The butterfly effect is the idea that any action, no matter how small, can have large repercussions. Initially applied to weather prediction, phrase-creator Edward Lorenz expressed the phenomenon metaphorically, explaining how the subtle flap of a butterfly's wings could, in theory, alter the journey of a hurricane weeks later.
Apply the butterfly effect to the Star Wars universe, and we begin to understand how the flap of an X-Wing can cause gravitational tsunamis further afield. Rogue One is the perfect example of this; events in Gareth Edwards's anthology will transform the opening crawl of A New Hope (1977) into a visually stunning cinematic experience, humanizing the butterflies that caused the hurricane of the Rebel Alliance.
Similarly, as fans await the revelation of "official" cause and effect within the intergalactic saga, millions of engrossed Star Wars fans have also created their own interpretation of how individual pieces may join together.
In some ways, the Star Wars Expanded Universe – a collection of novels, comic books, video games, and other stories – gave birth to the notion of the fan theory long before frantic, speculation rich forums like Reddit. Such is the tenacity and scale of the collective and creative mind of fandom that many high-profile films and TV shows are essentially legitimized fan theories in and of themselves.
Rogue One, which takes place between the events of Star Wars: Episode III and the original 1977 movie, and therefore connects to familiar fan-favorite events, has been a focal point for fan theories.
The story focuses on a group of rebels led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), and the team's mission to steal plans for the Death Star. This story stands alone and is distinct from the main saga, but the potential repercussions for the wider Star Wars universe have led to a host of theories — some good, some bad, some... bizarre.
If the ideas that power stories in Star Wars were represented by a solar system, the theme of family would be the gravitational force all other planets orbit around. From Luke and Anakin Skywalker to Han Solo and Kylo Ren, family has always been at the heart of the saga.
Rogue One's tone, pacing and cinematography have drawn comparisons to a war movie, as this is a uniquely rugged and unflinching take on the iconic franchise. But as with all other stories the concept of family remains central, with Jyn Erso, and her father Galen Erso providing an emotional foundation.
Family motivates a common theory that creates a thread between Rogue One and the sequel trilogy, speculating that Jyn Erso is someone of great importance: Rey's mother.
Aside from the obvious physical resemblance, the timeline adds up; Rey is presumably in her 20s in The Force Awakens, which is set roughly 30 years after Rogue One. Rebel leader Jyn is anywhere between her mid-20s and mid-30s, making it conceivable she could give birth a decade or so after Rogue One. Although not proven, the linking the key protagonist to Star Wars 8 would be a savvy move.
Another family-related theory links Jyn and the Death Star. Fans noticed from early teasers that Jyn was a singled out by the Rebel Alliance, suggesting she had a personal connection to a key player in the project. As it turns out, her father, Galen Erso, was later confirmed as the architect of the Empire's super-weapon.
Last on the good list is a theory many saw coming: When Forest Whitaker was first shown in the film's initial trailer, some eagle-eyed devotees of the full Star Wars canon correctly identified his character as Saw Gerrera, a rebel fighter who originally appeared in digitally-rendered format in The Clone Wars.
With a theory to match every dead Bothan, occasionally, you're going to get a bad suggestion. But it's all part of the fun and let's face it, if all theories were completely plausible, it'd take enjoyment out of the final product. Two theories tend to stand out in this category, both of which make a tenuous link to Star Wars 8.
The first suggests that Jyn Erso is a character we already know: Captain Phasma. Admittedly, it would be cool to see some sort of origin story for the commander of the First Order, who made her debut in The Force Awakens. But the timeline, and the fact Gwendoline Christie was cast so recently, makes this highly unlikely.
The second theory is that Supreme Leader Snoke, who was introduced in The Force Awakens, would appear in Rogue One. This theory was based off the mysterious appearance of a hooded figure kneeling before a regenerative Bacta tank in the trailer. However, considering Snoke's importance in the main saga, it seems highly unlikely his origin would be revealed in a standalone movie. That's not to rule out some subtle Easter Eggs for hardcore fans, but it's doubtful this theory will be borne out.
If you're going to speculate, why not go all-out? Suggest something absolutely, Darth-Vader-at-a-Jedi-Temple bonkers. One of the most controversial theories doing the rounds suggests that the entire Rogue One team of Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus will end up turning to the dark side and transforming into the Knights of Ren.
Kylo Ren is the master of this evil organization, which was under the ultimate command of Supreme Commander Snoke. The Knights of Ren initially appeared in Rey's Force-vision seen in The Force Awakens, and the group is set to feature more heavily in Star Wars 8. A well-researched post has drew comparisons between concept art of the group, which appears to share similarities with the Rogue One team, including a character referred to as "The Rogue."
The good, the bad and the bizarre will soon be proven or disproven with the impending release of Rogue One, but the theories won't stop there. Star Wars 8 is already providing base material for a new frenzy of theories. Some suggestions even more peculiar than ones above are already force-pushing their way through the internet — including one that claims Snoke may be, wait for it... Obi-Wan Kenobi. Really.
The Star Wars universe is a vast landscape, prime for fan theories of all sorts. Rogue One, with its connection to the main saga, is set to show the butterfly effect initiated in reverse motion. How will the consequential hurricane form? We'll just have to watch this space.