On Thursday, the four day Star Wars Celebration convention kicked off with J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy unleashing the second teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VII. You may have seen it.
Tucked into the last day of scheduling was a panel with directors Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank to discuss the future of the Star Wars franchise, with the greedy assumption that we would get something about Rogue One or Trank’s mystery spin-off. The latter didn’t happen: Trank was under the weather and didn’t show (but he did show us the first glimpse of Dr. Doom in his forthcoming Fantastic Four reboot).
But we definitely got some information about Rogue One, the first in what is described as Star Wars “Anthology Films,” by Lucasfilm overlord Kathleen Kennedy. The use of the term is mostly just marketing spin, and trying to avoid the word spin-off, sequel, or what have you, as near as I can tell. Star Wars is so big they want their own word for that. With the Anthology films, they wanted to explore Star Wars as a place, “wanted freedom to do films that stand on own, tell unique stories, [that can] vary in scale, genre and introduce new characters or new places,” Kathleen Kennedy’s right hand woman Kiri Hart explained. And for these films, they want “emergent, young directing talent,” those whose very careers were inspired by Star Wars.
Enter Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and some intel on his movie.
- After a ping-pong of BS/fake-outs between Edwards and moderator Pablo Hidalgo (StarWars.com), we finally got some “footage” of Rogue One, made by the folks at ILM. We see a forested planet, a screaming TIE fighter overhead, heading toward…a Death Star, looming in the sky. While we see this, we’re blanketed by a silky Obi-Wan Kenobi voice-over: “Before the dark times, before the Empire…the Jedi, for more than a thousand generations, brought peace and justice to the Old Republic.” But now they’re no more, and after glimpsing the Death Star, we cut to the Rogue One titles, and then a jumble of loud combat communications that crescendo into static, before revealing the release date: December 2016.
- Rogue One‘s synopsis: A group of Rogue Squadron pilots embark on a daring mission to steal Death Star plans and bring a new hope to the galaxy.
- Rogue One will take place after Episode 3, but before Episode 4 (and closer to A New Hope, Edward’s favorite film of all-time).
- Edwards: The “absence of Jedi hangs over whole movie. [It] comes down to a group of individuals without magical powers, who have to somehow bring hope to the galaxy.”
- The tone: “Real. Realism. Real place…Very real. Subjective.” Do you get that Edwards wants this movie to feel real? I get the sense that this is the gritty/DC universe version of Star Wars, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.
- Star Wars has been about the black and white of Good and Evil, “our movie is about the gray” before the polarized black and white.
- Felicity Jones is a rebel soldier and still the only announced cast member. But it’s definitely an ensemble movie. 2/1 odds Jon Bernthal has a role.
- The crew is an assemblage of the some of the very best in the industry, including DP/Cinematographer Greig Fraser, known for Zero Dark Thirty. Others have Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan on their resumes. This is a “war picture.” It’s called “Star Wars,” Edwards points out.
- John Knoll, a legendary member of ILM (and the man who created Photoshop), is the one who pitched the story to Kathleen Kennedy and got the ball rolling.
For now, that’s all we know about Rogue One. But it’s a considerable amount more than we did before Anaheim’s edition of Star Wars Celebration.