First STAR WARS spinoff gets a title and star! Plus, EPISODE VIII writer/director and date confirmed!

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Well it’s about time, you flarking nerf-herders! After what seemed like an endless barrage of ridiculous rumour after horrible hearsay, we finally have something concrete to report about the first planned Star Wars spinoff solo movie. Up until now, all we’ve known is that Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) is helming while Gary Whitta (Book of Eli, After Earth) did a first pass on the screenplay before handing over scripting duties to Chris Weitz (About a Boy, The Golden Compass). In other words, we had bupkiss.

But now Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed late last night via StarWars.com that the movie will be titled Rogue One! What’s more, it’s been confirmed that recent Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (Theory of Everything) will indeed be starring as was recently reported. She’s being billed as “the first actress cast” though, so you can probably expect some more casting announcement soon.

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As for what Rogue One is about? Well, officially all that’s been revealed is that it was based on a story idea from Oscar-winning Industrial Light & Magic veteran John Knoll, who will also act as one of the film’s executive producers. Unofficially though, the title of Rogue One alone already tells us something as that’s the callsign sometimes used by the leader of Rogue Squadron, the group of elite X-Wing pilots once led by Luke Skywalker in the movies, and who play a major role in the Expanded Universe in their very own beloved series of books. Just how that actually relates to the story is a bit puzzling though, especially since the most prevalent rumours peg the movie to be a heist-flick prequel focusing on a group of bounty hunters hired by the Rebel Alliance to steal the plans to the original Death Star that Leia smuggles off-ship on R2-D2 at the start of Episode IV: A New Hope. Could those rumours have been totally off the mark and we’re actually getting – and you won’t believe how excited I am to type these words – a Rogue Squadron movie?

(My pet totally baseless theory: Jones is playing the 30-something daughter of Han and Leia, Jaina Solo. In the original Expanded Universe stories, she’s not just an incredible Jedi Knight, but also joins Rogue Squadron as one of their best pilots. Maybe for the new films, Lucasfilm have decided to up the ante a bit, and make her the leader as well?)

Along with the title announcement, Iger also confirmed reports from last year that Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick) will be in charge of Star Wars: Episode VIII taking over writing and directing duties from The Force Awakens’ aka Episode VII‘s JJ Abrams. There’s no word on whether he will stay on for Episode IX as well, as was originally alleged, but what was said was that Episode VIII will be releasing worldwide on May 26, 2017.

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That date is noticeable for two reasons: 1) It’s just one day past the 40-year anniversary of the release of first film in 1977, and 2) That’s just 3 weeks after the release of Guardians of the Galaxy 2! You would think that Disney would not want their two biggest moneymakers – Marvel and Lucasfilm – to be competing with each other, but that looks to be exactly what is going to happen. With the ridiculous success of the first Guardians, it’s sure to be pulling in massive crowds, and there’s just no way that a big Star Wars release won’t be ruling the box office as well. So essentially, we may just be about to witness what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

[UPDATE!] Apparently, besides for just revealing the title of Rogue One, Bob Iger also unveiled a piece of concept art to the shareholders in attendance. However, since there was a strict no-electronics policy at the meeting, we have no pictures of the art. But /Film’s Peter Sciretta “harassed (I mean asked politely) and interrogated (I mean questioned)” some of the shareholders who were there and managed to piece together a very intriguing description of it:

  • The concept art was a gritty “dark/gray image”: “very dark and done in greens, so it evoked the idea that it was being done under the cloak of night.”
  • The art showed 4-5 armored, soldier-like persons on the ground, “with two to three ships in the background.”
  • Disney blogger/investor StitchKingdomsays that the imagery “evoked concept art of a video game” and it “screamed Halo to me.”

“Dozens of figures in fatigues appeared to be storming something with a strange helicopterish vehicle (open on the sides) in the background, releasing more troops.”

  • Unfortunately neither of the sources we talked to knew enough about the Star Wars expanded universe to describe exactly who the characters may have been or what ships were pictured in the background.
  • There were tough-looking vehicles too.
  • The ships were fairly dark, and in the background.
  • They weren’t obviously X-Wing Fighters, which our sources would have recognized.
  • They “seemed a bit bigger than X-Wings”.
  • “More like a transport ship of sorts” but probably not as big as the Tantive IV (the transport ship we see Darth Vader board at the beginning of A New Hope).
  • The characters were all “generic” looking “wearing the same dark outfit.” “I didn’t see anything that would distinguish them as individuals.”
  • When I asked LA Times reporter Daniel Miller if they looked more like Rebel Alliance fighters in orange jumpsuits or a band of bounty hunters, he replied: “Neither. They were masked but not whimsical looking like those bounty hunters (I realize whimsy & mercenaries don’t go together).”

Firstly, there goes my crazy idea. Secondly, that description now really links up to the whole “Seven Samurai or Suicide Squad meets Ocean’s Eleven” type bounty hunter heist movie rumour mentioned earlier. But if that is the case, then where does Rogue One fit in if it’s not about the famous X-Wing squadron? There are some other rumours going around that this movie will also somehow feature both a young Han Solo and a young Boba Fett, but they fit in even less with that title. As master Yoda would say: A most intriguing mystery, this is!

Last Updated: March 13, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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