It’s official: the first Star Wars live-action standalone film, directed by Gareth Edwards and written by Chris Weitz from a draft by Gary Whitta, is called Rogue One. Filming begins this summer in London with a Dec. 16, 2016 release date. Felicity Jones will star and…that’s all we know.
ENTER ROGUE SQUADRON
But just from that very short title (for a Star Wars movie) we can already already start picking out some tidbits about the upcoming film. First and foremost, in Star Wars lore, “Rogue One” is the callsign used by the leader of Rogue Squadron, the Rebel Alliance’s (and later New Republic’s — if you want to dig up the old Expanded Universe from the dead) elite fighter squadron. This title seems to be an obvious nod to the film’s story.
We’ll undoubtedly see the galaxy far, far away from the eyes of a new Rogue Leader, although we can’t confirm whether Jones will be that new Leader. But it would certainly be a step in the right direction. Even in the old Expanded Universe (now known as “Legends”), there have only been two female Rogue Leaders out of the eight mentioned in the books and elsewhere, one of them being Jaina Solo, Han and Leia’s daughter. Jones’ casting as the main character goes along with what J.J. Abrams has done with The Force Awakens and Daisy Ridley, who, rumor has it, will be the hero of the Sequel Trilogy. It would be a correct step in terms of women and minorities in the galaxy far, far away.
And we can’t neglect the importance of a Rogue Squadron movie, which is perhaps the most welcomed addition to the on-screen saga since Disney bought the rights to the franchise. You only have to take a look back the history of Star Wars‘ most elite starfighter squadron to see why.
THE HISTORY OF ROGUE SQUADRON AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Rogue Squadron wasn’t introduced until The Empire Strikes Back during the Battle of Hoth. Interestingly enough, the Alliance’s fighter squadrons were given Red and Gold designations during the Battle of Yavin that saw the fall of the first Death Star in A New Hope. Jason Fry’s book, Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare, tracks the founding of Rogue Squadron after the Battle of Yavin, as the remnants of Red Squadron came together to form the new fighter group. They were originally Rogue Flight, but when they flew together with Blue and Green Squadrons at the Battle of Hoth, they began identifying as Rogue Squadron.
Through the films (sorta) and especially Legends, Rogue Squadron quickly became the most celebrated starfighter squadron in the entire galaxy, saving the New Republic (and the later iterations of that government) countless times, whether it was from Grand Admiral Thrawn or the Yuuzhan Vong. And in the Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston series, X-Wing, Rogue Squadron led a daring mission to take back Coruscant from the Empire after Return of the Jedi. To read, watch, and play through the adventures of Rogue Squadron is to witness the biggest events of the classic Star Wars universe.
Yet the Rogues have barely received any of the spotlight in the films, aside from a few moments during the Battles of Hoth and Endor, which actually don’t amount to much screen time. To finally get the spotlight in their own standalone film is not only a major victory for fans who love this sector of Star Wars lore, but also the lore masters who created the many adventures of the squadron. There will hopefully be nods to the work of Stackpole, Allston, Timothy Zahn, Troy Denning, Walter Jon Williams, and the countless other writers and artists that added to this specific part of the mythos.
And that’s not even mentioning the great work the now-defunct LucasArts and Factor 5 did on the Rogue Squadron video game series, which allowed us to jump into massive dogfights against TIE Fighters, face off against Star Destroyers, take down AT-ATs, and blow up both Death Stars. For Star Wars fans growing up in the 90s, the majority of their interactive adventures in the galaxy far, far away took place inside the cockpit of an X-Wing.
In fact, if Disney and Lucasfilm are able to find it in their Imperial hearts to lift the segregating curtain on the Legends timeline for this film, taking bits and pieces of the already-established Rogue Squadron lore at least for inspiration, it will be a major service to the fans. There are already TONS of great stories involving the squadron that are easily adaptable to the big screen.
Rogue One could perhaps be the first Star Wars film to officially acknowledge the post-ROTJ Legends universe that for so many years has perfectly complemented the film franchise. This is very important.
ROGUE LEADER STANDING BY
Of course, this all begs a very important question: when will Rogue One take place? That will be impossible to truly decipher until more of the cast is announced. For now, let’s say Denis Lawson won’t be coming back to reprise his role as Wedge Antilles and that this film isn’t a prequel to The Force Awakens or A New Hope. It just goes without saying at this point that Disney is really interested in developing its very own sector of Star Wars lore on screen, and the easiest way to do that is to move forward, not backwards.
Sure, one can make the argument that Star Wars Rebels, the new EU books, and Marvel comics are all prequels to The Force Awakens, but I can’t imagine that Disney will keep the Sequel era locked down for much longer after Episode VII premieres. After all, the company has already announced that it’s venturing into the post-Return of the Jedi timeline this year to bridge the gap to the new film. And not just with one book. Disney is publishing TWENTY this year. I think the days of canon prudence are numbered.
So if Rogue One takes place after The Force Awakens, it could be that Jones is the new Rogue Leader of this era. Perhaps she’ll even be introduced in some way in the main installment. Rumor has it that Poe Dameron is part of Rogue Squadron in that film, so an introduction of Jones’ character wouldn’t be that far-fetched. Maybe even just a quick cameo where she says, “Rogue Five, standing by.” Okay, yes, I’m getting ridiculous.
To bring me back to my earlier point about the already-established lore of Rogue Squadron, it will be interesting to see what (if anything) Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz took from Legends in their script. Will Jones’ character take any inspiration from Stackpole creations such as Corran Horn or Gavin Darklighter (Biggs’ younger cousin!!!)?
Horn was an exemplary pilot who later decided to walk the path of the Jedi. He became one of the New Jedi Order’s most celebrated knights. Of course, this would create an obvious parallel between Jones’ character and Luke Skywalker himself.
Darklighter, on the other hand, served Rogue Squadron honorably for most of his military career, inheriting the title of Rogue Leader from Wedge Antilles and Tycho Celchu after they retired. After the Yuuzhan Vong War, during which he recruited young Jaina Solo — a talented pilot and Jedi Knight, as was her birth right — to become the new Rogue Leader, Darklighter joined Fleet Command of the Galactic Alliance (the reigning galactic government formed after the fall of the New Republic during the Yuuzhan Vong conflict).
It would be nice to see a main character in a Star Wars film who is purely about the military, someone who doesn’t eventually become a Jedi or a politician. For a film series called “Star Wars,” that perspective hasn’t yet been truly explored.
John Saavedra is now going to go play Star Wars: Rogue Squadron for hours. Join his wing on Twitter.