WE’RE NOW just a couple of weeks away from the opening of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” on Dec. 16. And still, as it should be, more unknowns than answers remain.
Let’s tackle some of the more pressing questions:
1. Sure, “Rogue One” is a stand-alone story about a young Rebel warrior’s mission to stop an Imperial Death Star, but will its tone be similar to “The Force Awakens”? After all, it shares the same Disney lineage.
What most has our hopes raised for “Rogue One” is that it’s not yoked to the obligations of a franchise comeback the way “Force Awakens” was, nor the constraints of being in the main Star Wars story. As such, the “Rogue” filmmakers should be freer to take storytelling risks. And judging by the trailers, the tone will be darker and somewhat more “mature.” This could even create a new template for the Star Wars films, in which the textured humanity does not play second banana to the effects and space-opera scale.
2. Will we get old-school Darth Vader, or something new?
The imposing baritone of James Earl Jones makes a welcome return. But so much has changed technologically in recent decades, of course, that the prospect of a Darth for 21st-century viewers is cause for tempered anticipation. Imagine a Vader with modern effects and the contemporary choreography of battles — it could lack the charm of the lower-tech, “Flash Gordon” aesthetic of the ’70s and ’80s films. And there’s no guarantee that Vader will brandish a lightsaber in “Rogue.” Still, just the potential of a cutting-edge Sith heightens expectation.
3. “The Force Awakens” gave us Rey — a true action heroine, at last. Will the lead “Rogue” heroine, Jyn, play a similar role in this film?
If anything, Jyn (Felicity Jones) gets to be, even to a greater degree, the driving force of her film. “Force” had so many front-and-center characters to introduce, and reintroduce. Even if “Rogue” partly plays like a heist picture in the vein of “Ocean’s 11” and “12,” with a coordinated team of thieving members also stealing scenes, Jones appears to be the central Sinatra/Clooney of this Rebel pack. And Jyn, the troubled kid turned team player/warrior, has a keen awareness of The Force. She is key.
4. What will the other key players add?
Diego Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor appears to have some Han Solo-esque swag. Will he be a Jyn love interest, even as he tries to keep her on track with the rest of the team?
Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera is the a battle-worn vet who is heavily armed with advice and hope. Donnie Yen’s sightless Chirrut Îmwe seems to be strong with the Force.
And Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Orson Krennic, as our big new baddie, looks as though he would bleed for the Empire, yielding not even to Darth Vader.
5. Can’t anyone in the Star Wars universe just have “normal” parents?
Well, if you do, you might well turn out like Kylo Ren. But in a word: No. In this universe, there are inescapable burdens to gifted blood lines. In Jyn’s case, her father, Galen, is the kind of brilliant scientist and mathematician that both the Empire and the Rebel Alliance prize — and for the Rebels, having his daughter on their side will surely prove to be a crucial link in targeting the Death Star.
Did he help build the Death Star to save Jyn’s life? Has Galen himself gone rogue? We’re reminded of one truism: Parental sacrifice is forever with us in Star Wars.
6. And who is this rather imposing new droid?
K-2S0 looks to be quite the departure from the droid that is there simply to serve. He’s got somewhat of an attitude, and he is there to help — if he’s instructed to.
Droids are the comic relief in Star Wars — and so might be K-2S0 — but we’ll apparently get a droid who also has a darker edge.