If you aren’t excited or even “just” looking forward to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I have no issue at all calling you a total nut ball. It may be the complete fanboy in me or a little thing called common sense, but the first ever Star Wars spinoff is looking like something we’ve been waiting quite a while for in the galaxy far, far away. While some may joke around about the idea of Star Wars and its “hokey religions,” Rogue One is actually the opposite of that, as it features no Jedi mind tricks.
We’ve met Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso and her band of Rebels, we’ve met Ben Mendolsohn’s villain Director Orson Irenic, and even gotten those oh so sweet glimpses of the long-waited return of the Lord himself, Darth Vader. Now, thanks to Entertainment Weekly and their latest issue which covers everything on the Gareth Edwards film, we now have a better look at the buzzing world of planets, characters, and ships that will be operating around said characters above.
Below you’ll be able to meet some new characters, each with a little bit of backstory, hear the names of new planets, information on the Space Gate that’s been around in the most recent footage, as well as a number of images that will continue to grow that nerdgasm of yours until the film is released next month. All of the images are truly fantastic shots, but my favorites are those of the X-Wings in battle, more specifically the one with the Shield Gate directly below it. The Shield Gate, and an entire forcefield around the planet for that matter, is quite interesting. Although the description says the planet is basically a military compound for the Empire, the Emperor isn’t that straight forward. What else is down there? Will we find out? Do the Rebels know? So many questions to answer in less than a month…
After taking a long, hard look at each image (and description), head down to the comments and let us know your thoughts on every bit and piece you dissected. Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits every theater near you on December 16th, 2016.
At the center of the story is Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones), an outlaw who becomes a key agent for the struggling alliance of Rebels. Here, we see her and pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) in a familiar Star Wars scene — a gathering around a briefing room to discuss the plan of attack. But she is surrounded by new faces: Senator Jebel (Jonathan Aris, of Sherlock) in red and grey; Senator Vaspar (Fares Fares, of Tyrant and Zero Dark Thirty) in blue; and Senator Pamlo (Sharon Duncan-Brewster, EastEnders and Bad Girls) in gold. In the foreground with her back to the camera is the leader of these leaders: Mon Mothma, played by Genevieve O’Reilly (Glitch) who is reprising the role from the prequels.
Diego Luna, right, plays Captain Cassian Andor, a veteran spy for the Rebellion who has a network of contacts throughout the galaxy who help him keep eyes and ears on the activities of the Empire. Andor is like a CIA field agent, and this man, Tivik, played by Daniel Mays (The Infiltrator, Atonement) is one of his underworld connections to the insurgent group led by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). “He is one of Cassian’s contacts on the moon of Jedha,” says co-producer John Swartz.
Look who’s back. The man in black. With the Empire at peak strength, so is Darth Vader (again voiced by James Earl Jones.) But this time he is a threat not just to the Rebels but to Imperial special weapons director Orson Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn.) “There are military men who are interested in a really effective piece of military hardware, and Darth Vader is a little bit beyond that, right?” says Kiri Hart, Lucasfilm’s head of story development. “He’s tapped into something on another level, on a spiritual level. So, that’s part of the fun of Vader in the context of the Imperial Military. He’s got a broader perspective.”
Krennic has a lot to prove. The Emperor has invested a great deal in the Death Star, and it has taken much longer than expected to develop. Vader is the enforcer, responsible for spurring it along, but he harbors doubts — not just about the planet-destroying laser, but about the man who is responsible for perfecting it. “Here is the thing about Krennic: his perspective obviously is that of a person who doesn’t understand the Force,” says Hart. “And Darth Vader comes at everything from the perspective of understanding the Force. So that I think is the thing that you see sort of separating Darth Vader from other characters with regards to a super weapon like this.”
Krennic has a long history with Jyn Erso’s father, Galen (played by Mads Mikkelsen), a scientist who is an expert at manipulating kyber crystals — which are the key element in the making of a lightsaber blade. They were once friends, and Krennic sponsored his research and protected his family. But the Imperial weapons chief sent his Deathtrooper commandos to capture Galen when he fled to avoid working on their weapon of planetary destruction. This is the world the Ersos retreated to: Lah’mu.
“It’s meant to be a fairly secluded world,” says Swartz. “We shot it in Iceland, at a place where there’s beautiful black sand and green mountains poking through. The family went into hiding to a world where you wouldn’t normally have a farm, but that’s as far as they could get from Galen’s past life.”
It’s named after Laamu, one of the real-life tropical locations in the Maldives where Rogue One shot scenes for the planet Scarif. The filmmakers liked it so much, they named another world after it.
The wheel-shaped space station that an X-wing squadron is attacking is the Shield Gate. The world below is Scarif, a tropical planet that’a one of the Empire’s key military-industrial complexes. The filmmakers describe it as a galactic Los Alamos, the top-secret desert town where scientists and engineers built the first nuclear bomb during World War II.
The Emperor built a giant wall around the whole world — in the form of an energy field. It’s meant to keep outsiders away, and the Empire’s top secrets locked away beneath. (Some fans have also comically referenced its similarity to a scene from Spaceballs, probably unintentional.)
In these shots, you see Rebel X-Wing fighters during the movie’s critical battle — attacking and breeching the space-station gateway as it skims the surface of the shield, opening a doorway into the planet’s atmosphere.
After an encounter on the storm-stricken world of Eadu, Jyn Erso rides aboard a starship with two key members of her commando squad: the blind, Force-faithful warrior monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and his pal and protector, the machine-gunner Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). Rogue One is crafted as an extreme underdog story, with the Rebels outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered and outplanned.
“In many ways, the Rebels don’t have a leg to stand on,” Jones tells EW. “They’re a motley crew, they all have had difficult backgrounds. They’re all outsiders in some way, and they’re coming together to fight something far bigger than them, more efficient. The Empire is wealthier, and it has everything the Rebels don’t, so the odds are definitely stacked against them.”
The U-wing is a new Rebel starship in the galaxy, but it’s made up of pieces of familiar ones. The cockpit is similar to one from the Y-wing bombers, the engines are straight off of an X-wing, and the front-facing pronged wings are reminiscent of the Jedi Interceptor from the Star Wars prequels. “Our conceit is that the U-wing came from the same factory that was manufacturing X-wings,” says John Knoll, an executive producer and visual-effects supervisor for Rogue One, who also pitched the original story. “It’s just like if you look at cars from one [automaker], you see design themes carried across multiple different product lines.”
Rebel Marines, preparing for battle, their spirits stoked by the words of Jyn Erso, who has become their Joan of Arc-like leader. “What George [Lucas] did when he created in Princess Leia was make an incredibly dynamic, funny, strong female character,” says Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. “So he certainly laid the groundwork for that and I think it’s imperative that we carry that forward.”
Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook, a pilot from the Force-sacred world of Jedha who was conscripted into service by the Imperials before stealing away to join the Rebellion. He’s a character with a lot of anxiety and guilt, and deep agitation.” Bodhi was certainly not fully formed when I came on board,” says Ahmed (best known for Nightcrawler and The Night Of.) Rogue One director Gareth Edwards described him in terms of a frenetic survivor. “He talked to me about some kind of ideas he had. He spoke about Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now. He spoke about Dustin Hoffman in Papillon,” Ahmed says. And during the reshoots, Bodhi was one of the characters whose backstory was deepened to make for (hopefully) a deeper emotional resonance.
Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe is not a Jedi, not Force-sensitive in the way they were, but he does believe in the lost faith they followed. “Something that’s a very obvious departure on this picture is that we really have no Jedi,” Knoll says. “This takes place in a time that’s after the Jedi purge in Episode III and before Obi-Wan reemerges and starts training Luke, and before Yoda gets involved. So this is a dark time when things are very bleak and the Jedi have not come back.”
But there is still hope.
“In that era, there are still brave people who are doing heroic acts, who don’t have those Force powers, who still fight and die for the cause of good,” Knoll says. “And I think, I want to hear some of those stories. What are these people who are the more ordinary citizens of the galaxy who see outrageous acts occurring and feel like they have to take up arms against the status quo to, you know, fight for good.”
Director Gareth Edwards on set with Diego Luna and Felicity Jones. “Even though there’s a lot of pressure on this movie, it’s really impossible to feel it because it reminds you so much of when you grew up and when you felt most comfortable,” says Edwards, speaking from Skywalker Sound in Northern California, where he was tweaking the final audio mix earlier this month. “It’s hard to get intimidated when you can constantly look left and see a Stormtrooper or look right and see an X-Wing. It just feels like you’re at home again.”