Star Wars Episode 8 and Rogue One: what we know

Star Wars

There have been so many porkies told about the new Star Wars movies that, last August, the online magazine Slate invented a Rumour Generator to help budding Jedis concoct their own preposterous space opera storylines.

There have been suggestions that Gareth Edwards’ spin-off episode centres on a young Han Solo, and also that it focuses on a group of bounty hunters vying to steal plans to the Death Star. Now, thanks to Disney’s presentation to shareholders in San Francisco on Thursday, we now know a little more about the film, and have also had some details for the still-untitled Episode VIII confirmed. Here’s a quick rundown …

Looper director Rian Johnson will direct Episode VIII

The 41-year-old US film-maker, also known for the noirish high-school thriller Brick and several of the best episodes of Breaking Bad, is also writing the screenplay. That makes him the first film-maker since George Lucas (with the ill-fated prequel series) to single-handedly take on both duties for a Star Wars film. What’s more, Johnson is also penning a treatment for Episode IX, so he may end up being more important to the direction of the new trilogy than The Force AwakensJJ Abrams. Episode VIII is scheduled for release on 26 May 2017.

Gareth Edwards’ spin-off Star Wars movie is titled Rogue One

The UK-born Godzilla director will be blessed with The Theory of Everything’s Felicity Jones as his lead, though there’s no indication at this stage that she’s playing a young Princess Leia. In fact, we don’t know if Rogue One will connect to any of the films from the main saga in anything more than a loose manner. Disney says simply that it will explore “characters and events beyond the core Star Wars saga”.

It might be about X-Wing pilots

One of the most iconic supporting characters from the original Star Wars movies is Wedge Antilles, the only pilot to survive both Death Star runs and the co-founder, with Luke Skywalker, of the Rebel Alliance’s Rogue Squadron. “Rogue One” would have been the call sign of the leader of the squadron, according to Star Wars tradition. Played mostly by Denis Lawson in the original films, Wedge might just be second to bounty hunter Boba Fett in the pantheon of minor Star Wars characters whom hardcore fans find fascinating. Rogue Squadron has featured in the “Expanded Universe” series of novels and comic books, so this spin-off route makes sense.

The concept art for the movie resembles the video game Hal

Disney says Rogue One was inspired by an idea from a visual effects supervisor, so it’s perhaps little surprise that there’s likely to be a video game influence. Reports from the Disney briefing are that concept art shown to investors features a group of four to five heavily-armoured soldiers storming towards a helicopter-like ship releasing more troops, with two to three “tough-looking ships” in the background. The dark grey look of the art apparently reminded observers of the science fiction video game Halo, and the earthbound action would appear to torpedo the X-Wing theory.

Disney hasn’t got the script right yet

While Episode VIII snagged Johnson and The Force Awakens boasts Abrams alongside original The Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, the first Star Wars spin-off effort appears to have been less fortunate. Edwards still has some cachet after delivering microbudget sci-fi debut Monsters in 2010, but fans and critics were left a little nonplussed by last year’s Godzilla reboot, despite the best efforts of Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston to add some star quality. Rogue One began life under the eye of screenwriter Gary Whitta (best known for the execrable After Earth), but he was removed from the project earlier this year. The current writer is Antz and The Golden Compass scripter Chris Weitz, whose CV ranges from the semi-decent (About a Boy, American Pie) to the utterly bland (The Twilight Saga: New Moon). Where’s Kasdan when you need him?

The film debuts next year

Rogue One has a release date of 16 December 2016, almost exactly a year after the release of The Force Awakens. That’s precisely in line with Disney’s plan to give us a new Star Wars movie every year between now and 2019.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 13th March 2015 17.39 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010