Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic in Rogue One A Star Wars Story

Much remains mysterious about the characters of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but today we have a bit more insight to share on one of the most intriguing new figures: Orson Krennic, the villainous Imperial officer played by Ben Mendelsohn.

We already know he’s got a complicated history with Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and an uncanny ability to keep that sweet space cape a pristine, blinding white. But how, exactly, does he fit in with the rest of the Empire? Newly released details shine a light on his relationship to other, more familiar Imperial fixtures like Grand Moff Tarkin and, yes, Darth Vader himself.

First, let’s recap what we already know. Krennic is the director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial military, which means that among other things he’s overseeing the completion of the Death Star project. Official Star Wars marketing describes him as “cruel, brilliant, and obsessed,” and determined to deliver a fully operational Death Star in order to advance his career. (Total Slytherin, this one.)

But we’ve also seen hints that there’s a softer side to him, or at least that there was once upon a time. The Rogue One prequel novel Star Wars: Catalyst reveals that Orson Krennic and Galen Erso were once friends, and in fact, Krennic once saved Galen and his family from captivity when Jyn (played by Felicity Jones in Rogue One) was still very young. To repay that favor, Galen joins Krennic’s energy research project, which of course turns out to be the creation of the Death Star.

Now USA Today has more Rogue One villain details specifically relating to his role within the Empire. In previous movies, most of the Empire’s top brass have consisted of posh types like Grand Moff Tarkin (played by Peter Cushing in A New Hope). But director Gareth Edwards purposely steered Mendelsohn away from that kind of characterization.

“I like the idea that Ben’s character was much more working-class,” he said, adding that Krennic has gotten where he is “through sheer force of personality and ideas.”

Krennic, then, is not a natural fit for the elite circle at the top of the Empire. A conflict arises when Krennic “hits a brick wall in the hierarchy where they won’t let him in the club and it’s going to turn into a them-or-us situation: either Krennic or Tarkin and the others,” explained Edwards.

tarkin in rogue one

That comment strongly suggests (though does not completely confirm) that Tarkin appears in the movie, as many fans have already speculated (see screenshot from the most recent Rogue One trailer above). But I’m also intrigued by the idea of a class division within the Empire. While the films have featured all sorts of characters from outlaws to princesses to slaves, I don’t think they’ve given much thought to social class structure within the Empire, or explored how a person might work their way up that hierarchy.

Rogue One keeps touting itself as a whole new kind of Star Wars adventure, and it’s details like these that make me optimistic they’ll actually deliver on that promise. The Star Wars galaxy is a huge one, but most of our focus so far has been on Skywalkers and Jedi and people adjacent to Skywalkers and Jedi. In Rogue One, it sounds like we’ll get more up close and personal with the workaday types that make up the rest of this world — the soldiers, the scientists, the working class folks who claw their way to the top.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens December 16.

Star Wars Rogue One Orson Krennic

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