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First Star Wars standalone film is called Rogue One, coming December 2016

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Felicity Jones will star

We still don't know exactly what it's about, but Disney has announced a name for the first spin-off Star Wars film: Rogue One. The film is being directed by Gareth Edwards, who was behind last year's Godzilla, and is being written by Chris Weitz, who wrote screenplays for Antz and The Golden Compass. Felicity Jones is the first actor to be cast in the film. She's a big grab right now, having just been up for an Oscar for her performance as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything. The film is targeting a release date of December 16th, 2016. It starts shooting in London this summer.

Rogue One refers to the leader of an elite starfighter squad

While we don't know if Jones is the star or simply a star, that she's the name Disney is choosing to lead with is an exciting sign that we could be getting a Star Wars film with a woman in the primary lead. J.J. Abrams also appears to be bringing more diversity to the series with Episode VII and includes a woman among the film's main cast, but we're yet to really see how big any given actor's role is.

There have been a lot of rumors that the Star Wars standalone films could explore the backstories of major or peripheral Star Wars characters, including Han Solo and Boba Fett, but Disney casually suggests that we could see wholly new adventures. It writes that Rogue One and other standalone movies will explore "the characters and events beyond the core Star Wars saga." That doesn't discount the possibility of seeing well-known Star Wars characters, but it also suggests the more interesting possibility of getting brand new adventures exploring its galaxy.

Within the Star Wars universe, Rogue One refers to the leader of the Rogue Squadron, so we're likely in for a movie about some of the best fighter pilots in the galaxy — or at least in the Alliance.

Disney also confirmed today that Rian Johnson will write and direct Episode VIII. It will arrive in May of 2017.

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