Well, what a first day. Star Wars: Celebration has hit London, and we couldn’t be happier to be attending what ranks among the biggest gathering of like-minded fans in the world.
For many, the focus was on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first film to branch off from the regular sagas taking place in a galaxy far, far away.
Compered by the always brilliant Gwendoline Christie (that reminds us: more Captain Phasma next time!), and joined initially by director Gareth Edwards, producer and Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy, co-producer Kiri Hart and ILM chief creative officer (and Rogue One co-writer John Knoll), the stage was set for a truly unforgettable hour. Here are the best bits…
1) Rogue One was originally an episode of Star Wars: Underworld
Although the abandoned live-action series wasn’t mentioned by name, it was interesting what John Knoll referred to when asked about the origins of the idea for the story: “This started about 13 years ago when we were shooting Episode III in Sydney, and I’d heard that George [Lucas] and [producer] Rick [McCallum] were developing this live-action TV series, and I got to thinking about what sort of fun stories we might be able to tell in that episodic format. I started playing around with this idea drawn from the opening crawl of [A New Hope], this sort of Mission: Impossible-style spy mission to steal the Death Star plans.” To accompany this, a pic of original concept art for the series was shown (see above).
2) The new planets have names
While Rogue One will showcase returns to some familiar locales (hello, Yavin IV), there will be at least two new planets, both of which now have names: first, there’s the beach planet of Scarif (where most of the battles take place) and Jedha, an occupied world that is also the home of Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang)
3) Cassian Andor has a cross to bear
Previously seen shooting loaded glances at Jyn, it turns out they have a shared history. “He works for the Rebellion, for Intelligence, and the team starts off being just the two of them – Jyn and Cassian – but as the story continues the team grows,” says actor Diego Luna, “and like any time there’s frictions and issues, and it’s Cassian who has to keep them together.” Interestingly, Luna, will play host to arguably the most interesting dynamic in the movie. “One of the most import members of the team is an Imperial droid who has been reprogrammed by the Rebellion… he’s probably the best friend Cassian has in the Rebellion… or the only one.”
4) K2SO isn’t quite all there
It’s hard to pick a star of the show, but if we were pressed, Alan Tudyk would be up there. Even though we didn’t see a lot of his CGI droid, it was far more than the next to nothing we’d had previously. We knew he was a reprogrammed Imperial droid, although there’s more to him than that. “Cassian [Andor, Diego Luna’s character] reprogrammed him and did a data wipe, and he’s not quite all there,” revealed Tudyk. “He speaks his mind and he says things that can be unsettling. He says whatever he thinks. If you know any old people it’s like that.” Even so, there’ll still be plenty of comic relief from him, if the still-hilarious clip of him dropping Jyn’s bags is anything to go by.
5) It’s very much a Gareth Edwards movie
With trench warfare, close-up explosions and some of the grittiest scenes we’ve seen from a Lucasfilm production, Rogue One really puts the ‘Wars’ in Star Wars – and it’s all down to Edwards, who Kathleen Kennedy credits for giving it “a style that’s unlike just about every other Star Wars movie… He puts the camera on his shoulder for just about every shot, this is going to be an incredible immersive experience.”
6) There could be more to Galen Erso than meets the eye
While we knew beforehand that Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) was Jyn’s father, and that he was apparently in some way involved with the Death Star, Mikkelsen managed to be suitably cryptic, making us rethink what we thought we knew: “There are a lot of things revolving around him… he’s a scientist, and he at one point invented something so beautiful, so fantastic that it might change the universe.” Okay, the Death Star is a number of things, but beautiful? Each to his own we guess.
7) Jyn is unlike any other Star Wars protagonist
While there was always an undercurrent of mystery to the likes of Anakin, Luke, Leia and Rey – hell, even Han Solo was a bit of an enigma, despite all his bragging about the Kessel Run – Jyn comes in with her back story revealed: that of a troubled Rebel looking to strike back against the Empire. “Jyn isn’t asking, ‘Who am I and where do I come from?'” says Felicity Jones. “We know that about her, and that fact is what propels the story and is the beginning of Jyn’s journey to find out what her reason is and her course.”
8) Bodhi Rook is a secret Imperial
Gwendoline Christie was quick to point out the Imperial logo on Bodhi Rook’s uniform, although according to actor Riz Ahmed, fans can rest assured – this is no spoiler, and Rook is no traitor. “Well, you know, Bodhi is a pilot, and he works for the Empire to earn a living. People work at big organisations and they don’t agree with everything they do!” he says mischievously. “He’s questioning things, and the city he’s from is an occupied planet, and it’s the actions of the Empire over there that makes him question his career.”
9) Darth Vader is definitely in it.
Yes, we’d assumed as much already, but this was the first official confirmation, thanks to Gareth Edwards (although prompted by Christie). “I flew to New York to do a voiceover with a gentleman called [original voice actor] James Earl Jones” – cue much applause, before joking, “I can’t tell you what role he plays in the film.” It may have been a while, but Jones has lost none of his, erm, power. “There’s this one line where he said “POWER”, and we just looked at each other and had this nerdgasm,” recalls Edwards. “We were reduced to three-year olds – but we just looked back and went, ‘That was great, James.'”
10) Director Krennic is unlike any Star Wars villain you’ve seen
Stealing the show by swaggering in and out – complete with cape and Death Trooper entourage – before returning dressed in his civvies, Ben Mendolsohn caps off what is already an incredible cast. While his description of Director Krennic is tinged with more than a little bit of wry humour (“he’s smarter than some of his predecessors; more inventive”), the sheer theatricality of it all has got us excited. Roll on December.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be released in cinemas on 16 December 2016. You can download Star Wars: Expanded Universe – The Complete Manual from GreatDigitalMags.com, and watch our video review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens now. For all the latest Star Wars news, pick up the new issue of SciFiNow.