It won’t be long now. Ever since Star Wars: The Force Awakens signaled a new era for the saga, fans have been excited to see what the future may hold. Sure, we might have another year to wait to find out who Rey’s parents really are, but in the meantime, director Gareth Edwards will be turning the spotlight to a time just before the original Star Wars film. His film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will look at the story behind the mission to obtain the Death Star, a plan that set off Luke Skywalker’s involvement in the Galactic Civil War to begin with. [Update, 10/13/16: Added second full-length trailer, above.]
Rogue One introduces a mostly new cast of rebels — led by Felicity Jones’s Jyn Erso — who are assembled to find out the truth behind the Empire’s ultimate weapon. However, just because the film will feature lots of new faces, doesn’t mean that the first standalone Star Wars film is ignoring all the history that has come before it. In fact, several returning faces are already confirmed to be appearing in Rogue One. After all, it is set remarkably close to the original trilogy. So the opportunity to tap into that connective tissue is certainly rich. Let’s delve into which characters we will be seeing when Rogue One hits theaters on December 16.
Sadly, it doesn’t appear that big bad Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) will be making an appearance in Rogue One (barring a surprise cameo, of course). Yet, his trusted apprentice is already confirmed to play a role, though the exact nature or how much Darth Vader we’ll see remains unknown. Thankfully, James Earl Jones is back onboard to lend his unforgettable pipes to the Dark Lord of the Sith, and even if Vader isn’t actually on-screen that much, we imagine the shadow he will cast over the film will loom large. We wouldn’t expect anything less from one of cinema’s all-time great villains.
Jimmy Smits may not be the biggest movie star on the planet. Still, the NYPD Blue star did wrangle a supporting role in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as Leia’s adoptive dad and leader of Alderaan. Seeing as the timeline for Rogue One chronologically places it after those films, it makes sense that Smits would be the right man to reprise the role for the new film. His character was central in helping Obi-Wan and Yoda escape Order 66, and we already know his family plays a key role in the Rebel Alliance. So we can only assume that’s exactly how he’ll fit into Rogue One — as an ally to the rebels on their quest.
All but hardcore fans may have missed the appearance by this senior member of the Rebel Alliance in Revenge of the Sith, since most of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, actress Genevieve O’Reilly reprises the role here — as seen in the film’s trailer — to recruit Jyn into the Rebel Alliance. O’Reilly has been the first actress to play the part since Caroline Blakiston in Return of the Jedi, and Rogue One is wise to use this opportunity to flesh Mon Mothma out a bit more and reaffirm her role of authority in the rebellion.
Oscar-winning actor, Forest Whitaker will play the first live-action version of this war-torn soldier, but hardcore Star Wars fans will remember that Saw Gerrera already exists within the recognized canon. The character played a key role in a multiple-episode arc of Star Wars: The Clone Wars in Season 5, where he fought alongside Anakin Skywalker.
Whitaker takes the character to the big-screen in a far more cynical fashion. Saw Gerrera’s speech regarding the stakes of their mission and the might of the Empire lend the film’s trailer a menacing quality that has only increased fans’ hopes that Rogue One will be something special.
This one isn’t a single character, but stormtrooper uniforms have long been among the most popular bit of iconography in the saga. Though they have taken numerous forms over the years and throughout the films, Rogue One marks a return to the original design that fans know and love from A New Hope, allowing the saga to acknowledge its roots even as it breaks new ground in expanding its own mythology.
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