Seeker Archives

Rogue One: Mission to Find the Death Star's Biggest Flaw

The 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' trailer has been released and it will chronicle the story of the Rebel spies who stole the Death Star's plans.

Probably one of the most captivating untold tales from the "Star Wars" universe is the sub-plot that involves the Rebel Alliance's acquisition of the plans for the evil Empire's superweapon, the Death Star. And, as revealed in the teaser trailer for the Star Wars spin-off movie "Rogue One" on Thursday, we'll finally get the gritty story behind the daring mission.

ANALYSIS: Is New Star Wars Movie (or Anything Else) So New?

The trailer has everything: a strong female lead (Felicity Jones), snappy dialog, atmospheric sets and costumes with powerful echos from "A New Hope" and a promise that we'll finally get the details behind how the Rebels smuggled the Death Star's plans from behind enemy lines, eventually allowing Luke Skywalker to sink his X-Wing-launched torpedoes into the battle station's exhaust vents.

Screenshot from the "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" movie trailer showing Felicity Jones as Rebel leader Jyn Erso. | Disney

For me, I'm almost more excited for "Rogue One" than I was for "The Force Awakens" that was released in December. Though I enjoyed "The Force Awakens," I felt that, to live up to the ground-trembling hype, there was too much of a focus on CGI and a lack of original storytelling, instead depending on tried-and-tested tropes (a super-duper-planet-sized Death Star? Really?). That said, the new generation of characters, led by Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), are providing a strong direction for the franchise, which will be exciting to see flourish in upcoming movies. And, of course, it was a thrill to see Solo, Leia and (albeit briefly) Luke 30 years after the destruction of the Empire's second Death Star in "Return of the Jedi."

ANALYSIS: ‘The Force' Awakens in Star's ‘Lightsaber' Jets

But "Rogue One," which is the first of the "Star Wars Anthology" series, appears to be a standalone tale (directed by Gareth Edwards) following Jyn Erso (Jones) on her epic adventure to lead a group of Rebel misfits on a mission to grab the plans for the Galactic Empire's first Death Star.

Watch the awesome trailer:

click to play video

In the opening crawl for "A New Hope" that was released in 1977, we were given a primer for the premise of "Rogue One":

"It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

"During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

"Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy...."

ANALYSIS: ‘Star Wars' and ‘Star Trek' Collide on Pluto Moon Charon

Apart from mentions in fan fiction and spin-off "Star Wars" novels, little more information is known about these "Rebel spies." Considering that the plans for the Death Star are pivotal to "A New Hope"‘s story line, it's about time a movie is devoted to their story. And their story looks thrilling. And there's not a Jedi in sight.

At least from what we can tell from this trailer, the movie is independent of the Skywalker canon and "mythical" Force, instead focusing on Jyn, a rebellious fighter who may have a problem with authority ("This is a rebellion, isn't it?" she says when her rap sheet is read out to her). There's hints of her compatriots and a powerful scene (that feels as if it was inspired by the "Star Wars: Battlefront" video game) showing Jyn and co. running at an AT-AT, blasters blazing. There's also some pretty cool hand-to-hand combat scenes. But there's little time for levity or needless lighthearted one-liners, this is war and we're going to live the grit of this war through the eyes of a brave band of Rebels who will stop at nothing to find the Achilles Heel of the Empire's superweapon before it goes online.

NEWS: Star Wars Day: The Force Is Strong in These Tweets

Of course, we know the Death Star plans do get stolen and smuggled to the Rebels (via Princess Leia and R2D2), who then realize there's a small exhaust vent leading to the core of the Death Star that could be exploited. But what happened to to the brave team who captured the plans in the first place? We'll have to wait until December to find out.

For updates on the movie and its release, keep an eye on the official Star Wars website.

click to play video

'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' will chronicle the Rebels' acquisition of plans for the Empire's Death Star, which ultimately allowed Luke Skywalker (in the original movie "A New Hope") to destroy the superweapon. From left to right: Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and construction of the Death Star as seen in the new trailer and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) attacks the Death Star in "A New Hope."

Younger readers may not be aware of this, but there was a time when science fiction movies were decidedly unfashionable. Relegated to the b-movie lots in Hollywood, they were aimed at that devoted but disreputable audience partial to stories of robots, spaceships and aliens. Science fiction movies these days are, of course, undeniably mainstream. In fact, thanks to Hollywood's various ongoing franchises, the genre is by far the industry's single biggest moneymaker. Sci-fi's massive popularity is telling: As technology continues to accelerate at breakneck speed, these stories speak to our hopes and fears about a future that's coming in awfully fast. Here we take a look at the year's best science fiction films, and what they can tell us about our feelings on the future.


The Future (As Seen By The Past)

Along with "Mad Max: Fury Road" -- more on that in a bit -- the British thriller

"Ex Machina"

was the year's most critically acclaimed sci-fi film. The movie stars Alicia Vikander as Ava, an advanced artificial intelligence in the physical form of an equally advanced humanoid robot. With its modern Frankenstein storyline, "Ex Machina" addresses the issue of artificial intelligence run amok -- a well-worn sci-fi trope. But the movie updates the standard template with elements of gender politics, human psychology and tech industry critique. Oscar Isaac's character -- an eccentric gazillionaire with Big Plans -- seems awfully familiar, and represents a new kind of mad scientist for the 21st century.


'Ex Machina': Science Vs. Fiction

Dig through the archives and you'll find that most science fiction films are rather despairing. Our heroes are usually fighting some impending threat -- technological, ecological or extraterrestrial -- in a future scenario where mankind's odds are grim indeed. Often the deadly dilemma is of our own making, and the stories are drenched in fear and bitter regret. Director Ridley Scott's movie

"The Martian"

goes in another direction entirely. The film's near-future setting presents a healthy American space program in which NASA regularly launches manned missions around the solar system. Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) runs into plenty of trouble on Mars, but overcomes all obstacles by way of rigorous science and human ingenuity. "The Martian" is a hopeful movie at heart, and a throwback to the "hard" science fiction of the 1950s and 1960s, when learned men triumphed and science was always savior. (For another riff on the theme, check out Disney's optimistic "




The Martian: Science Vs. Fiction

The year's best science fiction film -- that's a personal opinion -- dropped in May when director George Miller rebooted his famous Australian postapocalypse franchise for a new generation.

"Mad Max: Fury Road"

is a marvel of visual storytelling -- you could follow the story with no dialogue at all. The movie is one long chase scene, essentially, with psychotically beautiful art design. The film's cultural concerns live in the background details, where we learn that massive ecological collapse and subsequent resource wars led to this particular apocalypse in the first place. In the world of "Mad Max," our environmental anxieties are strapped to a rusting oil tanker in the badlands of the worst-case scenario. "Fury Road" is a radically visionary film -- it's scary, and it's supposed to be.


Science Vs. Fiction: 'Elysium'

Meanwhile, over in the comic book universe, Marvel's alpha franchise returned with the critical and commercial success

"Avengers: Age of Ultron."

Once again, a malevolent artificial intelligence rears its ugly circuits when the rogue A.I. Ultron (voiced by James Spader) takes on Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Director Joss Whedon is known to insert playful subversions into his pop culture creations, and "Ultron" is no exception. Note how the evil A.I. emerges not from some archvillian's schemes, but rather from an well-intentioned global surveillance program designed to protect Earth's citizens. Interestingly, a similar scenario emerges in the latest 007 movie,


The dangers of surveillance technology are clearly on our collective mind -- at the movies, anyway.


'Avengers Age Of Ultron': Science Vs. Fiction

Here's one from the cheap seats: An underrated little thriller that straddles the line between sci-fi and horror,

"The Lazurus Effect"

didn't make much noise when it hit theaters in February. But for students of adventurous speculative fiction, the movie has some intriguing elements. The gist: Biotech researchers develop a breakthrough medicine code-named Lazarus, that can apparently bring people back from the dead. Existentialist problems arise, predictably, and soon enough the secret laboratory is awash in blood. But gaze deeper into the premise and the story raises some spooky questions about medical technology, bioethics and end-of-life issues. Modern medicine has revealed that death is less of an event than a process -- a process that can be manipulated with technology. Should we be worried? The answer is yes.


Science Movies To Avoid On Date Night

Of course, no discussion of 2015 science fiction movies would be complete without mention of this year's modest little endeavor from Disney/Lucasarts:

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

On the meta level, the film doesn't have much direct conjecture on contemporary technology -- everything happened a long time ago, after all, in a galaxy far, far away. Plus, "Star Wars" has always been more about space fantasy than hard sci-fi, anyway. But those interested in the "soft sciences" of sociology and anthropology will find plenty to chew on. The movie is basically a masterclass on how mythology works -- how we tell ourselves the same story, over and over, in different times and places. You can tease out some interesting threads on fascism and feminism, too. The year's second-tier sci-fi films had some lessons to impart as well. You can ponder more man-vs-machine themes in "Terminator: Genisys," or the perils of genetic engineering with "Jurassic World." For social engineering, there's the teenage wasteland triptych of the new "Hunger Games," "Maze Runner" and "Divergent" installments. Young adult dystopia is, evidently, always in fashion. Oh, and don't forget to get small with "Ant-Man" -- the year's most surprisingly fun sci-fi movie.


'Gravity': Science Vs. Fiction