Last week, the Internet (and Good Morning America?) got its first look at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the new Star Wars spinoff film coming December 2016. This film will mark the first time we'll be getting a major, live-action Star Wars movie that isn't a main-line, numbered episode, and that's a pretty big deal for a number of reasons.
First, though, if you haven't watched the trailer, you should do that now. Here it is for you:
So...yeah, it's pretty good, huh?
On a base level, this trailer hits on a number of fun nostalgia points, partly because of its pre-Ep. IV timeline: the Death Star is a new, untested toy for the Empire; AT-ATs are alive and well; the Rebel base is still on Yavin 4; and Mon Mothma is back! Add to that a mysterious protagonist, a cool cast, a lot of great action scenes, and the promise of explaining the backstory of the stolen Death Star plans, and it seems pretty assured that we'll be in for a solid film.
But, beyond that, this is also going to be the first Star Wars film that doesn't focus on Skywalkers and Solos.
George Lucas recently said, about Star Wars as a whole, in some interviews that, "People don’t actually realize it’s actually a soap opera and it’s all about family problems — it’s not about spaceships." While that is a fairly accurate assessment of the seven existing movies, Rogue One tosses that aside in favor of a story that's literally all about a spaceship and the rebellion. Oh, and there are no Jedi in sight (remember that the Empire has, at this point, killed all the Jedi except for Obi-Wan and Yoda).
It's not that the "family saga" angle hasn't had its moments: finding out that (old spoilers ahead) Darth Vader is Luke's father and Leia is Luke's sister are iconic scenes in cinematic history. But this is supposed to be a galaxy, and galaxies operate with more than just two families.
In the original Star Wars , fans loved the feeling that this was a world that had existed long before the opening text crawl. Characters referenced events of the past with little explanation—they were just parts of their history. In the context of the original trilogy, this was great: there obviously wasn't going to be time to dive into every side story during three films. Now, though, the enduring success of the franchise means we have time (and the filmmakers have the money) to go much deeper into the universe.
Deeper is great, but I want to go wider, too; and the first step is focusing on characters who aren't blood relatives of anyone we've seen so far. (Honestly, despite it being a popular theory, this is the same reason I'm hoping that Rey doesn't turn out to be Luke's daughter in Ep. VII or IX). Jyn Erso, the main character of Rogue One , fits the bill nicely as an outsider to both the Rebellion and the Skywalker/Solo family tree.
Of course, the Internet has jumped on the "family" bandwagon with articles already surfacing that suggest Jyn could be Rey's mother. It's possible, for sure, and would help tie this spinoff into the mainline episodes more tightly, but I hope that's not the case. I'm not alone. I want Jyn to be a standalone character, just as I want Rogue One to be a standalone film.
Regardless, the fact that we're getting our first taste of a Star Wars film that tells a new type of story is a new type of hope for the franchise. It opens up the galaxy to so much more than family drama, and that alone has me excited for December.