Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the kind of movie that should evoke plenty of familiarity with the franchise. Set just before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Rogue One is a story that demands continuity with the original. Darth Vader and the Death Star are obvious parallels between the two movies, but there will be other familiar faces and popular elements of the original Star Wars, right down to the weapons and vehicles.
Despite the presence of X-Wing fighters in Rogue One, as there is in every movie in the Star Wars franchise, the makers also wanted to bring something fresh to the table besides the movie’s new cast of characters on both the Rebel and Imperial sides. That is where the new U-Wing fighter comes in, as the ship that can be spotted in the trailers will play a crucial role in the Rebel Alliance’s ability to both battle enemy fighters in the air and deploy soldiers on the ground.
A new video and set of photos from Entertainment Weekly reveals how the U-Wing fighter was conceived for Rogue One, shedding light on its unique look and adding context to what could be more than just a new vehicle for the sake of it. If the U-Wing looks familiar to you, it should: the ship has the same rectangular cockpit as the Y-Wing bomber, the same forward-facing wings as the Jedi Interceptor from the prequels, and the same quad engines as the X-Wing.
The wings can also shift the U-Wing from its tuning fork-like orientation to a more traditional airplane design, as demonstrated with the toy version of the ship in the video. Rogue One visual effects supervisor John Knoll described the thought process that went into the U-Wing’s hybrid design as such:
“Our conceit is that the U-wing came from the same factory that was manufacturing X-wings … It’s just like if you look at cars from one [automaker], you see design themes carried across multiple different product lines.”
Making a new ship with a similar design to its contemporaries was certainly a sensible decision. Any vehicle in Rogue One that was appreciably more high-tech than the X-Wing or Y-Wing would have felt out of place. More importantly, it appears that the U-Wing will be a necessity for rebel soldiers as they are transported to ground level during battle, something that other, more familiar ships could not do so easily.
It’s encouraging that the makers came up with a way to utilize the U-Wing fighter in a way that they could not with other aircraft, but it’s important that the ship isn’t just there for show. The Star Wars prequels certainly had plenty of flashy new characters and vehicles to look at, but as the stories suffered, so did all of the trilogy’s fresh and exciting new content. With the U-Wing, however, it appears that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will make good use of it.