By Piya Sinha-Roy and Rollo Ross
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - From the moment "Rogue One" begins, "Star Wars" fans will notice a glaring difference from previous films in the franchise: the lack of a scrolling text that tells what led up to the upcoming action set long ago in a galaxy far away.
"Rogue One," in theaters starting Wednesday, offers a new perspective into the events that kicked off the "Star Wars" phenomenon in George Lucas' 1977 "Episode IV - A New Hope."
"It's bold. It's different from the other 'Star Wars' movies. It sets out its own different aesthetic and energy," Riz Ahmed, who plays Imperial fighter pilot-turned-defector Bodhi Rook, told Reuters.
Disney's "Rogue One" centers on new lead Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), daughter of a weapons specialist for the villainous Darth Vader's Imperial Army.
Director Gareth Edwards said he needed little persuasion from Lucasfilm executives to take on a prequel story that ties to the Rebel Alliance mission at the beginning of "A New Hope."
"(I) was like, 'wait a minute, hang on, this is going to connect directly to my favorite film of all time, like this is sacred ground. You can't make this movie, this is wrong. No one should do this,'" he said.
"Five seconds later, I was writing 'Please let me do this.'"
The film sees Erso tracked down by the Rebel Alliance and embarking on a dangerous mission with rebels to new planets to find a way to stop Darth Vader.
Humor during the tense journey comes courtesy of dry-witted new droid K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk.
"He's not like C-3PO who is super scared and following orders, he's the opposite. K-2SO is an enforcer droid and no one can tell him anything," Ahmed said.
Early reviews on Tuesday have been positive and the film is expected to gross more than $300 million worldwide this weekend.
At Tuesday's "Rogue One" London premiere, cast members said they were relieved they could finally talk about the film.
"We were all nervous beforehand. These films are not screen-tested or shown. The first audience was on Saturday and it was reassuring particularly that the true die-hard 'Star Wars' fans have given it their seal of approval," Jones said.
"There are characters making cameos from the past," said Forest Whitaker, who plays the rebel fighter Saw Gerrera. "That was a big secret, so it's great to be free to talk about what was going on in the movie itself," he added.
(Additional reporting by Reuters TV in Los Angeles and London; Editing by David Gregorio)