Origin of the Death Star Goes Supernova in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” is the latest installment of the Star Wars saga to hit the big screen, as fans gear up for one franchise film a year until at least 2020. But “Rogue One” marks the first standalone “Star Wars” film, featuring new cast of characters, no Jedi, no iconic opening scrawl, and no John Williams score. It does, however, tell a story that many Star Wars fans have wondered about: how a group of rebels stole the plans for the fearsome Imperial weapon, the Death Star.

The film is directed by Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed and Ben Mendelsohn. Action guru Tony Gilroy of the Jason Bourne saga made additions to a script by Chris Weitz. “Rogue One” spotlights Jyn Erso (Jones), a scrappy troublemaker trying to make ends meet under the merciless rule of the Empire. As detailed in James Luceno’s prequel novel “Catalyst,” Jyn’s father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is a brilliant scientist whose lifelong research surrounding the mysterious Kyber crystals catches the attention of Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn), the ambitious director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial military and the brains behind the Death Star. When the Rebel Alliance discovers that Galen is researching material for the super-weapon, they enlist Jyn to help get the Death Star plans and strike a crippling blow against the Empire.

Characters include Star Wars prequel trilogy stalwart Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), rebellion leader Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and of course, Darth Vader, voiced by James Earl Jones. New characters add a burst of multicultural diversity as well: Donnie Yen plays blind warrior monk Chirrut Îmwe, Riz Ahmed and Diego Luna are Rebel Alliance operatives, and Wen Jiang is Baze Malbus, a resistance fighter on his homeworld of Jedha, a planet of interest to both the Empire and the Rebellion.

Director Edwards feels that the film promotes a bridging of the gap between two sides – in this case, the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. “What we tried to do with the film is muddy the water a lot more,” Edwards told IGN. “In ‘A New Hope’ it’s very clear what’s good and what’s evil. But the reality is, most people you would consider evil, when you see things from their perspective, they’re trying to do something good and they tend to see you as evil, too. Film and story is a chance to point that out.”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is released nationwide on Dec. 16.