Unless you’ve spent the last two years in a stone cave on the remote planet Ahch-To (gesundheit!), you’ll know that the new Star Wars sequels are only half the story. Between every episode in the new trilogy (and presumably beyond), Disney will release an “anthology film” telling a standalone story set somewhere along the Star Wars timeline. The first, enticingly titled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is due for release on December 16. Here’s everything we know (or suspect) so far.
Five things we know about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
It’s set right before Star Wars
Or Star Wars: A New Hope (as we point-blank refuse to call it). That 1977 movie opens with Princess Leia hiding the stolen plans to the Death Star inside R2-D2’s memory banks—but where did she get the blueprints? Turns out they were pinched for her by a crack squad of rebel soldiers, sneaking in under the nose of Darth Vader and Governor Tarkin. Rogue One will tell their story, in heist-movie fashion. Imagine Ocean’s 11 with less wisecracking and more blasters.
The cast is phenomenal
Continuing the Star Wars franchise’s newfound commitment to diversity, the heist will be fronted by a woman (Felicity Jones), backed up by an international conglomerate of intergalactic badasses, played by actors like Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, martial-arts legend Donnie Yen and Casino Royale’s Mads Mikkelsen.
The director is a monster fanboy
Rogue One will mark the first time director Gareth Edwards has made a movie not starring a marauding, skyscraper-high beastie. But the man behind Monsters and the recent Godzilla remake is an all-purpose nerd, and we figure he’ll be right at home in the Star Wars universe. Let’s hope he brings a touch of the emotional gravitas found in the first third of Godzilla, and less of the pointless running around found in that film’s disappointing climax.
Darth Vader will be in it
Yep, old Wheezy Lungs is back, in full-on evil-mother mode. Even if nothing else about Rogue One works, the sight of Darth striding purposefully along a shiny metal corridor with his cloak billowing will more than justify its existence. And the artist formerly known as Anakin will not be alone. Rumor has it that after the plans are stolen, Vader hauls in a literal rogue’s gallery of bounty hunters to get them back. So expect to see spindly droid IG-88, human mummy Dengar, scaly dino-footed Zuckuss and even—sweet midichlorians, let it be!—a certain green-helmeted, jet-packed rascal.
There will be links to the new movies
This one’s a bit of an assumption, but it seems highly likely Rogue One will include a few nods to The Force Awakens and its sequels. For example, original screenwriter Michael Arndt revealed that R2-D2 got hold of the map to Luke Skywalker’s hiding place from the Death Star. Is it possible that secret was also locked inside these plans? And if that’s the case—we’re extrapolating here—could fellow Scandi legends Mads Mikkelsen (in Rogue One) and Max von Sydow (in The Force Awakens) be playing the same character, Lor San Tekka, who hands said map to Poe Dameron? There’ll be many wild theories between now and the film’s release—some are already postulating that Jones might be playing Force Awakens heroine Rey’s long-lost mom—but this is one we’re sold on.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens December 16, 2016.