In this spoiler filled look at ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, we examine the major ways this film plays into the ‘Star Wars’ saga and the final few scenes…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
When ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ was first announced, the premise was confirmed for the film right away and it seemed pretty straight forward.
This movie would tell how the rebels captured the plans to the first Death Star that ended up with Princess Leia, who then handed them over to R2-D2 before ending up with Luke Skywalker on Tatooine thus launching the entire ‘Star Wars’ trilogy.
As amazing as ‘Star Wars: A New Hope” was when first released in 1977 — and still holds up to this day — ‘Rogue One’ plugged a few of the minor holes by telling some valuable back story while also introducing a slew of new characters with a bold ending that a lot of longtime fans and critics didn’t believe could possibly happen.
But let’s start at the beginning with the premise behind ‘Rogue One’ and needless to say this breakdown will be chocked full of spoilers so if you haven’t seen the movie read ahead at your own caution.
Galen Erso’s Role in the Death Star
When we first meet Galen Erso, the timeline is more than 20 years prior to the actual events in the movie and he’s living a quiet life as a farmer on a distant planet far away from the brutal regime enacted by the Galactic Empire.
At one time, Galen was an engineer and scientist for the Empire, but he has since left that life behind to instead build a new one with his wife and daughter. When his old friend Orson Krennic arrives — while revealing that Galen was essentially living in hiding — he’s called back to service for the Galactic Empire to help them continue work on the ultimate battle station that will one day be known as the Death Star.
It seems Krennic is responsible for this massive undertaking but in the midst of constructing the primary weapon he’s run into some issues. That’s where Galen Erso comes in because presumably he’s the one person Krennic knows who could properly develop the weapon that will eventually lead to the Death Star to being the real power in the universe.
Krennic ends up killing Galen’s wife and taking him hostage while his daughter Jyn Erso slips away before being raised by rebel outcast Saw Gerrera.
The question still remains, however, why would Galen Erso continue to work on the Death Star if Krennic has no real leverage over him, especially considering his daughter escapes and he later admits to believing that she’s dead.
Here’s where the tie in to ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ comes together.
One of the major complaints about the first ‘Star Wars’ movie was just how easy it seemed to be that the Rebels were able to destroy the Death Star. The ultimate power in the universe was taken down with all the difficulty of a 1980’s video game plot — two shots fired into a reactor and the whole thing explodes?
But thanks to ‘Rogue One’ we now know why the Death Star was so vulnerable and why Galen Erso stuck around to build the monstrosity despite the Empire having no real power over him.
It turns out Galen Erso stayed to design the Death Star and its primary weapon for two reasons — first, he knew that if he didn’t do the work, the Empire would eventually find someone else to do it and he would be killed. That was important for the second reason he stayed behind — so Galen could build in a failsafe that would allow the Death Star to be destroyed by anybody who received a blueprint of his plans to figure out how to reach the reactor and blow it up.
Let’s not forget, Grand Moff Tarkin (who plays a major part in ‘Rogue One’) scoffed at the plans falling into Rebel hands during ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ because he didn’t believe the Death Star could be destroyed so easily. Once again this plays back into the brilliance of ‘Rogue One’ now inserting the information that the Death Star would have been invincible — if not for Galen Erso.
The Darth Vader in ‘Rogue One’ might just be the most villainous version of the character we’ve ever witnessed and that’s saying a lot considering he’s been ranked as one of the greatest big bads in film for the past 40 years.
In these brief encounters with Vader in ‘Rogue One’ we witness his real power while also getting a glimpse of his life outside of that suit that has represented ‘Star Wars’ more than any other symbol since the first movie was released in 1977.
When we first meet Vader in ‘Rogue One’, he’s locked in a bacta tank — a cylinder filled with healing liquid similar to the one in ‘Empire Strikes Back’ when Luke is rescued from his icy encounter with the Wampa. Prior to ‘Rogue One’ the last appearance of Vader in the timeline was during ‘Revenge of the Sith’ when he is badly wounded in battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi and his legs and one arm are severed before lava covers a good portion of his body, burning off his hair and skin.
Emperor Palpatine is able to rescue him and that’s when Anakin Skywalker is finally turned to Darth Vader, but that scene in ‘Rogue One’ shows that he’s not machine now more than man. It seems Vader is still physically tortured by the wounds he suffered before his transformation and the bacta tank heals him while the Imperial guard keeps watch while he’s most vulnerable.
One more thing — Vader’s castle called the Dark Monolith is actually on the planet Mustafar, which is the same place where he fought Obi-Wan Kenobi before being wounded and left to die. Now Vader has built a castle of his own on the planet and it serves as a constant reminder of where he died and was now reborn as the person most solely responsible for destroying the Jedi and bringing wrath upon the Rebellion.
At the heart of ‘Rogue One’ the story really revolves around the rag tag crew that’s assembled really out of a sense of belief more than an actual mission that they can stop the Empire from building a weapon so powerful that it could crush the Rebellion single handedly.
When the movie begins, Jyn Erso is essential only to the Rebellion as a way to gain entry to her former caretaker Saw Garrera. By the end, Jyn is one of the people most responsible for capturing the plans that eventually help to topple the Death Star.
But perhaps the most shocking part about this entire film was the ending because everybody on the mission for ‘Rogue One’ dies for the cause.
When ‘Rogue One’ was first announced just about every ‘Star Wars’ fan pondered two questions about these new additions to the mythology — how could we possibly introduce these characters when none of them appeared in any of the subsequent films in the trilogy and would the success of the spinoff ultimately lead to some kind of sequel that was made more for money than story?
Both of those were answered emphatically with the end of this film and that’s what made ‘Rogue One’ so incredibly powerful.
Every member of the crew that went after those blueprints for the Death Star never made it home again. Jyn Erso was able to hug her dying father before signing up for what was essentially a suicide mission to rescue the plans he left behind in her name that eventually led to the downfall of the Death Star. Actually it was the death of the droid K-2SO that truly signaled that all bets were off with this movie because that lone character seemed to be the perfect character to somehow pop up in the next ‘Star Wars’ movie just to tie them all together. Instead, K-2SO was killed just minutes before the rest of the crew of ‘Rogue One’ died valiantly in an effort to bring down the Empire.
Of course director Gareth Edwards has stated that the original ending was much different because he never imagined the powers-that-be at Lucasfilm or Disney would actually let him kill off the entire cast. Thankfully the people behind the studio realized what a strong statement this movie would make if the crew of ‘Rogue One’ truly sacrificed themselves for the greater good.
Those last 10 minutes were as powerful as any ‘Star Wars’ movie that’s ever been made — and yes, that’s comparable to Luke finding out that Darth Vader was his father before getting his hand lopped off at the end of ‘Empire Strikes Back’.
The Final Five Minutes
The final few moments of ‘Rogue One’ was both a heartbreaking and fist pumping endeavor with a spectacular conclusion that will hopefully be tied directly into ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ in some kind of super cut because that’s how closely these movies fit together.
After Jyn and Cassian are able to transfer the plans to the Death Star up to the Rebels fighting in the space above Scarif, they are trapped on the planet with no means to escape. The rest of the crew dies while fighting back the Empire forces on the ground before Grand Moff Tarkin fires a shot from the Death Star down to the planet in an attempt to wipe out the compromised base and with it the plans that could end up in the hands of the Rebellion. He even fired the shot knowing that he would kill Director Krennic (who actually died after being shot by Cassian).
Jyn and Cassian are killed by a tidal wave that’s caused in the after effect of the blast from the Death Star that’s meant to destroy their base along with anything and anyone who might still be living nearby.
High above the planet, the Rebel forces receive the transmission of the stolen plans but time is running out because Darth Vader has arrived in an effort to retrieve the blueprints before the garrison of ships can escape.
As Vader flashes his lightsaber, we see him in action in a manner that’s really never happened previously in a ‘Star Wars’ film. He mauls the soldiers on the ship one by one, using his lightsaber and the Force to obliterate anyone standing in his way. Unfortunately for Vader, he’s unable to retrive the plans before one soldier hands them over to someone else on the ship, who then gives them to Princess Leia.
Leia’s ship escapes and flies off into space as she remarks how these plans will give the Rebellion what they needed most of all — hope.