By several definitions, Rogue One is a movie not meant to get a sequel. Nevertheless, director Gareth Edwards, producer Kathleen Kennedy and VFX Supervisor John Knoll had to clarify to Empire Magazine that it wouldn’t get one.
Edwards joked they were considering a sequel directed by George Lucas, where “you’ll maybe see the result where they… blow up the Death Star.” That sequel was already made almost 40 years ago and was ultimately called A New Hope, and managed to work even with completely different characters from Rogue One.
Knoll does say they’ve been thinking about an idea for another stand alone film “in the same vein,” if this one works. But while it may have the same style and tone of Rogue One, it likely wouldn’t have the same characters.
Rogue One is an anthology film set outside the main Star Wars saga, and kicks off a series of stand alone movies, so it was always meant to stand alone. Nevertheless, if audiences embrace characters like Felicity Jones’s Jyn, Diego Luna’s Captain Andor, Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO and more, they could hope for them to return in a different adventure at some other point during or after the war, assuming any of them survive delivering the Death Star plans.
Nevertheless, Kennedy says Rogue One is meant to make viewers feel “like you’re being pulled along into something you need to make a commitment to. It means anything can happen.” As such, since this isn’t a franchise movie and since characters aren’t obligated to return for sequels, it is presumably more unpredictable. Jyn and the Rebels are guaranteed by history to succeed in stealing the plans, but what happens to them along the way and afterwards isn’t set in stone by past canon.
After years of Marvel and other major franchises creating entire cinematic universes, audiences are trained by now to expect blockbusters that merely set up sequels, or have to keep characters alive for the possibility. Even The Force Awakens had to do that to launch a new Star Wars trilogy, while the second anthology film on young Han Solo will be held back by knowing the futures of young Han, Chewie and Lando.
Few of those restrictions will be set on Rogue One, giving Jyn and company just one chance to make an impression, whether they live through it or not.