Rogue One's "realistic" aliens will play a part in the film's main mission

In order to bring Star Wars: The Force Awakens to life, JJ Abrams insisted on a combination of digital and practical effects, a feat that lent the space opera sequel an edge of fanboy-approved cool. The result is quite a contrast compared to the CGI-heavy prequels. For the next Star Wars movie out of the gate, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the same principals are guiding the creature design team including Neal Scanlan who worked on The Force Awakens and is continuing his efforts on Gareth Edwards' spin-off.

The film is reportedly a darker, gritter take on the Star Wars universe that will incorporate those same effects to bring a greater sense of realism to the movie. “In the world of Force Awakens, there was a real mixture of all different kinds, very much like the original Cantina sequence,” Scanlan told MTV. “Working with Gareth now on Rogue One, he sees these aliens as being much more part of the human [world]. They co-habitate, they work together and so it’s pushed us very much to create characters that are more realistic.”

Aliens and droids pose a challenge to Scanlan's creature creation team, who intend to make the non-human component of the film more integrated into the story than before. “They move more realistically," he explains, "they’re able to emote more than maybe the characters that we did for The Force Awakens. So they’re a closer part of the storytelling. They’re less of the world, and they’re more of this group who have a mission, and play a part in that.”

That story remains shrouded in mystery, except for the scant tidbits we know from the film's logline. A group of rebels attempt to steal plans for the Death Star before the Empire wreaks havoc on the entire galaxy - a plot nabbed from the opening crawl of A New Hope. So far two screenwriters have bashed out drafts of the script, Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz, and a new report from BirthMoviesDeath suggests that Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie was later enlisted to punch up the screenplay.

McQuarrie has been brought onboard many a movie for last minute script polishes, and most of those remain uncredited, so it's expected that he won't receive a byline for whatever work he contributed to Edwards' movie. Saying that, if there's any scenes featuring a Rebel dangling from a daredevilish height and achieving the impossible that might give the game away.

Directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen and Alan Tudyk, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is scheduled to open in UK and US cinemas on December 16, 2016.

Images: Disney

Gem Seddon

Gem Seddon is GamesRadar+'s west coast Entertainment News Reporter, working to keep all of you updated on all of the latest and greatest movies and shows on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Outside of entertainment journalism, Gem can frequently be found writing about the alternative health and wellness industry, and obsessing over all things Aliens and Terminator on Twitter.