How Does 'Rogue One' Connect to 'Episode VIII'?

Do the next two 'Star Wars' movies tie in with each other, despite being set decades apart?
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'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'

An infographic showing the ways in which this month's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story connects with other properties in the franchise has provoked speculation that there's more than meets the eye about the prequel to 1977's original Star Wars movie. Could there really be a hidden connection between Rogue One and next year's Star Wars: Episode VIII?

What caused the speculation was a timeline map of the Star Wars properties from Entertainment Weekly, which connects Gareth Edwards' upcoming movie not only with Star Wars: A New Hope and the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars — where the character of Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker in the movie, debuted — but also with 2017's Episode VIII, without any explanation.

It's possible that the red line connecting the two projects is a mistake, or merely an indicator of where Rogue One falls in the production timeline … or, alternatively, there's a chance that there really is some mythology connecting the two films.

Speaking cynically, this is a smart move: laying groundwork for the much-anticipated next installment of the "main saga" movies in the first of the stand-alone spinoffs signals to the audience that the Star Wars Story movies "matter" to the bigger picture, driving attendance. Building an interconnected universe of films where events in one can impact future (or past) events has been proven by Lucasfilm's Disney sibling Marvel to be a box-office winner, so tightening the relationship between the various Star Wars properties can only seem like a good decision.

But where could the connection be? There are multiple avenues for the Lucasfilm story group to follow once a decision has been made to draw Rogue One into the post-Force Awakens mythology: What if one of the members of the Rogue One team went on to be the parent to a character in the new main series movies? What if one of the characters is a character in the new main series movie? (Jyn, you're not Captain Phasma, are you …?) What if one of the Force Awakens characters is retroactively "introduced" in Rogue One?

There is, however, another possibility that was open to storytellers, if they wanted to use it: a character who's a presence in both Rogue One and the post-Force Awakens timeline — Darth Vader. Sure, he's dead in The Force Awakens, but Kylo Ren is there, studying his life and taking inspiration from his actions. What if there was something that Vader did early in his time as a Sith Lord that Kylo would then try to repeat in Episode VIII, with almost certainly disastrous results?

Vader is the obvious common thread between these two movies, if someone was looking to bring them together, with Kylo's fanboy-ish obsession for his grandfather offering an easy excuse for any hidden secrets to come to light three decades later. Whether that's actually what happens — or if there even is a connection between Rogue One and Episode VIII — is likely to remain a secret for two more weeks. All I hope is that, should there really be a tie-in between the movies, it's more than a post-credit sequence in which someone name-drops the Knights of Ren and winks at the audience.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be released Dec. 16.

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