It’s the “Star Wars” film that isn’t a “Star Wars” film. But it is a “Star Wars” story.
Confused about “Rogue One”? That's OK. It’s easy to be. In explaining what “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is, it’s just as important to say what it isn’t.
It is the first of the new anthology films meant to “stand alone” in the “Star Wars” universe.
But it is not a sequel to last year’s eagerly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The sequel to “Force Awakens” – which will mark the return of young Rey, conflicted antagonist Ren and Jedi Master Luke Skywalker – won’t arrive for another year and will have “Episode VIII” attached to its title.
[Gallery: "Star Wars" - movie by movie]
“Rogue” is not the start of a new “Star Wars” trilogy. In fact, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has gone on record as saying the anthology films will “very definitely have a beginning, middle and end.”
And there will not be a sequel made to “Rogue One.” As visual effects supervisor John Knoll puts it: It already has a sequel and it’s called “Star Wars Episode IV.”
That’s right. If it is anything, “Rogue One” is the prequel to the original “Star Wars.” Set between Episodes III and IV, its plot outline is literally taken from the iconic crawl of the original film:
“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…”
So let’s set the scene by going back to “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” where we witnessed the decimation of the Jedi, the rise of the Empire and the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader. Twin infants Luke and Leia were separated for their protection, their father not knowing of their birth. Key image: Vader and the Emperor looking at a skeletal Death Star.
Fast-forward to “Episode IV: A New Hope,” which takes place about 19 years later. We know from the crawl that rebel spies have successfully stolen the Death Star plans and they are with Princess Leia – who will give them to R2-D2 to get to Obi-Wan, etc.
[Gallery: Meet the characters of "Rogue One"]
“Rogue One” will fill us in on what happened between those films, including how the rebels got the plans and at what cost. It will be with a full slate of new characters who will only be in this film, so don’t get attached to them.
But we can take comfort in knowing there’s at least one familiar (masked) face that will return. It’s not “Star Wars” or even a faux “Star Wars” if you don’t have Darth Vader.