This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
NB: The following contains potential spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Scroll below our Jedi Squirrel at your peril.
From rank-and-file Stormtroopers to the imposing Darth Vader himself, villains have long been the engine that drives the Star Wars universe. Sure, Luke Han and now Finn and Rey might be the ones we root for, but it’s the antagonists that give them something to fight against and, in many cases, provide the franchise with its most powerful imagery – it’s no coincidence that the features of Darth Maul and Kylo Ren have been used to promote The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens respectively.
With less than a year to go until the release of the first Star Wars spin-off, Rogue One, we’ve already provided one fairly hefty round-up of what we know about the movie so far. You can read that here, but for anyone who just needs a simple, one line refresher, here’s one now: Rogue One is set before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, and explores how the Rebel Alliance manages to steal the plans to the Death Star.
It will explore a “galactic struggle from a ground-war perspective,” says Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy, “while maintaining that essential Star Wars feel that fans have come to know.”
And, of course, villains are all part and parcel of this Star Wars spin-off. Over the past day or so, some tantalising stories have emerged about the nature of those Rogue One antagonists.
Here’s a look at each one in turn…
First up: old Darth himself. It’s been rumoured for some time that the Dark Lord of the Sith will appear in Rogue One, but the original thinking was that he won’t be the central villain of the piece but rather a puppet-master who will only make a few appearances onscreen.
Now, however, reports are starting to emerge that fly in the face of those earlier rumours – Vader won’t just have a cameo role, but will appear in at least one action sequence. The story comes from Making Star Wars – a site which has a great batting average with these kinds of things – where it’s reported that several suits of Vader armor have been built for Rogue One. One of them is a detailed replica of the one first seen in A New Hope, but others have been built for members of the stunt team.
Why? Because we’ll reportedly see Vader slicing through Rebels on the battlefield – the word is that storyboards show Vader decapitating and dismembering Rebel troops and “levitating bodies to make human shields.” Now, we’ve heard that Rogue One will be going down a grittier, war-movie route, but this sounds like the kind of stuff that could really push at the boundaries of the PG-13 rating.
Given that Rogue One will take place before the events of A New Hope, it sounds both logical and more than a little exciting that we’d see Vader flex his Sith muscles against soldiers rather than hapless underlings on the Death Star. This is certainly one rumor we’re hoping will come to pass.
Another villain from A New Hope is also said to be making a return in Rogue One.
You might recall that Moff Tarkin was first rumored to be a member of the spin-off’s cast as long ago as last year. The slightly more spurious part of the story went that the late Peter Cushing’s likeness was being recreated using CGI – a process which was costing the production millions, according to sources talking to the Daily Mail. We haven’t heard that repeated anywhere else as yet, but Making Star Wars now adds to the thinking that Tarkin is indeed going to be stalking around sullenly in Rogue One.
Their source claims to have seen Photoshop concept art that “pretty much looks like it could be a cut scene from A New Hope.” Whether this actually confirms the suggestion that Tarkin will be CGI, or whether they simply used imagery from the original Star Wars as a placeholder remains to be seen. For now, it at least lends weight to the theory that Tarkin will appear in the spin-off in some form – perhaps played by the mighty Ben Mendelsohn. It’s not too hard to imagine him playing the most gaunt governor in the Star Wars galaxy…
“It’s the realities of war” director Gareth Edwards said of the events in Rogue One. And if the spin-off’s about realistic-looking sci-fi combat, won’t the standard, rank-and-file Stormtroopers (who famously couldn’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo) seem a bit out of place?
To remedy this, Lucasfilm is reportedly set to introduce a new breed of Stormtrooper in Rogue One. There were stories last year of black-clad Imperial soldiers appearing in the movie, but Jo Blo now reports that they’re referred to among the crew as “Death Troopers.” Whether that’s the name they’ll have in the finished film isn’t currently clear.
All we know for now is that Donnie Yen posted and then swiftly deleted an image of three Stormtrooper helmets on Instagram. One was the standard white Stormtrooper design we’ve all seen before; the other two were unfamiliar but gorgeously retro-looking. One is yellowing and worn, with what appears to be a blast shield mounted on the top. The third is shiny and black, akin to a more angular TIE pilot’s helmet. Could this latter design be the new face of these elite Death Troopers? Only time will tell.
A captured Imperial droid
Okay, so this one isn’t strictly a villain of the piece, but he certainly starts out as one. It’s said that a humanoid Imperial droid which is either dark grey or black is captured by the Rebels, reprogrammed and winds up working on the side of Felicity Jones and her motley band of fighters.
Lucasfilm has already confirmed that Alan Tudyk’s playing a “performance capture character” of some sort in Rogue One; could this be him? Jo Blo thinks it’s a possibility, though it’s equally likely that it’s a reprogrammed Imperial Probe droid (as pictured above). Or what about one of those Imperial Interrogators that scared the life out of us as kids? One of those would make an interesting side-kick.
Returning bounty hunters
This is an older rumour, but we’re including it here for completeness’ sake. Bloody Disgusting reported last year that Moff Tarkin will, at some point in Rogue One, hire a band of bounty hunters to go off and retrieve the stolen Death Star plans.
Those bounty hunters? You’re probably guessing where we’re going with this: Dengar, Zuckus, 4LOM, IG-88, Cad Bane and some chap named Boba Fett…
Shiny new Imperial hardware
Thanks to Jo Blo, we also have the rumors that we’ll see new TIE Fighters and – perhaps even more exciting – a new kind of AT-AT in Rogue One. Rebels facing off against Imperial walkers, classic bounty hunters and maybe Darth Vader lopping off heads in the same movie? Excuse us while we lie down…
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is out in cinemas on the 16th December.