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Star Wars: Rogue One will be a prequel to the original trilogy

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First 'anthology film' will be about Rebels stealing plans to the Death Star

Fans here at Star Wars Celebration continue to get new nuggets of information, and today we got a glimpse of Gareth Edwards' Rogue One and the first description of the plot. During a panel, Edwards stated that the film will take place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and will be about a group of rebels banding together to steal plans for the Death Star. Those plans are what allowed Luke Skywalker to destroy the battle station in the original film. Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy and Kiri Hart also announced the formal name for the new stand-alone films: they will be called "anthology films."

Rogue One won't be a film about people with The Force or the Jedi in general, Edwards said. Instead "it comes down to a group of individuals who don't have magical powers that have to somehow bring hope to the galaxy." He showed off a brief teaser for the film, made with the cooperation of Industrial Light & Magic (the film hasn't started shooting yet). The teaser stars with Obi-Wan Kenobi's voice-over from the first Star Wars, talking about how the Jedi established peace in the galaxy "before the dark times, before the Empire." The camera tracks over a jungle valley as the voice-over continues. A lone TIE Fighter then soars overhead, heading toward the outline of what looks like a nearby moon... but is actually the Death Star.

Felicity Jones, whose casting has already been announced, will play a Rebel soldier involved in the mission. Edwards underscored that the film is aiming for realism, and that it's a no-holds-barred war picture. "It's the reality of war. Good guys are bad. Bad guys are good. It's complicated, layered; a very rich scenario in which to set a movie."

Star Wars Rouge One

The idea for the film came from award-winning visual effects artist John Knoll, who pitched the idea internally before bringing it to Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm's Kiri Hart. The process led to the company looking internally for other story options for the Star Wars films — a process that sounds similar to what Pixar does with its short film program.

Edwards explained that he was first pitched the idea for Rogue One when he was in the middle of Godzilla, and was so burned out that he was hoping he wouldn't like the project — even though he is a lifelong Star Wars fan. "Please be rubbish, please be rubbish, please hate it," he remembered thinking when reading the original description. "And then I got to the end and I was just, 'Oh, fuck.'"

Rogue One starts shooting this summer, and will be released in December of 2016. It's obviously far too early to tell what the finished film will look like, and things are still in motion, but the idea of setting films inside the Star Wars universe across different genres holds incredible potential if handled correctly. Judging from the seriousness with which everyone involved in Rogue One is approaching the project, things look extraordinarily promising.