If overheard conversations at movie theater bathrooms, Facebook threads from the last six months, and my own Thanksgiving dinner table are to be believed, there's confusion surrounding the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Mainly, what the hell is it?
It is the future of blockbustering, in a nutshell. When Walt Disney Pictures and LucasFilm announced Star Wars: Episode VII many moons ago, they teased the potential for "spinoff" films that would carve out new areas of the galaxy far, far away. These would include adventures with characters we know and love (see: Untitled Han Solo Movie, slated for 2018) and one-offs that dug deeper into history established by George Lucas's original movies. Which brings us to Rogue One, which, despite arriving a year after J.J. Abrams introduced us to Rey, Finn, Poe, and a new cast of lovable characters, has absolutely nothing to do with Rey, Finn, Poe, and a new cast of lovable characters.
I repeat: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not a direct sequel to Star Wars: Episode VII. The main character, Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones), is not tied into the new conflict between "The First Order" and "The Resistance," is not part of Luke Skywalker's lineage, likely has nothing to do with Rey's search for her parents, and definitely is not a part of Snoke's secret Sith revival. Rogue One is a prequel to Lucas's original Star Wars movie, following Jyn as she assembles a team to steal the plans to the first Death Star. Darth Vader links the two movies together. In Rogue One, he's alive and kicking Rebellion ass. In Episode VII, he's a melted helmet inspiring the next generation of brooding bros to stamp out goodness across planetary systems.
This was much easier to follow in 1977.