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Star Wars: Rogue One – Now That The Force Has Been Awakened, Why Is The Next Movie a Prequel?

Spoiler Warning for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Obvious question: Now that the force has been awakened, why is the next Star Wars movie – Rogue One, due out December 16 –  going to be a prequel?

Obvious answer: Because Disney paid over $4 billion to pry LucasFilms out of George Lucas’ hands, and now they’re going to put out a new Star Wars movie every year until they cease being profitable.  The odd-numbered years will be reserved for installments in the new saga started in The Force Awakens, and the even-numbered years will be devoted to prequels.  Rogue One will be about the group of rebels (led by Felicity Jones) who stole the plans for the first Death Star from the Empire.  So, are you still reeling over Force Awakens‘ cliffhanger of an ending?  Well, you’ll have to wait two more years to see what happens next, but in the meantime maybe you’d like to hear the story of that one time something totally different happened over 30 years ago with characters we’ve never met before.

That seems kind of odd, right?

Then again, this is a franchise which seriously told a six-part story by releasing parts 4-6 first and then waited more than 15 years to fill us in on what happened in the first three parts.

This is also a franchise which is currently two seasons into an animated series (Rebels) which takes place in-between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.  If it seems odd that the kids who loved Force Awakens will now have to watch a bunch of new characters in Rogue One remember that a lot of them probably came to Force Awakens hoping to see Rebels characters like Ezra, Kanan and Chopper.  In fact, in terms of the Star Wars timeline the Rebels characters are far closer to Rogue One than Force Awakens.

Get used to the new, weird normal of franchise universe building.  2018 will deliver a Han Solo prequel even though we just watched the present day version of him die in Force Awakens.  Rumors persist that Gal Gadot’s solo Wonder Woman will take place almost entirely before Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice despite coming out a year after it.  Don’t even try to make sense of the X-Men movie timeline at this point since the soon-to-be released Deadpool will technically be a sequel to First Class, Days of Future Past AND the not so soon-to-be released Apocalypse since those all take place in the past. Spoiler alert: Whatever goes down in Apocalypse obviously doesn’t end the world because Deadpool is around decades later having R-rated adventures. We’ll know that already because Deadpool comes out 4 months before Apocalypse.

x_men_origins_wolverine05In fact, on some level Disney is attempting with Star Wars what 20th Century Fox tried and failed to do with X-Men, lest we forget that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was supposed to be the start of a run of spin-off prequels (e.g., Origins: Magneto, Origins: First Class).  However, in that case they were just going to make prequels, not prequels at the same time as proper X-Men sequels starring the Bryan Singer/Brett Ratner cast.

You could argue Disney is actually attempting to fit Star Wars into a Marvel Studios-esque cinematic universe, but those movies all follow a roughly forward-moving timeline, except for Captain America: The First Avenger.  Plus, they don’t fall under one franchise umbrella like a “Star Wars” or “X-Men.”  Instead, they all have their own individual adventures and get their own sequels, only occasionally gathering together in an Avengers movie as Earth’s mightiest heroes.

Star Wars is instead going back to the past right after Force Awakens took us into the future.  It doesn’t seem to matter since Rogue One was recently voted by Fandango users as the most anticipated film of 2016.  How many of the survey respondents, I wonder, realize that Rogue One is a prequel and not a Force Awakens continuation?

rogue-one-mcquarrie-700x300Here’s the thing, though: Along with LucasFilms head Kathleen Kennedy, there is a braintrust behind all of this, consisting of uber-producer/writer Simon Kinberg, writers Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) and screenwriting legend Lawrence Kasdan.  As Kinberg (who also executive produces Rebels) told EW, the braintrust spent a week at Skywalker Ranch working on the structure for the next trilogy and standalone spin-offs, “Like a TV writers room, we spent a week with a whiteboard and some pens and were in a conference room all day talking about [movies] VIIVIII, and IX.  But it’s a whiteboard covered in our notes. We had a sense of what we each wanted to write. It was the most magical time because we were writing Star Wars movies.”

Surely they dreamed up a way to connect Rogue One to Force Awakens.  What if we somehow learn more about Supreme Leader Snoke through Rogue One?  What if he was actually working with the Rebels against Palpatine and helping them steal the Death Star plans, neither side realizing who they were really dealing with (assuming Snoke actually is Darth Plagueis, Palpatine’s old master)?  Even if Snoke isn’t Darth Plagueis, Rogue One could still secretly gives us more hints about him, perhaps revealing him to be someone deeply involved in the Empire ss far back as A New Hope.  There could also be any number of other easter eggs, e.g., hints at the future creation of The First Order, a cameo from the long-lived Maz, appearances from the Star Wars Rebels characters, etc. Maybe Felicity Jones’ character will turn out to be Rey’s mom!

This movie can’t really just be about that one time a bunch of people, some of whom probably died, stole the plans from the Empire which allowed Luke to blow up the Death Star in New Hope, can it?  If it is, though, could that still make for a perfectly fine Star Wars movie, or a disappointing momentum-breaker after The Force Awakens?  Or both?

What do you think?

Rogue One, directed by Godzilla‘s Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelson, Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk and Ben Mendelsohn, comes out December 16, 2016.

UPDATED 1/8/16Rogue One’s official title is actually Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  I don’t know if that’s new or if it’s always been like that and I never noticed.  Either way, anytime I referred to it as Star Wars: Rogue One in the above article, well, I was wrong.

Source: THR


  1. I feel like the odd man out here. So many people are excited about Lawrence Kasdan but if he is so great, why did TFA have to have so many familiar things that it’s a soft reboot?

    If we believe the rumours and fan wishlists, there’s going to be a Boba Fett stand alone film in between some of the Episode #8-9 films. Does that mean there won’t be a sequel to Rogue One? Or is it more likely that Disney will have multiple Star Wars films released within a year just as how they have multiple Marvel Cinematic Universe films per year? Will the sequel be called “Rogue Two” or something silly like “Rogue Forever”? Heck, I’d bet my life savings that there will be sequels to Rogue One and Boba Fett because Disney are trying to recoup their $4.05 billion as quickly as possible and Hollywood loves sequels and this is the franchise for it.

    1. Lawrence Kasdan is forever granted geek god status because he wrote The Empire Strikes Back, but for whatever reason I always remember him as the guy who co-wrote and directed that regrettable Stephen King movie Dreamcatcher. I am more encouraged by Kathleen Kennedy and Simon Kinberg being on that braintrust than Kasdan, and even with Kasdan’s work on Force Awakens I’m not clear how much of that was him and how much was J.J. Abrams.

      The way this has all shaked out is as follows (as far as I know): Josh Trank was supposed to make the Boba Fett movie from a sript by Simon Kinberg, but after his epic Fantastic Four implosion he was fired from that gig and now Disney has pushed up the Han Solo prequel and pushed back the Boba Fett movie. To be fair, we don’t technically know that Trank was actually fired (as opposed to simply walking away), and we don’t know that the movie he was making was going to be all about Boba Fett. Whatever it was, that movie won’t come out until 2020 now.

      As for Rogue One, I haven’t seen anything from Disney indicating they plan on releasing more than one Star Wars movie a year. That doesn’t mean they won’t try to build up a MCU for Star Wars and continue on with Rogue One and Young Han Solo sequels, but as of right now that doesn’t seem to be the plan, although if things change you have rightly pointed out that potential sequel titles for Rogue One sound progressively sillier.

      Here’s what’s really going on with Disney right now: they’re getting their ass kicked on the stock market by ESPN’s continually diminishing value. Even during Star Wars’ insane, record-setting opening weekend, the Disney stock took a hit based on forecasts for lower ESPN subscription rates. So, even though the studio has just about perfected franchise-filmmaking and cross-promotion with their TV properties ESPN is slowly bleeding them, and they have to figure out how to fix that. I think that’s their bigger concern right now, more so than cranking out new Star Wars movies to justify their big purchase price of LucasFilms because with what The Force Awakens is doing in merchandise and ticket sales they probably feel plenty comfortable about that $4 billion for LucasFilms.

      I personally hope that they stick to the one-movie-a-year model right now for Star Wars because I think stretching it any further would cheapen the novelty value of a new Star Wars movie, but if Rogue One is awesome and its cast isn’t completely killed off by the end what do they do then? It’s not so much that they’ll have a financial need because of the cost of buying LucasFilms to begin with, but more that it would simply seem like bad business to leave money on the table if there’s more to be had. For example, Marvel TV never indicated Daredevil would be anything more than a single season of TV, but now we’re months away from its second season.

  2. I want to believe that people are smart enough to realize that Rogue One is not a sequel to Force Awakens. I will hold onto this belief until I am proven utterly and spectacularly wrong 😬

    1. Absolutely, for the hardcore fans and people like you and I who write about this stuff. It’s not like Disney has made a big secret about this, either. They pretty clearly laid it all out at the most recent Disney expo event, which is where the picture I used for the feature photo on this article came from. However, as far as the Fandango poll goes I imagine people coming out of The Force Awakens and being asked if they want to see the next Star Wars movie due out a year from now, named Rogue One. They’d obviously say yes, but how many who didn’t know for sure would actually ask whether or not it was a sequel or prequel.

      I always think that everyone knows these kinds of things because I live and breath it, but I was surprised at the holidays to see that almost no one in my family knew anything about the whole “new Star Wars trilogy in the odd years, spin-off prequels in the even years” thing. That’s why I guessed that there might be some really casual viewers who’ve yet to look into it and discover that Rogue One will be its own thing, not a sequel

  3. I think you are right, Rogue One has to add something new/special to the saga. Even if it doesn’t tie directly to The Force Awakens, it can’t just be a general connection to A New Hope (with Leia receiving the Death Star plans that were stolen). That connection would just be way, WAY to simplistic. There has to be some bigger thing, some bigger purpose to the film that it just standing (alone) as a Star Wars story. At least, that is my hope and I think the hope of a lot of people. This is probably why people are speculating that maybe Felicity Jones is Sabine Wren from the Rebels show. Am I saying she is for certain, nope, I just can’t and won’t know until the movie comes out. But I do think, I really do think there will be some greater meaning to Rogue One, some larger way it connects to and builds the Star Wars universe in a dynamic way. Otherwise, if it doesn’t, then it sure as heck better be a good movie.

    1. Considering that The Force Awakens left so much unanswered, surely that odd prequel they’re following it up with will provide us with some surprising answers. I am picturing a Guardians of the Galaxy situation where Rogue One will mostly stand on its own but there might be a brief, but hugely important sequence (like the explanation of Thanos’ infinity stones) setting up something for Episode 8. For example, there could be a character in it who we only discover is actually an early version of Snoke at the very end, and maybe Felicity Jones, who I speculated could turn out to be Rey’s mother, bumps into a CGI-ed younger version of Mark Hamill (like how they de-aged Michael Douglas for the Ant-Man opening), although I know that doesn’t quite work, timeline wise. In fact, as you pointed out the timelines make more sense for Rogue One to be a continuation of Star Wars: Rebels, giving some of those characters their live-action debuts, though wouldn’t they have to be aged up a bit since the show is stuck in-between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope whereas Rogue One will presumably take place right before New Hope?

      What if Rogue One turns out to be a companion piece to Rebels but ultimately has little to nothing to do with the new trilogy started with FA?

      Honestly, I’ll be surprised if Rogue One doesn’t at least somehow connect us to the wider Star Wars universe. As you said, if it really is just a “Meanwhile, over 30 years ago a bunch of other people did these other things” diversion then it’d damn well better be a great movie.

  4. If there’s a sequel (‘Rogue One Part Two: Rogue Harder’ !?!), I guess that means we’ll finally get to see how many Bothans died getting plans to the second Death Star!

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