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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why You Should Be Excited for 'Rogue One'

After Star Wars: The Force Awakens rejuvenated the franchise back in December, all eyes quickly turned to Episode VIII, then thought to be opening May 2017 (and later pushed back 7 months), instead of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the saga's first spinoff film opening in December 2016. And though Rogue One is simply explaining events in-between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope (the theft of the Death Star plans, to be specific), while Episode VIII is continuing to venture into new, unknown territory, fans should still be just as excited for Rogue One. Why? Let's take a look.
The Cast 

Rogue One is the first Star Wars film with an entirely new cast (or at least, no confirmed returning cast members). The filmmakers continued The Force Awakens' trend of undoing the sexism of the previous trilogies by casting Oscar nominee Felicity Jones as the main character, rumored to be named Lyra Eso (or Jyn), a prominent Rebel fighter. 
In foregound, from left to right: Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook), Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen, Donnie Yen
Other members of the gang include Chinese star Jiang Wen as the weapons enthusiast (the man in the red armor), Oscar winner Forest Whitaker as an amputee bounty hunter, and Alan Tudyk as a cool-looking commando droid. Mads Mikkelsen is known for playing villains in Casino Royale and Hannibal, but he recently stated that he's "actually not a bad guy" in the film; instead he's rumored to be playing Galen, the scientist in charge of the Death Star project who feels guilty for his work and enlists his daughter, Jones' character, to help him make things right. 

As you can see, the list of new characters is a very diverse one, and there's quite a bit of talent behind them, too. 

Familiar Faces

Since Rogue One does take place in-between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi, it's kinda inevitable that there'll be some familiar characters, even if no one at Disney/Lucasfilm will admit it yet. In fact, there's a great chance (and even reports) that we'll be seeing one of the most recognizable characters in not just Star Wars, but the entire history of cinema: Darth Vader. 
From both the Original Trilogy and the Sith Lord's brief appearance on Star Wars Rebels, we know that one of his primary jobs is basically to crack down on any resistance to the Galactic Empire, so the Rebels' daring mission in Rogue One would naturally attract his attention. Plus, showing Vader in the first trailer (which is reportedly coming soon), or even just the sound of his iconic breathing, would make for a great tease and prove to audiences that Rogue One's story will be truly significant. 

Another somewhat-classic villain that we're likely to see is Grand Moff Tarkin. In A New Hope, he was the commander of the Death Star and worked alongside Vader to defeat the Rebels before his demise when the superweapon exploded. If Rogue One's writers didn't want the challenge of incorporating Vader into the script (due to the huge reputation of the character), they still could've included a young version of Tarkin as the primary antagonist. 
The Nuremberg Toy Fair in late January showed us not only the official costumes from the film, but also a very surprising tease of the inclusion of everyone's favorite bounty hunter: Boba Fett. A banner of the upcoming LEGO Star Wars sets showed Slave I, Fett's signature ship, representing Rogue One. We can only guess how Fett would fit into the film, but reports from late July indicate that he could be the father of Jones' character (instead of Galen) and hired by Vader to retrieve the plans for the Death Star after the Rebels steal them. 
The Tone 

Rogue One takes place during the height of the Empire, after the Sith got their revenge and before a new hope arose, so we can assume that it'll have an appropriately dark tone. (The trailer will, at least.) There's no Jedi, no official Rebel Alliance, just a ragtag group of fighters hoping to perform a risky heist. As long as the film still has the colorful characters and lighthearted moments that all of the previous Star Wars films (even the Prequels) have featured, this will set the film apart from the rest of the series, in a good way. 
A leaked image from the film
Furthermore, you can expect to see technology and concepts different from anything seen before in Star Wars. Not only have they undoubtedly come up with new designs for the weapons, vehicles, aliens and starships, there'll even be new stormtroopers (pictured below). Instead of using just the classic trooper armor from the Original Trilogy (which will seem outdated after seeing the First Order troopers in The Force Awakens), the film will feature tan-colored "Sandtroopers" and a presumably elite squad of awesome-looking, black-colored "Death Troopers" or "Shadowtroopers", according to Making Star Wars
It's Coming Soon

Yeah, sure, maybe right now it's only fans and professional news outlets who talk about Rogue One, but that'll change soon. The film is opening on December 16th, which might seem like a long time from now, but once the trailer drops within the next few months, regular audiences will be aware of it. The discussion will start, and it'll only grow as we get more trailers, toys, magazine covers, and other promotions in the months leading up to December. 
A fan-made poster of Felicity Jones in Rogue One
There'll be plenty of time to pore over the Episode VIII set pictures and debate Snoke's true identity; for now, you should focus on the next thing coming to theaters with "Star Wars" in its title, because it's looking to be a pretty great movie. 

How excited are you for Rogue One? What other familiar characters do you want to see? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran Join 'Episode VIII'

Following the announcement by Disney CEO Bob Iger, StarWars.com has officially confirmed that Episode VIII has begun filming at Pinewood Studios in London. The site verifies that the entire primary cast (minus Harrison Ford) of The Force Awakens will be returning, from Lupita Nyong'o (Maz Kanata) to Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke). A short announcement video is included, featuring footage of Luke and Rey on the planet of Ahch-To. At first glance, it appears to be identical to the final scene of The Force Awakens, but since it's taken at a different angle, this could be our first look at Episode VIII.

More importantly, the site reveals three new cast members: Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern, and Kelly Marie Tran. Del Toro's involvement is no surprise; he confirmed his villainous role in the film in early September, though this is the first time that Disney/Lucasfilm have corroborated that. (They were probably not too happy to learn that Del Toro prematurely divulged his character's position on the Dark Side of the Force.) The Oscar winner is no stranger to Disney-produced sci-fi films, after appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy as the eccentric Collector. 
Benicio Del Toro as the Collector 
In sharp contrast, Dern was never before rumored to be part of the cast. The 49-year-old actress is most known for Jurassic Park and The Fault in Our Stars, and was nominated for Oscars for Rambling Rose and Wild. Her character's allegiance is unknown, but Dern has mostly sticked to protagonistic roles in the past. Since she's recently been playing the mothers of main female characters (in The Fault in Our Stars and Wild), one could guess that she'll be playing Rey's mother.
Kelly Marie Tran is essentially the Daisy Ridley of this casting announcement, in the sense that she's a young, unknown actress who is undoubtedly currently inspiring millions of Google searches. She's appeared in short films, television, and theater, but to the youth of the Internet, she might be most recognizable from the popular YouTube channel CollegeHumorAgain, we don't know anything about her character, but she could quite possibly be playing the female role reportedly sought out by the likes of Tatiana Maslany and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. 
Tran's online resume gives some basic details about her acting career and training, and it also lists her as a "lead" in Episode VIII. Though she probably won't be taking Ridley's spot as the primary heroine, this gives us some idea as to the size of her role. Regardless, Tran will be breaking new ground as the first Asian-American actress to have a main role in a Star Wars film. What do you think of this announcement? Tell me in the comments, and may the Force be with you all. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Begins Production

Disney CEO Bob Iger has announced that Star Wars: Episode VIII has started filming, according to Entertainment Weekly. Production was supposed to begin in January, but after the release date was recently pushed back 7 months, it's no surprise that the entire schedule has been shifted. 
Aside from Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England, and the pre-production already done on Skellig Michael Island, Ireland (AKA the home of Old Luke), filming locations are unknown. But chances are we'll hear all about it; if you recall, it was widely known when The Force Awakens started filming in the Abu Dhabi desert (for the Jakku scenes), and we even got some leaked photos from the set, including an AT-AT foot that we now recognize to be part of Rey's home. 
Skellig Michael
Most of The Force Awakens' heroes and villains will be returning for Episode VIII. Benicio Del Toro confirmed that he will be playing a new villain, and a new, young female role is reportedly being contested by Tatiana Maslany, Olivia Cooke, Gina Rodriguez, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Bel Powley. 

Furthermore, Rogue One's production is "virtually finished", Iger said. The film's costumes were showcased last month at the Nuremberg Toy Fair, and new story details are leaking constantly over at Making Star Wars, so you can bet that a teaser trailer will be coming our way soon. According to the now-inactive site Star Wars Time, the trailer will be released alongside fellow Disney flick Captain America: Civil War on May 6th. (And if you can't wait that long, there may or may not be a leaked teaser on Vimeo.) 

Star Wars: Episode VIII is being directed by Rian Johnson, and will hit theaters on December 15, 2017. What are you hoping for in the film? Tell me in the comments, and may the Force be with you all.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

'LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Announced

Now that Star Wars has officially re-immersed itself in pop culture, LEGO is continuing its uber-popular "LEGO Star Wars" video game series with "LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The announcement trailer expertly recreates the first teaser for The Force Awakens in hilarious LEGO form. 

Not only will the game encompass the storyline of The Force Awakens, it will also feature exclusive story levels that take place in-between Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Episode VII. Quite a lot happened in that 30-year period, but I would expect to see something more along the lines of the Battle of Jakku (which was playable in this November's "Star Wars: Battlefront") than spoiler-y events such as the Knights of Ren's destruction of Luke's Jedi Temple. 
All of the film's major characters will be playable, and you can bet there'll be bonus characters and environments like Old Luke and his island of Ahch-To. What are you hoping for in the game? Tell me in the comments, and may the Force be with you all.