While Josh Trank was a no-show for the "Conversation with Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank" panel at Star Wars Celebration (aka the spin-off panel), there was more than enough info about Rogue One to fill the time. Sadly, Trank's absence meant we got absolutely zero about his film - nothing about title, plot or release date.
Still: so much Rogue One! For one thing we learned that the spin-offs are actually called Anthology films, and the full title is Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One. The Anthology films will be all sorts of genres, all sorts of stories, all sorts of scale, and they'll allow Lucasfilm to work with emerging directorial talent and also introduce new characters into the Star Wars universe. Does this mean the rumors of them being origin stories are out the window?
This much is certain: Rogue One is no origin story. It's a sidequel, telling the tale of the heisting of the Death Star plans, the ones that Princess Leia hid in R2D2. So no, no Bothans will die in this movie. But other characters might! Gareth Edwards, who is directing the 2016 film, said "It's called Star WARS," and his crew is full of people who worked on war films like Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and Zero Dark Thirty. In fact Creig Fraser, who shot Zero Dark Thirty, will shoot Rogue One.
"A rogue band of resistance fighters unite for a daring mission to steal the Death Star plans and bring a new hope to the galaxy," is how Lucasfilm's Palo HIdalgo explained the plot (I may be slightly paraphrasing). Edwards got a bit more into the tone, saying it's very much a war film that examines the grey area between the heroes and villains - good guys can be bad and bad guys can be good.
One thing you shouldn't expect to see: Jedi. Their absence - the movie takes place not long before A New Hope - is a big part of the movie. "It all comes down to a group that doesn't have magical powers," said Edward. "God isn't coming to save us."
A Star Wars movie that focuses on the wars and not the Jedi! It's a major first, and it's exciting.
Also a first: Edwards showed some concept footage, a pan down a craggy forested river canyon that pans up to show the completed Death Star very low in the sky over a planet. It looks HUGE - way bigger than it looked when seen from Endor in Jedi. It's no a moon, it's a planet in the sky, blotting everything out. That's your Edwards sense of scale at play.
The other piece of news: Felicity Jones will be playing a Rebel soldier. There were no other cast members announced, despsite the trades reporting Ben Mendelsohn getting a roguish role.
What little we saw was exciting, and the new territory aspect of Rogue One is exciting. Edwards' enthusiasm was infectious (for his 30th birthday he spent the night in the Tunisian Trogoldyte Motel where the Skywalker home was shot, and drank milk dyed blue), and the premise is simply so strong, the war angle so unique, that I can't imagine not being excited right now.