Potential minor/speculative spoilers ahead for Star Wars: Rogue One.
When Rogue One hits theaters this December, it represents something of a gamble for Disney. Although a new movie living inside the Star Wars universe is as safe a bet as any to perform well north of half a billion dollars, Rogue One doesn't just need to be good — it needs to great, an intergalactic caper flirting with the duality of both being recognizably a Star Wars movie and different enough to justify expanding the universe beyond the new trilogy.
From Darth Vader to Emperor Palpatine, by way of the deliciously screwed up Kylo Ren, a spoiled overgrown adolescent hiding behind an absurd helmet, Star Wars has birthed a plethora of truly great villains — the kind you despise, but also secretly root for — and Rogue One will be looking to add Orson Krennic (played by the superbly talented, always-creepy Ben Mendelsohn) to that esteemed list.
So what separates Krennic from his forefathers and makes him such a formidable adversary for the team lead by Jyn Erso? On the surface, Krennic's story actually appears to be quite a strong similarity to that of Kylo Ren. Both are influential, but not all-powerful figures seeking the respect or favor of a higher-ranked officer.
For Krennic, an Imperial Military Director responsible for the protection of the Death Star project, the goal is to use the authority he has to get in the good graces of the Emperor, in order to ascend the ranks of the Empire - in other words, he's a classic careerist motivated by power. In this respect he differs from Kylo Ren, whose entire arc is wrapped up his unresolved abandonment issues, emotional rather than calculating.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, VX Supervisor John Knoll described Krennic as "terrifying, really smart, and really effective," elaborating that "there is a lot of palace intrigue going on in the Empire, with people conspiring to move up the ranks and sabotaging each other. There’s not a lot of loyalty there."
One of the crucial differences between Krennic and his villainous counterparts is that, piecing the story together and considering its place in the Star Wars timeline, we can say with some certainty he'll probably never achieve that ambitious career goals — if he did, we'd have met him in the original trilogy. The mystery becomes less about his own, eventual fate, and more about what havoc he might wreak along the way. And that's exciting.
In a movie in which we'll be reacquainted with Darth Vader, arguably cinema's all-time most fearsome, most iconic villain, Director Orson Krennic has a lot of work to do, but right now, the omens are in his favor.
With any luck, we'll learn more about the cape-twirling antagonist long before Rogue One hits theaters on December 16, 2016.