Mostly everything revealed about Rogue One thus far should make a Star Wars fan happy. Gareth Edwards’s spinoff prequel movie has all the ingredients and iconography that we’ve come to love: The Death Star, the heroic Rebel Alliance versus the evil Galactic Empire, a young hero rising to the challenge, and even Darth Vader. Edwards has seemingly woven in those iconic symbols from the original trilogy into a new story. But given fans’ eagle-eyed dedication to cataloguing every little detail in these films, it may be difficult for Edwards to integrate all the shiny new elements with a story that takes place directly before A New Hope.
The Star Wars saga — including all the films, TV shows, comics, books, and more — is now one sprawling and connected cinematic universe. That means there needs to be a hugely complex continuity running through it all, which will be especially hard to pull off with all the prequels in the pipeline.
After all, Star Wars pioneered movie merchandising, and the Rogue One toy machine will inevitably deliver all the Death Trooper, Shoretrooper, TIE Striker, U-Wing, and AT-ACT toys your little heart desires. But if these new designs show up in prequels, why wouldn’t they show up in the subsequent movies that were released before them?
When the first set of prequels came out, the answer was that technology progressed big time between The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens. That’s why the Jedi Starfighter in the prequels looked more and more like TIE fighters as the series went on, and why the clunky four-engine X-Wings from A New Hope got a sleek two-engine upgrade and nifty paint jobs when they popped up 30 years later in continuity in The Force Awakens.
The most organic solution to this Star Wars problem was the Trade Federation battle droids, who were first introduced as the go-to killable enemy in The Phantom Menace but were never seen again in the continuity of the original trilogy. What happened to them? Oh, well, no biggie — they were phased out and replaced by a clone army in the Clone Wars, which were in turn abandoned by the time the events of The Force Awakens happened in favor of semi-brainwashed human Stormtroopers like Finn.
That explanation won’t work for Rogue One given that the movie supposedly ends 10 minutes before A New Hope begins. As such, here’s our best guess as to how they’ll explain away the shiny new weapons not appearing in the films that follow it in the timeline.
If they’re such badasses, how come these dudes didn’t just show up on Endor in Return of the Jedi to ice the Rebel mission? Based on concept artist Ralph McQuarrie’s’s original designs of tall and sleek stormtroopers, these guys seem way more specialized, almost like Director Krennic’s personal unit charged with tracking down Death Star-related traitors. Because they’re such a limited unit, they plausibly could all be killed off at some point in the movie.
Much like the Death Troopers, the Shoretroopers were a top secret bunch as well. The typically vague, official Star Wars databank specifies that they’re “specialist stormtroopers stationed at the top secret Imperial military headquarters on Scarif,” and that “Shoretroopers patrol the beaches and bunkers of the planetary facility.” So the reason we won’t see these dudes hanging out on Hoth or walking around on Darth Vader’s personal Star Destroyer is because they’re ostensibly only found patrolling high-priority Imperial bases like the one on Scarif.
Wait wait, whats the deal here? The Rebellion is on its last legs and suddenly they’ve got a bunch of new tech? A “well-armed swing-wing vessel that must penetrate heavy fire zones to deposit soldiers onto battlefields and then fly air support during dangerous missions against the Empire,” the U-Wing isn’t seen in A New Hope, perhaps because it was never necessary.
It seems the Empire was big on this whole specialized soldiers and spacecraft thing. Multiple TIE Fighter designs have been present since the original, with Darth Vader’s personal TIE craft offering an angular take on the twin ion engines of the Empire’s fighter of choice. But the TIE Striker is the newest variant. First introduced at this year’s Star Wars Celebration, it seems these guys get away with not showing up beyond Rogue One because they’re “designed for atmospheric patrols over important Imperial ground-based installations.” Translation: They’re only flying around Scarif making sure Jyn doesn’t steal the Death Star plans.
Described as larger versions of Imperial walkers that feature “cargo bed for the transportation of heavy building materials or combat munitions,” it seems the AT-ACTs are responsible for hauling parts of the Death Star on Scarif. In a nice little inversion of the AT-AT offensive on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, it seems the AT-ACTs will go on the defensive against a Rebel attack in Rogue One. Imperial walker variety is the spice of life.