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I've been hearing about Rogue One (mainly just on this site) but haven't been out to see it. I just assumed it was the next Star Wars movie, but after seeing this question and reading the Wikipedia page, it appears it is not.

Could someone explain to a complete Star Wars newcomer whether Rogue One is a Star Wars movie and why it is/isn't the next Episode in the franchise?

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    it is definitely a "Star Wars" movie - if you mean a movie set in the Star Wars universe. Think of it as Episode 3.5 – NKCampbell Dec 30 '16 at 14:05
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    @NKCampbell or Episode IIIS according to Wikipedia on fractions in roman numerals. – Matt Burland Dec 30 '16 at 15:13
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    Closer to Episode 3.9. – Kyle Jones Dec 30 '16 at 16:21
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    Not sure why this has attracted DV's... – DBPriGuy Dec 30 '16 at 17:41
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit, granted that the question of whether it's a Star Wars film is redundant, but to someone who may never have seen star wars before, asking why it's not the next episode in the installment seems to be a fairly reasonable question – Edlothiad Jan 2 '17 at 17:29
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Rogue One is a stand-alone film set in the Star Wars universe. Unlike the 7 Episodes we have seen, Rogue One simply fills the gap in knowledge of what happened between Episode III and Episode IV, rather than further the plot of the Episodes so far.

Essentially, the basis for Rogue One is:

the tale of how the Rebellion acquires the Death Star plans in Episode IV and discusses why there was such a major flaw in the design of the Death Star

It is part of the Star Wars Anthology Series which was planned after the decision to make the Sequel Trilogy.

The next anthology film, based on how Han Solo

becomes the criminal smuggler we meet in the Mos Eisley Cantina

is set to come out in May 2018, and will be directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

The final anthology film, which, not much is known about, has had a writer for the script since September 2016 and is planned to be released in 2020

The difference between these films and the Episodes is that they don't further the plot of the Skywalker family and the story of the Jedi, however they give us more information about plot points and characters we have only been able to speculate about and expand the galaxy.

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    Does episode VII actually further the plot of the Skywalker family and the story of the Jedi? And even if you consider it as an "introduction" to episode VIII (and if we assume VIII will be more focused on Jedi and Luke), it means VII only fills the gap between VI and VIII... – Evariste Dec 30 '16 at 14:54
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    The main difference between Episode VII and the Anthology films is that Episode VII doesn't fill us in on plot points or character histories that we've seen before and have wondered about. Moreover, it does indeed further the story of the Skywalker family and the Jedi as we learn of Han and Leia's child (also a Skywalker) training to become a Jedi, as well as being introduced to a new student of the force (who's parentage is unknown) finding Luke's lightsaber and (as far as we can guess) will bring Luke back out of Exile – Edlothiad Dec 30 '16 at 15:47
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No, Rogue One is not an "Episode" of the Star Wars saga. Note the absence of "Episode Roman Numeral" in its full title.

Rogue One takes place between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. There's no room left for a numeral in between.


But more importantly, the Star Wars Episodes (so far) tell the saga of the Skywalker family in general and the journeys of Luke Skywalker and his father Anakin in specific. While the events in Rogue One are related and somewhat relevant to that saga and even show members of the Skywalker family, it is not part of that journey.

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The film's producer made it clear in a press-release that her film, and the other standalone films, are separate and distinct from the "Star Wars Saga" films.

Producer Kathleen Kennedy was very supportive of Edwards’ desire to experiment and to give the film its own unique personality: “The Star Wars saga films have a responsibility to maintain a continuity of tone and stylistic device. Things like the crawl at the beginning, and the wipes. But with the standalone films we’re relaxing some of those rules so that we can try stylistic and tonal experiments that depart a bit from what we’ve seen and are exciting.”

Director Gareth Edwards puts own stamp to Star Wars with “Rogue One”

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In the past we had the (episodic) films and the cartoons. With the latter filling the gaps.

When Disney took over the franchise, they tried to produce more profit for themselves, and fill in the gaps in a different way. Thus they created the anthology films.

This means we now have 2 different variants of films:

  • Episodic films that tell the main story (Eps 1-7 currently)
  • Anthology films that tell side stories

(like how the death star plans from Ep 4 came into the possession of the rebels or the background story of Han Solo ...).

This means that, despite Rogue One being a Star Wars film, it is "just" an anthology film, and thus if you want to know the main story it is not required to see. Although it adds to the main story (being a side arc), it is not truly part of it.

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Rogue One is absolutely a Star Wars movie.

Is it a movie such that it is deemed "Episode x"? No, not so much.

You could call it "Episode 3½", because it sits narratively between episodes 3 and 4.

But it is its own tale.

That's why it is not called "Star Wars Episode 3½: Rogue One", but "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story".

And, let's face it, "Episode 3½" would be kind of a stupid title! Maybe that's why they didn't do that.

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