We now live in a world where there's a new Star Wars movie coming out every single year. What a time to be alive.

But this year's movie, which hits theaters December 16, isn't like the ones that have come before. To help prepare you for "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," here are five things you need to know before grabbing your lightsaber and heading to the theater.

1. It's Not "Episode VIII"
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  Death Star  Ph: Film Frame  ©Lucasfilm LFLThough "Rogue One" is coming on the heels of 2015's "The Force Awakens," it's not a sequel to that film. There's actually been some confusion in this regard, mainly because of the physical similarities between actresses Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones and the fact that so many Star Wars movies feature a planet-destroying super-weapon.

If you want to see what's next for Rey, Poe and Finn, you'll have to wait until December 2018 and the release of the actual "Episode VIII." Instead, "Rogue One" serves as a prequel to the original "Star Wars." This film will showcase the brave heroes who defied the Empire, stole the technical plans for the first Death Star, and made it possible for Luke Skywalker to destroy the space station in the first place. Finally, these unsung heroes will have their moment in the spotlight.

2. It's a Father/Daughter Story
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  (Felicity Jones)  Ph: Film Frame  ©Lucasfilm LFL"Rogue One" centers on a rebellious young woman named Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Jyn is reluctantly drawn into the war between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance, as she's charged with leading a team to steal the Death Star plans and bring hope to the galaxy.

The odds of success aren't great, but Jyn does have one major advantage -- her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), helped design the Death Star and its planet-rupturing laser. The film will explore the troubled backstory between Jyn and her father, including how the two were separated years before as Galen was forcibly recruited to serve the Empire.

3. It Stars a Team of Rebels
Jyn may be the main heroine of "Rogue One," but she'll have an entire team of intrepid Rebels backing her up.

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is an experienced intelligence officer with a talent for keeping cool under pressure.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  (Donnie Yen)  Ph: Film Frame  ©Lucasfilm LFLChirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen, above) is a very spiritual warrior who worships the Force (though he's not actually a Jedi). He has a knack for defeating Stormtroopers -- despite being blind and armed only with a staff. Basically, he's the "Star Wars" equivalent of Zatoichi. He's joined by his best friend, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), a much more pragmatic soldier and an expert marksman.
Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker, above) is a grizzled veteran of the Clone Wars who has spent much of his life battling first the Separatists and then the Empire. A much younger Gerrera actually appeared in several episodes of the animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."
And finally, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) is the team's resident droid assistant. K-2SO is an Imperial assassin droid who was reprogrammed by Cassian, a la "Terminator 2."

4. Darth Vader Is Back
Expect both new and old faces when it comes to the villains in "Rogue One." Fans will be happy to know that Darth Vader will make an appearance, with James Earl Jones returning to voice the Dark Lord of the Sith. Emperor Palpatine may or may not appear, but he'll be looming large over this conflict.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  (Ben Mendelsohn)  Ph: Film Frame  ©Lucasfilm LFLHowever, the main villain in "Rogue One" is a new addition to the franchise. Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) is a high-ranking Imperial officer tasked with completing the long-delayed Death Star project by any means necessary. Krennic was responsible for forcing Galen Erso into Imperial servitude, and there's little this brilliant (but desperate) man won't do to complete his task and please his Emperor.

"Rogue One" will also introduce several new trooper types alongside the familiar Stormtroopers. The Deathtroopers are an elite squad of soldiers clad in black armor that serve as Krennic's personal bodyguards. The colorful Shoretroopers are a specialized unit charged with patrolling the tropical world of Scarif, which will be a key location in this film.

5. This Isn't Your Usual Star Wars Movie
Sure, it has spaceships and blasters and the Death Star, but it's all rumored to be put through a gritty, "war movie" lens.

"Rogue One" is the first of many "Star Wars Anthology" films. Unlike "The Force Awakens" and its sequels, which will directly continue the original saga, the Anthology films aim to expand the larger Star Wars universe and focus on other characters and conflicts. For example, the next Anthology movie (due May 2018) will focus on a young Han Solo.

The Anthology films will also shake things up in terms of style and presentation. Don't expect all the familiar Star Wars tropes to be on display here. For one thing, John Williams didn't compose the score (that responsibility instead fell to Michael Giacchino), and we've learned that "Rogue One" won't even feature the iconic Star Wars title crawl.

For another, this movie will break from tradition by featuring flashbacks to Jyn's childhood.

Basically, don't expect a 100% traditional "Star Wars movie" this time. But with all the complaints about "The Force Awakens" rehashing familiar tropes, maybe that's a good thing.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Poster
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
PG-132016
Based on 51 critics

Former scientist Galen Erso lives on a farm with his wife and young daughter, Jyn. His peaceful existence... Read More

May 27, 2017
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categories Movies