*Warning: This post contains mild spoilers about the direction of the Rogue One plot, and how it fits within the Star Wars universe*
The term spin-off conjures expectation of a story that is relatable to the source from which it is spun, but also distinctly separate. While Rogue One is a spin-off of the core story of Star Wars, it's anything but separate. In fact, it's about as connected as you can get without George Lucas doing a direct digital cut and paste into the original trilogy, "ghost-of-Anakin" style.
The Rogue One Plot Leads Into A New Hope
Any doubts aimed at the anthology series were reconciled with the fact that Rogue One is vintage Star Wars repackaged in modern day. The storyline of the upcoming movie will climax within minutes of the opening events of A New Hope, an exciting prospect that could ultimately affect the way we rewatch Lucas's 1977 original.
As with A New Hope, Gareth Edwards's movie will be set during the Galactic Civil War, which occurred around 19 years after the formation of the Galactic Empire. The stories are so closely linked, the opening crawl of Lucas's original even references events that will unfold in Rogue One.
A group of unlikely antiheroes, working on behalf of the Rebel Alliance, will work together to steal the plans to the Death Star — the dastardly weapon of mass planet destruction which features heavily in A New Hope. The group will be led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and joined by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and a collection of interesting characters.
A Much Darker Tone
The tone to Rogue One is unlike what we've seen previously. Edwards himself has spoken of "grey" areas, instead of an obvious contrast between good and evil. The members of the Rebel Alliance aren't morally flawless, but much more grounded and real; this is a war, after all.
It'll also be darker than other features in the franchise, shot in the manner of a war movie. There were even strong rumors that many scenes had to be reshot as it was too brutal, with Darth Vader raising his already highly-evil game to absolute destruction.
Who Are The Rogue One Villains?
On the subject of Darth Vader, the beauty of squeezing the film between Revenge of the Sith (2005) and A New Hope (1977) is that Edwards has the chance to explore the evil dark side driver at the height of his rein of intergalactic terror. However, the Sith Lord is expected to be more of a chilling presence, rather than taking center stage.
Instead, the main villain will be Orson Krennic, played by Ben Mendelsohn. Director Krennic isn't number one in command, instead tasked with overseeing the project to build the Death Star, but he still appears to be an imposing force from the look of the early trailers. Krennic promises to be a different kind of villain, with motivation centered around career progression in the Empire.
May The Force Be... Left Behind?
One of the biggest omissions from Rogue One will be the distinct lack of Jedi — the Rebel Alliance will instead be led by those who aren't able to manipulate the Force to assist with their mission. In fact, the film is set at a crucial point where people are beginning to lose faith.
That doesn't mean the force won't still spill into the story. One of the rebel fighters, Chirrut Îmwe, is a believer in the Force, and it's possible that the lack of faith in Rogue One could lead to resurgence of belief under the guidance of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars 8.
Behind the scenes, Rogue One will have one big difference from the main Star Wars saga. It is the first Star Wars movie that won't feature the score of iconic composer, John Williams, and it looks like the transition hasn't been smooth. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film's reshoots resulted in Michael Giacchino replacing original composer Alexandre Desplat.