March 16, 2016
Towards the end of 2015 I began to withdraw from much of the Internet to avoid Episode VII spoilers (a good decision), the side effect being that I also ignored the various Rogue One tidbits coming my way. This update serves to rectify that on one hand, on the other there’s very little in the way of real spoilers (unless my wild guesses turn out to be correct for once). Which, again, I am happy with.
Go here for official news and cast photograph!: http://www.starwars.com/films/rogue-one
Rogue One: a Star Wars Story takes place some time before the events of A New Hope. It looks to be partly a heist film, the main plot involving the stolen Death Star plans that Leia eventually hid away in R2-D2, and partly a war film exploring “grey” morality. It’s one of the three planned “A Star Wars Story” movies (previously called the Anthologies), which are expected to be self-contained stories unlike the cliffhanger/conclusion episodes we’re used to. It’s not clear to me when exactly this will take place except that it’s closer to IV than III. It may well take place over a number of months or years, and my guess is end with the Death Star plans being handed over to (unseen?) Senator Leia Organa aboard the Tantive IV.
The cast is quite diverse overall even though there aren’t many women: British actors Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler), Jonathan Aris (Sherlock), and Eunice Olumide (World War Z); Mexican actor Diego Luna (Milk); Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises); Chinese actors Donnie Yen (Ip Man) and Jiang Wen (Let the Bullets Fly); American actors Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and Alan Tudyk (Wreck-It Ralph); and Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale).
This will be the first live action Star Wars film not scored by John Williams. The “new” guy is Greek-French composer Alexandre Desplat, who has already done beautiful work on many successful films including the last two installments of the Harry Potter series (which were also first scored by Williams).
See this link for more about the cast and crew: http://www.starwars.com/news/rogue-one-the-daring-mission-has-begun-cast-and-crew-announced
Empire Online has said that Jonathan Aris will play a senator, Mads Mikkelsen will not play a villain, and more: http://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/rogue-one-star-wars-story-briefing/
Felicity Jones will apparently be the lead, but it’s a little painful how she stands out in that cast photograph. Are there too many blokes, or is she really that beautiful? Why is Riz Ahmed the only one keeping himself busy? I think he’s fixing a barometer. And what is that giant grenade in the back? The stone background could even be the temple on Yavin IV, and I believe there will be a tropical location in the film (see below). It may be difficult to see the “Star Wars” in this photo (no obvious aliens, droids, or starships) but I am enjoying the rough aesthetic. It’s clear that they’re going for a somewhat different genre but we still see the “used universe” that Lucas created in his original trilogy.
Jones’s character is rumored to be named “Jyn.” If so, it looks like they are continuing the tradition of relatively simplistic names (Finn, Rey, Poe) that are easy to transcribe into other languages.
Interestingly, Diego Luna’s jacket is where I first saw the “Star Wars.” Dark blue with yellow ribbing is just like Mara Jade’s jacket in Mysteries of the Sith, which was itself based on Luke’s gold jacket in the medal ceremony at the end of A New Hope. Meanwhile, the furred part resembles Han’s (and other Rebels’) winter coats in Empire Strikes Back. Based on this alone, I’m going to guess that Diego Luna’s character has been to Hoth (again, see below on location filming). There’s no reason the Rebels couldn’t have scouted the location long before they actually put a base there. I’m not assuming Luna is playing a Rebel of course. A typical story may have him be a bounty hunter in a triangle with Rebel soldier Jones and someone else. As always I’m not against re-using old tropes as long as they are done well and never cheaply.
Alan Tudyk will play a motion-captured character (I hope for a cool alien). He is known for playing Wash in Firefly but has done plenty of voice work in Disney films, and I look forward to seeing what he can do with CG.
Donnie Yen looks 100% like a martial artist here and his eyes look odd in the picture, so I wonder if he will play some sort of “blind warrior” archetype and also partially replace the role that the Jedi usually take in Star Wars. Bonus points if his staff is in fact a vibroblade. Triple points if his eyes are cybernetic implants.
Olumide has said she plays a rebellion leader but has no lines. This is doubly disappointing as I was hoping for another Scottish pirate like Bala-Tik: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/what-s-on/film/rogue-one-eunice-olumide-to-be-immortalised-as-star-wars-toy-1-4021278
Lastly, what might all of these people in the picture have in common? They might not all be Rebels, though they may all play a part in the procurement of the Death Star plans. The best theory I have heard is that every last one of them will be killed by Darth Vader, that they will probably each die in a different way (Force choke, shot by TIE fighter, etc.), and that Donnie Yen’s melee weapon-wielding character will be among the last to go after a courageous final fight with Vader. Very dark, as would befit a war movie. At least we would know they didn’t die in vain.
Non-studio filming locations include Iceland, Jordan, and the Maldives. The latter, along with pictures of a film set, suggest there will be a tropical location: http://makingstarwars.net/2015/08/first-photos-of-stormtroopers-on-set-from-star-wars-anthology-rogue-one/
More information about the recent (current?) Maldives filming: http://www.haveeru.com.mv/entertainment/64417
I’d love to see new planets, but I’m always holding out hope for the volcanic world of Sullust. I had wondered about it when I first heard that The Force Awakens also filmed in Iceland, but it seems that the snowy environment there was used instead. Maybe this time?
The official United States release date is December 16, 2016. Nine more months!