Thomas takes a retrospective look at the best Star Wars film to emerge from the Disney stable
It’s been almost four years since the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in cinemas and I feel like it’s the right time to look back at it and see what it is has done and brought to the saga. This movie is a prequel to Episode IV: A New Hope and a sequel to Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, so it’s right in between both trilogies and it completes both and in the end, it creates in a way a new trilogy – Episode III – Rogue One – Episode IV. Because of its place in the story, it has to take elements from both trilogies and that’s exactly what’s been done but they didn’t just stick to what we all already knew, they also brought something new to it. When you do a Star Wars movie, you just don’t want to make a copy of what is already out there but you need to use things that define Star Wars and also add your own vision to it. I think this movie is an example of how a Star Wars movie can be a perfect mix between old (Prequels, Originals) and new.
The Influence of the Prequels in ‘Rogue One’
First, I want to talk about the elements from the Prequels that were used in Rogue One. The most evident was the return of actors from the Prequels, we had the talented Jimmy Smits returning as senator Bail Organa and Genevieve O’Reilly returning as senator Mon Mothma (she had played the role in Revenge of the Sith but her scenes were cut, however, it is important to keep in mind these deleted scenes are considered canon as we discovered with the Rogue One Ultimate Visual Guide book). It made perfect sense to have these characters in this movie. Mon Mothma and Bail Organa were the leaders of the Alliance To Restore the Republic/Rebellion and having them at this important moment when plans to the Death Star were about to get stolen were essential. This was the pivotal moment of this movement, after the destruction of the Death Star everything changed – it was the real beginning of the Galactic Civil War. Rogue One takes place very little time before the events from A New Hope, Bail died when Alderaan was destroyed in ANH so having him there also helped bridge the two because now we know why he returned on Alderaan – he was going to prepare his people for the war that was coming.
The Prequels by definition, I think are not just Episode I-II-III but also The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, for me it’s basically what comes before A New Hope. Thus, Bail Organa and Mon Mothma were not the only characters returning, there were others. Saw Gerrera first appeared in The Clone Wars in season 5 for the Onderon arc. In Rogue One, he was very different from the first time we saw him, he became an extremist, a bit crazy and paranoid, giving us a new take on the character. Star Wars Rebels made a good bridge for the character showing us his evolution since the last time we had seen him in The Clone Wars and also before Rogue One. It made sense to have him like this now because he was already on an extremist path at the time. There were also two other characters, this time from Star Wars Rebels who made a cameo, the first one Hera Syndula she was mentioned as “General Syndula,” we could hear it in the scene at the Rebels Headquarters just after the Council refuses to launch the mission on Scarif. For Chopper, you could spot him when the rebel technician announces to Mon Mothma, a group of rebels went on Scarif despite the orders. Those are considered as easter eggs but for Star Wars fans this is more than just easter eggs, it’s connecting all the different parts of the saga together.
Other elements from the Prequels used in Rogue One were the vehicles, on Wobani, the Imperial labor camp, the transport carrying Jyn was a Turbo Tank scene in Revenge of the Sith, and The Clone Wars, it was a vehicle used by the Republic. You could also spot The Ghost, the ship of Hera Syndula during the battle of Scarif (and at the Yavin IV base), finally one ship had a major role in the movie, which was the Hammerhead Corvette first introduced in Star Wars Rebels in canon. The Hammerhead Corvette was responsible for opening a window into the planetary shield that allowed Jyn to transmit the Death Star plans to the rebels so like I said a major role in the plot of the movie.
Rogue One had two surprise appearances from the Prequels, these surprises were planets. The first one Coruscant, the capital of the Republic/Empire in a flashback. For people who read the novel Catalyst, they immediately knew it was this planet, for the others, it was easy to recognize the shape of the buildings from the windows. The second planet was Mustafar and surprisingly, Darth Vader built his fortress there, keeping the wound open because it was the place he was defeated by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode III and also a place where the dark side was strong (read the Vader comics to know more about it). The final element used is I think important too – the visual inspiration. If you look at the Kafrene Trading Post, the place we see Cassian Andor for the first time, the town is very reminiscent of Coruscant underworld, it’s a big city. Other visual inspirations include the style of filming the battles and presenting the places, it’s very much in the George Lucas style that we had in the Prequels.
The Presence of the Originals in ‘Rogue One’
Now, we can talk about the elements from the Original Trilogy that were used in Rogue One. The obvious thing is that the events of the movie took place during the Empire era so we had stormtroopers, Imperial Star Destroyers, Tie Fighters, Tie Pilots, Death Star Troopers, Death Star Gunners, the Death Star, X-Wings, Y-Wings, rebel ships, the rebel headquarters … it was the same aesthetics. I’m a kid from the ’90s but I’m pretty sure people who saw the first Star Wars movies in cinemas had the impression to be sent back to the ’70s with this.
Some characters too made their returns – Darth Vader, Tarkin C-3PO, R2-D2, and Princess Leia. The two droids were there for a very little cameo when the rebel troops leave for Scarif. Darth Vader had two scenes (about 3 minutes of screen time), Princess Leia had a cameo at the end and Tarkin had a good role, it was more than just a scene. Why was it important to have these characters? Well, for Leia it connected it directly to A New Hope as the movie ends moments before the next one begins. For Darth Vader, I would say just like Leia, it connected it directly to ANH as these two characters are featured at the beginning of it. Plus, the Death Star was a sensitive subject thus having Vader during the events was logical. Tarkin was an important figure of the Empire, one of the most important ones and in ANH he was in charge of the Death Star. During RO, the Death Star was being completed so he had to be there, having the Death Star and no Tarkin would have felt weird especially for such a pivotal moment of the story. Some would call it fan service but when it serves the story, it’s not. We also can’t dismiss the incredible VFX work done for Tarkin and Leia, simply breathtaking!
A planet made its big return in Rogue One – Yavin IV, the rebel headquarters, we saw the place a lot more than during ANH and it was exactly the same as in that movie, they recreated it perfectly. We had mention of the Senate, we also had senators with the rebels. The mentions of the Senate made by Darth Vader were linked to the mentions we get of it in ANH and how the Empire tried to hide the Death Star to them and other things. That’s pretty much the elements we have from these trilogies in Rogue One and if you watch the movie, you can see it helped the story they were telling while also connecting this story to the bigger story that is the entire saga.
The Originality Of The Movie
So we talked about the Old that was used in Rogue One, but what did this movie bring to the saga? It brought a lot of new elements to the movie, something fresh. The characters, they weren’t just a copy of characters we had already seen in previous movies, it was characters who had their own personalities. There were no Jedi technically speaking but the Force still had this important presence in the movie with Chirrût Imwe, now a fan favorite. It was a type of character we had never seen before, a blind warrior who believed in the Force and used this belief to fight for what’s right. Bodhi Rook is important to mention I think. He was the example that not everyone in the Empire agreed with what the Empire was doing. He used to be an imperial pilot, an everyman who turned out to be a hero, a man who wanted to make a difference. It sends a powerful message. Jyn Erso was the kind of character who did not ask to be in this fight but ended up leading the fight, she inspired people. K-2SO was the anti-C-3PO showing us a different kind of droid hero. Orson Krennic was that type of villain who was choking on his aspirations (pun intended), ready to do anything to keep his place in the high ranks of the Empire, not much serving the Empire but serving his own goals. It’s the villain you love to hate and I got to say, the cape makes all the difference.
There was one character who shed totally new light on the Rebellion – Cassian Andor. It was new to see that it was not all black and white, the rebels were in the gray shades, they made questionable choices too. Cassian Andor executed an informant at the beginning and was asked by General Draven to execute Jyn’s father, rebel bombs actually killed Galen Erso. So that was really new to see that the rebels weren’t necessarily all good.
Planets, it’s important to have places that are their own and don’t look like something we have already seen. Rogue One brought a lot of new planets – Jedha, Scarif, Eadu, Wobani, the Ring of Kafrene, and when you look at all these places, they all look different from each other and they all are original. The story was original too, it didn’t feel like it was something we had seen in Star Wars before, it was its own thing.
With Rogue One, we got the U-Wing, a brand new rebel ship, it drew inspirations from old ships but it felt like a new design, fitting perfectly with the look of the other rebel ships. The Tie Strikers and Tie Reaper (shuttle transporting the Death Troopers during the battle on Scarif) were new designs as well that too fits with the Imperial aesthetic, the same goes for Krennic’s shuttle.
In terms of the design of characters, we were introduced to brand new troopers – the Death Troopers and the Shoretroopers. The Death Troopers added this menacing vibe to the Empire troops and the fact that they made some damage during the battle of Scarif showed they were dangerous foes. The Shoretroopers looked less badass but their colors and their designs were a good fit for the environment of Scarif. They definitely became fan favorites. Finally, the weapons, we had new weapons for the rebels, Cassian transformed his blaster on Eadu into a sniper, it was a new way to change weapons, pretty cool!
All these elements from the Prequels, the Originals, and these new elements too that made Rogue One felt part of the saga and also bringing a fresh look to it.
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Thomas Storai is the Collectables Editor for The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and a wide variety of movies. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasStorai where he uses the force frequently!