though. They are very much not in Rogue One.
Is J.J. Abrams directing this one, too?
Nope! It’s being helmed by Godzilla director Gareth Edwards.
If there’s no Abrams and no Lucas, will it feel like a Star Wars movie?
That is very much an open question! Edwards originally wanted it to feel like a “war movie,” but the studio has allegedly made tweaks so it syncs up more easily with the quippy and quirky tone of The Force Awakens. So the feel of the finished product is up in the air.
Do you think I have a shot with Diego Luna?