If, for some reason, you are just now learning of Rogue One: A Star Wars Movie, a new Star Wars film coming to theaters this December, then 1) welcome back to Earth, and 2) you probably have a lot of questions. Just as Star Wars: The Force Awakens kicked off a brand new chapter in the Star Wars saga in 2015, so will Rogue One, with one major difference: Rogue One won't be accelerating the story of our new generation of heroes, Finn, Rey, and Poe. In fact, the question of when does Rogue One take place is hugely important, as the film isn't even set anywhere near the time of The Force Awakens.
Rogue One is actually the first in a planned series of stand-alone Star Wars films that will add to the mythology of Star Wars and compliment the original series. This means that Rogue One doesn't take place after The Force Awakens. Rogue One has actually been described as a Star Wars prequel, taking place some time between Episode III — Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV — A New Hope. The film follows a new heroine, Jyn Erso, as she leads the Rebellion in their mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, a mission crucial to the plot of the original trilogy.
At the Star Wars Celebration event in July, Rogue One director Gareth Edwards told fans that the film takes place during a time where the Jedi have disappeared under Darth Vader's rule. "It's about the fact that god's not coming to save us, and we're on our own," Edwards told fans during the Rogue One panel, via The Daily Mail. "The absence of the Jedi is omnipresent in the film," he added. In other words, don't expect a cameo from a young Luke Skywalker.
Rogue One essentially exists between already explored Star Wars timelines, in the mysterious time between the end of the prequel trilogy and the original. While exact years haven't been confirmed, it's safe to say that Rogue One takes place closer to A New Hope than Revenge of the Sith, with Darth Vader already a thoroughly established player. He even appears briefly in one of the Rogue One trailers.
It's important that you have an idea of when Rogue One takes place before going to the theater because the movie will be the first Star Wars film not to have an opening crawl. Traditionally, Star Wars movies have an opening scroll on the screen that sets up the movie in both space and time and introduces the main players and the first scene. In Rogue One, viewers won't be able to rely on an introduction scroll to let them know where and when this new story is set.
The bottom line is that Rogue One will take place in a time all its own, ushering in a new brand of non-trilogy Star Wars films. Whether that's a good or bad thing remains to be seen.
Images: Walt Disney Studios (3)