1:50pm PT by Graeme McMillan
'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story': Everything Known (So Far)
Despite being surrounded by the cone of silence, there is actually a surprising amount of information out there about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ahead of its December release, if you know where to look. Warning: there will be spoilers ahead for the spinoff.
Admittedly, the official synopsis of the movie keeps things pretty vague when it comes to plot: "In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction," it explains. "This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves."
However, fans already know a fair amount of information about the "group of unlikely heroes." As revealed at July's Star Wars Celebration Europe, the leaders of the team are Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso — whose father, Galen, is a scientist who's of interest to both the Rebellion and the Empire because of an invention that is, in actor Mads Mikkelsen's words, "so beautiful, so fantastic, that it might change the universe" — and Diego Luna's Cassian Andor, a Rebellion intelligence officer who helps build the team.
The cast of characters also includes a reprogrammed Imperial droid (K2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk), an Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), a grizzled fighter who originally debuted in the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series (Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker; those interested in watching the character's early days should check out the episodes "A War On Two Fronts," "Front Runners," "The Soft War" and "Tipping Points"), a freelance assassin (Baze Malbus, played by Jiang Wen) and a devout believer in the Force (Chirrut Imwe, played by Donnie Yen).
Thanks to an accidental slip-up at Celebration, we might also know that Chirrut will die during the mission, leading to Baze being inspired to do… something "better," although quite what that is remains to be seen.
Chirrut and Baze are also important because of the planet they live on. Director Gareth Edwards told Entertainment Weekly that Jedha is "a place where people who believe in the Force would go on a pilgrimage" that has been taken over by the Empire for reasons that he refused to reveal… but Donnie Yen did. "Jedha is the planet where they use resources to build… to make lightsabers," he told Extra TV.
The Empire is represented in this movie not only by Ben Mendlesohn's Imperial director Orson Krennic, described by the actor as "smarter than most of his predecessors," but also Darth Vader, whose rumored appearance in the movie was confirmed in June. He'll be "looming in the background" while Krennic is trying to keep the Rebels from stealing the Death Star plans, according to sources.
Vader isn't the only familiar face who'll appear in the movie, which is set between the Prequel trilogy and original trilogy; the first trailer for the movie revealed the presence of Mon Mothma, who had previously appeared in 1983's Return of the Jedi, while actor Jimmy Smits has confirmed that he'll return as Princess Leia's adoptive father Bail Organa in a brief cameo.
And if that's not enough for you, bear in mind what the movie is about: the theft of the Death Star plans that incites the events of the original Star Wars back in 1977 — that movie opens with Vader and the Empire attacking Leia's ship in order to retrieve the plans, so it's clear that the Rebels definitely get their hands on them somehow … although whether or not Erso and her team survive beyond that is something that everyone will have to wait until the Dec. 16 release date to find out for sure.