What's the deal with Rogue One: a Star Wars Story?
Early last week, Disney/Lucasfilm released a trailer for their upcoming (December 16, 2016) entry in the Star Wars saga: Rogue One. If you're confused as to where, exactly, this movie falls in the Star Wars timeline, you are not alone. We just saw The Force Awakens, which takes place roughly 30 years after Return of the Jedi, this past December...wouldn't the next Star Wars movie take place after that one? Not necessarily. Let's take a step back.
Shared universes for everyone!
Ever since Marvel launched their cinematic universe in 2008 with Iron Man it has been the dream of every studio head to have their own successful multi-film, expansive franchise. While this isn't a completely new idea (Universal had their shared monster universe in the 30's) Marvel has successfully done this in the 21st century, leading to an acquisition by Disney and billions of dollars in movie ticket sales. DC has recently launched their own cinematic universe with Man of Steel and the more recent Batman V Superman and Universal is launching a new monster universe, debuting with the Tom Cruise-led reboot of The Mummy (resetting the series that started with the 1999 Brendan Fraser film).
So what does this have to do with Star Wars?
The whole reason we are seeing new Star Wars movies is due to Disney's $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012. Obviously, Disney had plans to continue the episodic saga we all know and love, but the icing on the cake was the Mouse's choice to bring the shared universe concept working so well with Marvel, to Star Wars.
Here's how it works so far: Disney has announced/confirmed the three next 'episodic' films. This began with this past December's Force Awakens and will continue with the currently untitled Episode VIII in December 2017, and eventually Episode IX. Because making Star Wars is more or less printing money at this point, I would put money on the saga continuing beyond Episode IX.
Along with those episodic titles, Disney has announced three spin-off movies that take place in the Star Wars universe but are under no obligation to include characters we know or go in chronological order with the main stories. This is Disney/Lucasfilm's chance to broaden the Star Wars universe and explore different tones in their films.
Enter Rogue One
Rogue One is the first of these spin-off movies (branded with the "a Star Wars Story" subtitle). This particular film takes places immediately prior to the original 1977 Star Wars. If you recall, that film begins with Darth Vader capturing Princess Leia in the search for the Death Star plans stolen by the Rebel Alliance. Rogue One will tell the story of the group of rebels that stole those plans.
The trailer for this movie is exciting to me not only because it is more Star Wars, but because it backs up what Lucasfilm has been saying about these spin-off movies all along. They are exploring new tones and genres within the Star Wars universe and, in the case of Rogue One have been purposeful in crafting a war movie. Rogue One director Gareth Edwards is known for his recent Godzilla remake and has been vocal about bringing a more gritty, grounded feel to the film, achieved with the help of some of the same people that worked on movies like Zero Dark Thirty and Saving Private Ryan.
Rogue One is an important movie for Disney/Lucasfilm. As the first 'Star Wars story' spin-off, it will be interesting to see how the company markets this film to distinguish from the main saga, but at the end of the day I think audiences will respond well to more of what they love. If $4 billion ever sounded like a bargain, it sure does now that Disney has started to see the money come in from The Force Awakens.