Let’s not kid ourselves here: You know what Rogue One is. You know it’s the first stand-alone Star Wars film, and you know it’s about the Rebels’ attempt to steal the plans to the Death Star. But we’ve been waiting for this movie for so long that we thought we’d bring everything we know for certain together in one helpful location.
Rogue One is the first film standalone film (a.k.a. Star Wars Story), which means it does not feature a Skywalker in a prominent role. It’s also the first live-action film to not feature prominent Jedi or have an opening crawl (although there was an animated Clone Wars film that rubs up against some of these rules.) It’ll also be the first live-action Star Wars film without a John Williams score, though his themes are in there. And since it’s set right before Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, it’s technically a prequel, although this one is not written or directed by George Lucas. It does have his stamp of approval, however.
In a way, everything you need to know about Rogue One in the opening crawl of the very first Star Wars film:
It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.
During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.
Boom, that’s basically the summary of Rogue One. We’ll find out what happened during that battle which allowed the Rebel spies to get the plans. The crawl even tells us how it ends:
Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy.
We know the spies get the plans, Princess Leia gets ahold of them, puts them in R2-D2, and he heads to Tatooine, where everything changes.
There are other clues about what could happen in Rogue One in A New Hope. First up, we’re told the plans were “beamed aboard” Princess Leia’s ship by the Rebel Spies. Darth Vader has “tracked the Rebel spies” to Leia, suggesting they have a connection with her before this. Vader then tells a commander, “There will be no one to stop us this time.” Will we see them stopped the last time?
Later in the film, a group of Imperial officers meet and there’s dissent over how dangerous the Rebels are. Some believe the plans can be exploited, others believe it won’t matter. This feels like a conflict we’ll see in Rogue One as well. It’s also revealed that the Imperial Senate, the governing body from the Prequels (and one Princess Leia claims to be representing), has just been dissolved by the Emperor and that “Regional Governors” now have control over their territories. Again these are all events we could see, or at least hear referenced, in Rogue One.
Finally, we know Vader doesn’t really trust the Death Star (calling it a “technological terror”). This could just be his belief in the power of the Force, but it’s also not unreasonable to wonder if there’s something in Rogue One which renders Darth Vader unimpressed with the giant space station.
Though Rogue One is set well after the events of Revenge of the Sith and its predecessor, Attack of the Clones, both have little winks. In Attack of the Clones, we see that the Geonosisians have plans for the Death Star—plans they want to keep hidden from the Jedi. Then, in one of the final moments of Revenge of the Sith, we see Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine watching the Death Star being constructed.
There are 19 years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Again, we know that Rogue One leads directly into the latter, but the Death Star has not quite been completed. That means the Empire has been constructing it for two decades.
If you’re telling the first Star Wars story without a Jedi at the center, there obviously have to be some new characters on both sides. Here are the Rebels:
- Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a young woman with a mysterious past.
- Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a strong Rebel leader with a powerful droid friend...
- K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), an unofficial sidekick to Cassian, he’s a reprogrammed Imperial Security Droid who now has a mind of his own (and gives zero shits).
- Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), an Imperial pilot turned Rebel.
- Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a blind warrior with a strong belief in the Force.
- Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), another skilled warrior who acts as the eyes of Chirrut, and is also his best friend.
And the villains:
- Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the Imperial Director in charge of creating the Death Star. He forces brilliant scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the father of Jyn, to help create the Death Star’s superlaser.
- Death Troopers are elite, black-suited stormtroopers, who mostly serve alongside Krennic as his personal army and protection.
- Shore Troopers, another new classification of stormtrooper specially designed for beach assaults. They’re deployed on Scarif.
- C2-B5, an Imperial astromech droid that looks very much like R2-D2, except all black.
- The Imperial Ground Crew, yet another new level of Imperial support, who specialize in keeping the Imperial machines moving quickly.
That’s not to say there are only new characters in Rogue One. Here are the characters you’ve already seen that are in the film:
- Darth Vader, still voiced by James Earl Jones, will have a meeting with Krennic.
- Mon Mothma, the Rebel leader first seen in Return of the Jedi.
- Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), Princess Leia’s adopted father, originally seen in the prequels.
- Grand Moff Tarkin, another highly ranked Imperial officer who played a major role in A New Hope, will apparently be in there. Since actor Peter Cushing died in 1994, this will presumably be through CG.
- Could there be more? It’s possible. Rumors have persisted that R2-D2 and even Princess Leia herself could show up. There’s also speculation that we’ll be seeing the Emperor, too.
One character some fans know, but will be new to the majority of audiences, is Saw Gerrera. Played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One, Saw first appeared in the Clone Wars TV show as an insurgent fighter allied with the Republic. Now he’s grown older and deeper into his role as an underground leader fighting the Empire.
What’s Star Wars without its crazy aliens? Rogue One, of course, has a bunch of news ones. Here are a few we know of:
- Moroff, an upright walking, almost shaggy dog-looking alien, is a hired mercenary.
- Bistan, affectionately referred to as the “Space Monkey.” He’s a thrill seeker fighting with the Rebels
- Pao, a Drabata alien who can live in both water and land, he joins the Rebels on their crazy plan (seen above)
- Edrio Two Tubes, named after the tubes he uses to breathe. He and his partner Benthic work with Saw Gerrera to fight against the Empire after their planet is taken over.
Almost every Star Wars movie introduces new planets and Rogue One is no different:
- Scarif, a gorgeous beach planet that also happens to be the main construction planet for the Empire. It’s protected by a huge shield, the gateway to which plays a part in the film’s huge space battle.
- Jedha, a desert planet that is one of the first places that explored the Force. Now it’s kind of a religious mecca for Force believers, but the Empire controls it.
- Lah’mu, the rain-soaked planet the Ersos escape to early in Jyn’s life.
- Eadu, a dark planet we don’t know much about at the moment, other than that it’s the scene of a major battle in the film.
Yeah, the Death Star is in the movie, obviously, but Yavin 4 is also in the movie. You know Yavin 4 as the lush forest moon the Rebels have their secret base on in A New Hope. Because Rogue One runs up so close to that film, the Rebels are already stationed there.
A Star Wars movie is also defined largely by its spaceships. namely X-Wings, TIE and Fighters. But Rogue One us introducing several unique spins on these classics:
- The U-Wing, a Rebel ship used to transport and dropoff Troops, that gets its name from the wings that star in a “U” shape, but can swivel around into an “A” shape.
- The TIE Striker, a sleeker version of the classic TIE Fighter used specifically to patrol large scale operations.
- The AT-ACT, a larger version of the AT-AT you recognize from The Empire Strikes Back that’s used for transporting heavy loads.
- Krennic’s Imperial Shuttle, a dark, highly specialized ship used by the Director to move around the galaxy
- Combat Assault Tank, an Imperial tank used for ground combat in tight quarters that we’ve seen on Jedha in the trailers.
- The Ghost from Star Wars Rebels—or a ship that looks a lot like it—may make a brief appearance.
Most people will go into see Rogue One and just let the story roll over them. However, for anyone who wants more back story before, or after, the book Catalyst has it for you. Written by James Luceno, Cataylist: A Rogue One Novel expands on the relationship between Galen Erso and Orson Krennic, one we’ll see move forward in the film. You can read a bunch more details and spoilers here.
When Rogue One is over, odds are you won’t be seeing these characters in live-action again. Mostly because the sequel to this film, the story of the good the stolen plans do, is Episode IV: A New Hope. Think about it. Without Jyn and her team stealing the plans, R2-D2 wouldn’t have landed on Tatooine. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru would still be alive and Luke Skywalker would be a moisture farmer, not a Jedi Knight responsible for defeating the Empire.
“Many Bothans died to give us this information.” That’s a line Mon Mothma, who is in Rogue One, delivers in Return of the Jedi. It’s true she’s referring to a set of Death Star plans that have been stolen, but those are for the second Death Star. The one built after Luke Skywalker blows this one up. So that’s a whole other story.
You may think this is a joke, but I’ve had lots of people ask me if the new Star Wars movie coming out on December 16 is the sequel to The Force Awakens. It’s not. That’s coming a year from now. And I sincerely doubt we’ll even be getting an Episode VIII teaser in front of Rogue One, so don’t hold your breath to see anything from the next main Star Wars movie just yet.