Where Does 'Rogue One' Fit in the Star Wars Universe?

"Rogue One" stars Felicity Jones as scrappy rebel Jyn Erso. Lucasfilm, Ltd.
"Rogue One" stars Felicity Jones as scrappy rebel Jyn Erso. Lucasfilm, Ltd.

When Disney announced that there would be new “Star Wars” films, everyone knew that “Episode VII” would be a foregone conclusion. What was a little more nebulous was where these announced standalone films would fit into the tapestry of the “Star Wars” galaxy. Now that the first trailer for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is out, we know a lot more about where it will fit and how it will work.

This film takes place in the days between the animated television series “Star Wars Rebels” and the original “Star Wars” film, “Episode IV — A New Hope.” According to the official “Star Wars” website, the film “tells the story of resistance fighters who have united to steal plans to the dreaded Death Star.”


“This station is now the ultimate power in the universe … I suggest we use it.”
Admiral Motti, “Star Wars: A New Hope”

Given the time frame of the film, this is obviously the first, dreaded Death Star that we learned about in the opening crawl to “A New Hope.” This group of heroes, led by a character named Jyn Erso played by Felicity Jones, sets out to steal the plans to the Death Star. Those are the very plans that Princess Leia is carrying when she's caught by Darth Vader above the desert planet of Tatooine.

The other female character seen in that new trailer is Mon Mothma. She's a character we've seen before, but she's also a source of confusion for more casual fans. Mon Mothma gave the briefing about the second Death Star in “Return of the Jedi.” And she had one line that was particularly striking: “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.”

Now, some “Star Wars” fans are asking why we didn't see any of these alien Bothans in the trailer for “Rogue One,” but it's important to remember that all the intel gathered on the second Death Star would have come, most likely, in the days after “The Empire Strikes Back.”

This movie appears to be drastically different in tone from other “Star Wars” movies we've seen, coming closer to an actual war film than the others have been. This is evident when you consider that the cinematography is in the hands of Greig Frasier, who handled the visuals of “Zero Dark Thirty,” and the special effects in the hands of Neil Corbould, who worked on effects for “Saving Private Ryan” and “Black Hawk Down.” All of the main characters are brawlers and infantry rather than the Force-gifted, desert-dwelling youths that headline the Skywalker saga films.

“Rogue One” also seems to take cues from “Star Wars Rebels,” which is set in a similar era. The animated series takes place just a few years before the events of “Rogue One” and follows a similar band of Rebels as they go about building the infrastructure of the Rebel Alliance that will eventually lead to the victories of the original trilogy of films.

At the beginning of “A New Hope,” the plot for the film is laid out plainly in the opening crawl: “Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies have managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon ... ” The trailer for “Rogue One” shows that the base mentioned is most likely on the moon of Yavin in the jungle temples where the Rebellion ended up staging their desperate assault against the Death Star.

For those hoping for a happy ending to “Rogue One,” it might not be wise to hold out too much hope for the heroes of this particular mission. At the beginning of “A New Hope,” Darth Vader says that Princess Leia is the only link in the chain left that could lead him to the Rebel base, which implies that he already dealt with the others.

There's no word on whether or not Darth Vader will even appear in “Rogue One.” That might very well be a surprise waiting for us when the film hits cinemas in December.