How Will ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Be Different?

Nick Nunziata
Movies Star Wars
Movies Star Wars

There is so little information out there on Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that speculation is the only tool we have. But we’ve been paying attention to the clues out there and everything seems to be pointing towards the first installment in the “Anthology” series pushing the idea of Star Wars into new cinematic territory.


One of the main criticisms lobbed at Star Wars: The Force Awakens is how it firmly adheres to the formula of the Original Trilogy. Some have even called it a remake. A simple explanation for those similarities can be summed up as follows: J.J. Abrams and Co. needed to restore balance to the Force. Regardless of your attitude towards the Prequel Trilogy, the fact is plain and simple that ever since the 1997 arrival of the Special Editions the identity of the franchise has been changing. Not only does the overwhelming majority of today’s genre audiences not remember seeing A New Hope in theaters, but whatever hook it was that initially kicked off their love for the series has faded. One of the many requisite repercussions of the latest film was to restore faith in the spirit of the Original Trilogy. Another was to create a foundation where there was a sense of security. Familiarity breeds security and thusly The Force Awakens echoed the films which came before, though oftentimes tweaking it enough so that it had its own life. The film has been pretty successful, by the way.

The foundation has been set and the playground has been created for the likes of Edwards, Rian Johnson, Colin Trevorrow, Christopher Miller, and Phil Lord to take it to exciting new places. Everything out there indicates that Edwards is making great strides towards creating a film with a look and feel all its own.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be darker in tone than any Star Wars film before it. The choice of Edwards ensures it. Each selection has been very well-planned, including the “creative differences” which ultimately removed filmmaker Josh Trank from the equation. Abrams and his broadly appealing sensibilities and ability to deliver a polished and vital jolt to restore franchises was a perfect choice. It’s because of these decisions that the dominoes now fall. Johnson has already teased a weird and crazy Episode VIII, but before that must come the tale of the theft of the Death Star plans. In some ways, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a less risky project than Edwards’ last — the American Godzilla film. A film no one was asking for and a very expensive gamble that happened to pay off and help launch the Skull Island franchise.

Free of the restrictions of moving forward the saga of the Jedi Knights and the very particular Star Wars meld of wipes, intercutting of action from different galaxies, and juggling a diverse group of intergalactic characters, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story can be intimate. Gritty. Raw. It can embrace genres not associated with Star Wars.

Star Wars: Rogue One L to R: Actors Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley ©Lucasfilm 2016

Let’s have our experts chime in.

Carl Cunningham is one of the most reliable and enduring voices in the world of Star Wars fandom and he shared a little bit of information on the project with us:

The idea of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story started from the mind of ILMer John Knoll. It was more than simply the idea to show how the original Death Star plans were stolen. He actually applied some interesting high-concept as well: It’s essentially a heist movie set in the Star Wars universe, with all of the requisite twists and turns. But it’s also a more raw war film than we’ve ever seen from the franchise before.

Knoll shared the idea to Lucasfilm co-workers for a while without really taking it too seriously. Shortly after Kathleen Kennedy took over, he was encouraged to pitch it to her. A meeting was scheduled between the two wherein Knoll explained his ideas for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Kennedy essentially greenlit the project on the spot.

Gareth Edwards was always the #1 choice to direct. Kennedy wanted someone who can put together a raw, gritty movie that focuses on character but also has some heart.

There will be absolutely no Jedi in the film. Obi-Wan and Yoda are in hiding, so this makes sense. However, Edwards is taking that even further and making the absensce of the Jedi a huge part of the movie’s setting. The idea is that this is the galaxy at the nadir of despair and with almost no hope left. This promises to not only affect the movie tonally, but also will put emphasis on its specific cast of characters and their role in the story.

Many insiders promise that “this is the movie that will put the wars in Star Wars.” It’s not a coincidence that a lot of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story crew previously worked on films such as Black Hawk Down.

Edwards is actually shooting the movie digitally, which is in contrast to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Episode VIII, both of which used film stock. However, Edwards is still hewing to a much more grounded, practical look overall. Lots of big sets, props and actual costumes (including the return of actors wearing the iconic Stormtrooper armor first seen in 1977). The aesthetic will be a cross between the Original Trilogy with more modern FX wrapped around a more visceral war movie. But there will still be lots of fun. Have I mentioned it’s also a heist film?

There’s a lot to take from that. A heist film? A war film? No Jedi? That’s tangible proof that the “Anthology” series is a blank canvas for storytellers and it’s hard not to salivate at the prospects of what Lord and Miller, two men known for extremely funny movies, are going to do with their Han Solo film.

Mike “Cavalier One” Delaney, author of our 12 Wildest Fan Theories About ‘The Force Awakens’ had this to offer:

“Tonally, I think Rogue One is going to be somewhat darker; almost like the “gritty reboot” of Star Wars that the main films can never been. Probably less humor than The Force Awakens, and it will be interesting to see how they cope with not being able to rely on any returning characters at all (with the possible exception of Darth Vader and/or Tarkin if rumors are to be believed). While they are building in the same sandbox, they are effectively starting afresh.”

Our insider at the bottom of this piece drops some news that we may be seeing some characters other than Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin, which makes the wait even that much more excruciating.

Brian Linder, author of our What To Expect in Episode VIII had this to offer:

If the teaser shown to fans at last year’s Star Wars Celebration (easily found online) is any indication, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be more gritty than the mainline Star Wars saga films. It concludes with the distorted audio of what sounds like Rebel troops screaming over a radio in battle.

Consider the filmography of director Gareth Edwards, who directed (but didn’t write — whew!) the 2014 Godzilla reboot, which had copious thrills and chills. His 2010 breakout flick, Monsters, is filled with tense dramatic moments and startling payoffs.

Brian is absolutely right. I’m a big fan of Edwards’ Godzilla, but it’s really Monsters that serves as a barometer for the balance and elegance he’s capable of bringing to the Star Wars universe.


Our contributor Travis Newton’s take:

“Godzilla showed us that Gareth Edwards, like J.J. Abrams, has that Spielberg eye. But he uses it differently than J.J. does. There’s more grit, less gloss. Expect a Star Wars film that might not look or feel like any other.

This will be a Jedi-free story, so don’t expect to hear anything about The Force. Also, expect that these characters will have a different understanding and perspective on the galaxy and its politics.

Expect environments to be less fantastical than those we’ve seen in previous films.

Don’t expect the snappy humor of The Force Awakens.

Drew Dietsch, author of our Five Things ‘Episode VIII’ Needs To Explain had this to offer:

Rogue One is the riskiest Star Wars story that’s been told up to this point. This will be the first film that isn’t part of an ongoing trilogy, it looks to be decidedly darker in tone (the appointment of Godzilla director Gareth Edwards and the single released still indicates it will at least be grimier), and it’s treading into that most dangerous of Star Wars territories: It’s a prequel. It’ll be interesting to see how audiences will react to a Star Wars film that’s such a gamble in terms of tone and narrative, but that’s what also makes it exciting. The casting alone is reason enough to have your interest thoroughly peaked, and the idea of a Star Wars story that might be a little more morally grey is thrilling. There’s no doubt that Disney is giving Star Wars a shot at being something both expansive and versatile, and Rogue One will be the first indication if such an experiment could work. Above all, it sounds a heck of a lot more interesting than a prequel about a young Han Solo.

Notice a trend? Here’s the real juicy part.

An insider had this delicious information to add:

The film will also include use of minor characters from elsewhere in the new Star Wars canon. It’s hinted that a younger Lor San Tekka (the character played by Max Von Sydow in Star Wars: The Force Awakens) will have a role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as well as cameos from more well-known Star Wars favorites (Darth Vader, anyone?). Also, don’t be surprised if the Rebels animated series ties in here as well.


Lor San Tekka is a hugely exciting possibility. Even in the novelization for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Von Sydow’s character alludes to considerable intimacy with General Leia Organa and Han Solo, but there’s precious little to go on. To see some of the seeds of that relationship take root would be an exciting addition, especially considering that the character lives at least 30 years past the events of the Original Trilogy and could be ripe territory for future stories. Some free advice to the filmmakers: Hire Stellan Skarsgård to play the young version of Lor San Tekka.

The one consistent takeaway from all of these lifelong fans of Star Wars is that for the first time ever the cinematic incarnation of the franchise is spreading its wings.

Only 11 months to go!

Nick Nunziata
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