After the resounding success of ‘Stars Wars: The Force Awakens’ (2015), Disney surprised us all with an announcement that they are planning to release a new stand-alone spin-off Star Wars film ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (not related to the current sequel trilogy), set in a different timeline by the end of 2016. Our first initial reaction was: Wow, how does this new upcoming film relate to all the Star Wars films we’ve seen by now? Does it take place after the events following the prequels? Or before/after the original trilogy? Or maybe it takes place right before The Force Awakens? No one had a damn clue. Well, one thing was quite certain: Disney certainly did a damn good job keeping the entire storyline a mystery. All we could do was watch Star Wars speculation theories on YouTube and wait for time to tell. Then in April 2016, They finally showed us a glimpse of what the film looks like with a teaser trailer. It was a cool-looking trailer and once again like The Force Awakens; it was indeed very refreshing to see a female lead character named Jyn Erso, which gave us the vibes of a bad-ass Han Solo-like, portrayed by the very talented Felicity Jones. On watching the trailer, we noticed how similar it looked to ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ (1977) in terms of set design, 70’s like Star Wars costumes, narration etc. That’s when it got us thinking: Does this take place before a New Hope?
And then two months later, the second teaser trailer came out and confirmed all the speculations, mainly due to that one small snippet right at the end of the trailer: A DARTH VADER CAMEO! Immediately, that went viral, and Star Wars fans were losing their shit all over the internet, going bonkers! It was quite a mad moment as we realized we were finally getting to see one of the cinematic history’s most iconic villain back on the big screen.
Most of us grew up watching the original trilogy on the VHS tape or sometimes on cable, and we all wished that we were alive when those films released way back in the late 70’s and the early 80’s! That very brisk Vader cameo got us thinking: Did they bring Darth Vader back alive? (Spoiler Alert for those who haven’t watched Return of the Jedi: Vader dies at the end). It was possible considering the fact that Darth Maul got revived in the animated series The Clone Wars even though he got severed into half by Obi-Wan in ‘Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’ (1999). But nah, reviving Vader would’ve been such a dumb move considering the fact that entire scene showing his slow death was so emotionally poignant and powerful for all of us to watch. So, this film has got to take place somewhere between following the events after ‘Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith’ (2005) and A New Hope.
Naturally, the teaser trailer got us all excited because they were going to show us something completely new and different and it was possible that Darth Vader could even have a bigger role in this new film. The trailer also showed us a lot of new and vibrant characters, some really cool battle sequences and full-on warfare and some very fascinating locations like Jedha and Scarif. By October, the second trailer had already arrived so all we could be just one thing: wait for December to come quickly! Now before we get to the ending, we’re going to have to summarize the plot so that it gives us more clarity in understanding its complex storyline.
In the first scene, we get to see how Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), a research scientist and his family who are in hiding on the Planet Lah’mu, is forced into completing the Death Star (well we know how powerful that weapon can be, that is if you’ve watched the original trilogy) by an Imperial weapons developer Orson Krennic. A confrontation follows where Galen’s wife Lyra gets killed and her child Jyn manages to escape and gets rescued by the rebel extremist, Saw Gerrera.
The story fast-forwards fifteen years later where we get to see a now adult Jyn Erso, being held captive at an Imperial labour camp. Next, we’re introduced to Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), a pilot who has just defected from the Empire and is keen to join the rebels (Just like how Finn from The Force Awakens does the same thing too). He’s tasked with delivering to Saw Gerrera a holographic message recorded by Galen Erso.
After learning about the death star from an agent, Rebel Alliance intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) frees Jyn Erso. Jyn intends to flee but is intervened by K-2SO, an Imperial Enforcer Droid but is now reprogrammed to serve the rebellion. She is then brought to the Rebel leader Mon Mothma on the moon Yavin 4, a Rebel base. Mon and the other rebel leaders question Jyn about her father. They are keen to know as to what the Empire is plotting to do and believe that finding Saw and Bodhi will help them know what the Empire is up to. They offer her a deal to find Saw, and if she does so, she is free to go. She is accompanied along with K-2SO and Cassian who is given orders to find and kill Galen Erso. Now, we have to ask ourselves:
What is the Empire up to?
Following the events in Revenge of the Sith, we get to see the new Death Star which is being constructed. After fifteen years, the weapon is almost completed and ready to be put to test. The Empire intends to use this weapon to destroy planets which support the Rebel Alliance (which we get to see in A New Hope).
Jedha and the role of the kyber crystals
On the holy city of Jedha, The Empire is removing kyber crystals with the intention of using it to power their Death Star. Now, this brings us to the question: What exactly are kyber crystals? These powerful crystals are used by the Jedi to make their weapon i.e, their lightsabers. Jedha is known to be the holy city because that is where these kyber crystals are found and used to build and power their lighsabers. Since the Jedi are no more, The Empire finds it by annexing Jedha and using it to power the Death Star. Saw Gerrera and his partisans are engaged in an armed insurgency against the Empire. Jyn, K-2SO and Cassian on arriving at Jedha, are involved in a battle with the Empire’s forces i.e, the Storm troopers. After overpowering them with the help of Chirrut Imwe (Donne Yen) and Baze Malbus who they just met, they are captured by Saw’s crew who put Cassian, Chirrut and Baze in a cell.
Now some of you might have a question regarding Chirrut with his repetitive dialogue “I am with the Force. The Force is with me” and the fact that he knows about the Force. So does that mean that Chirrut is a Jedi? No, since the Jedi are dead. But the knowledge about the Force and as to how to use it in skilled combat have been passed on to a few which is why Chirrut knows the ways of the Force but isn’t a Jedi.
While Cassian, Chirrut and Baze are placed in a cell along with Bodhi (after Saw doesn’t believe his story and hence imprisons him), Jyn is taken to Saw (Forrest Whitaker) and confronts him as to why he abandoned her all those years ago. Saw replied what he did to her was in his best interest and also he feared that Jyn would come to kill him. Jyn expressly makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with the rebellion. Saw then proceeds to show her father’s hologram message where she gets to know her father Galen who though was captured by the Empire but wants the Rebel Alliance to succeed which is why he made a vulnerability in the Death Star by placing a trap in it such that it will cause a chain reaction thereby destroying the dangerous weapon. He instructs her to retrieve the schematics from an Imperial data bank on the planet Scarif. Galen also tearfully apologizes for what happened to her all those years ago and pleads with her to fight for the rebellion.
The Role of Moff Tarkin
Meanwhile, Grand Moff Tarkin plots a course to Jedha with the intention of testing the weapon’s superlaser on that planet. Now again, this needs to be reminded that the events in this film take place before A New Hope, where Moff Tarkin is very much alive. Of course, the same actor who portrayed him was long gone so the filmmakers made use of CGI to recreate his character. Jyn along with Cassian, Chirrut, Baze and Bodhi escape the planet just before the planet is being fired upon by the Death Star and is destroyed in the process along with Saw who decides not to escape and is crushed to death.
With the test being successful and with Jedha gone, Moff Tarkin takes credit for this and shuts out Orson Krennic, the director of this project. He also threatens Krennic should he ever protest against his policies.
Jyn along with Cassian, K-2SO, Bodhi , Chirrut and Baze decided to find Galen by heading to Eadu. When they arrive at Eadu, they watch Galen and six other engineers being interrogated by Krennic at a mining facility. Krennic believes that one of them is working for the rebels and threatens to kill all of them. Galen confesses but Krennic kills the other hostages anyways. As soon as Jyn calls out to her father, the X-wing fighters of the rebel forces intervene with an explosion and a battle is on between them and the Empire’s forces. Cassian who was ordered to kill Galen chooses not to and Jyn on regaining consciousness finds her father in a critical condition and tearfully reunites with her before he passes away and she heads out of Eadu with the others. On the ship, she angrily questions Cassian’s motives before he retorts by saying that everyone has lost something for the rebellion and that Jyn only truly started to care for the rebels’ purpose because of her father.
Darth Vader and the rebels’ plan
Now this is where we finally get to see what Darth Vader is up to in this next scene. Krennic arrives on the planet Mustafar and reports everything to Darth Vader (yes, we still get to hear James Earl Jones’ iconic voice!). Vader is annoyed and force-chokes Krennic before letting him go and orders to make the Death Star work, at all costs. Back at the meeting on Yavin 4, the rebel leaders (accompanied by Senator Organa, who we know from the prequels and is also Princess Leia’s adoptive father) are really doubtful of Jyn’s story and her credibility. Jyn proposes to steal the plans for the Death Star by attempting to infiltrate the Empire’s data storage facility at Scarif but is rebuffed by the rebel leaders who believe that attempting to steal the plans is a suicide mission. Senator Organa then leaaves to go back to his homeworld of Alderaan to talk with his daughter with the hopes of trying and seeking the help of a former Clone War veteran who may be of vital help to the alliance.
For those who might wonder as to who that may be, yes that is indeed Jedi master and Obi Wan Kenobi, who’s been in exile ever since on Tatooine. Jyn who gets exasperated with the Rebel Alliance’s refusal to aid her in stealing the Death Star plans, manages to convince Cassian and a dozen other rebel fighters who agree to join her in the mission. They use the call sign ‘Rogue One’ and head to Scarif to find the Death Star plans, without letting the other Rebel Alliance leaders know of their mission.
The Battle on Scarif
On arriving at Scarif, the other rebel fighters attack the resident Imperial garrison by placing detonators as a means of diversion so as to allow Cassian, Jyn and K-2SO enter the rebel base while in disguise. This triggers a full-on battle between the rebel forces and the Imperial guards on the grounds. The Rebel Alliance leaders on learning of the raid through intercepted Imperial communications have a change of heart and send in their X-wing firefighters aboard the fighter planes.
Meanwhile at the base, K-2SO watches Cassian’s and Jyn’s backs by fighting off the guards before succumbing to his death. A lot of our rebel heroes die like Chirrut who manages to activate the master switch which allows communication with the Rebel fleet before getting killed. Moved by his sacrifice, Baze also succumbs to his death. Bodhi is also killed by a grenade after informing the Rebel fleet that it must deactivate the shield surrounding the planet so as to allow transmission of the schematics. Jyn and Cassian obtain the schematics before getting ambushed by Krennic, who is eventually shot and wounded by Cassian. Jyn manages to transmit the schematics to the Rebel command shi before Tarkin orders to have the planet Scarif destroyed by the Death Star, thereby killing everyone there including Cassian and Jyn, who although know they are going to die but are relieved on accomplishing their mission. Yes, it’s painful to watch these characters die as the scene is indeed very emotional and poignant.
The Rebel fleet on receiving the plans prepare to jump to hyperspace, but many of the fleet’s ships are intercepted by Vader’s ship. And then we get to see what we all have been waiting for: Vader using his iconic lightsaber, swinging it and force-choking a few rebels with ease as they’re trapped in a small room with him after he boards their ship. It’s a very iconic scene indeed, and we’re glad to find out that Darth Vader although not having any significant screentime in this movie manages to satisfy all the Star Wars fans’ delights! Vader attempts to regain the plans, but a small starship escapes with the plans on board. On that ship, we find Princess Leia finally making her first appearance in the rebel alliance as she declares that these plans will provide new hope for the Rebellion and thereby signalling the start of the first Star Wars film, i.e., Episode IV: A New Hope. Now, Princess Leia we see here has been recreated with the help of CGI as it’s not possible to de-age Carrie Fisher, is it?!
What this film does so wonderfully well is to link the events following the big time period between Revenge of The Sith and A New Hope. It sets up the premise for A New Hope as all these events lead to first of the original trilogy. It answers all those questions that the Star Wars fans may on re-watching the Episode IV like how did the rebels get hold of the Death Star plans right at the beginning of the film.
So did the Rebellion really win the battle in this movie? Well, not really as the Death Star is still there, the battle between the Rebels and the evil Galactic Empire has just started, and most of our main characters die at the end, but they succeed in obtaining the Death Star plans. So the rebels can use this to spot the vulnerabilities in the Death Star (as pointed by Galen Erso) which can be used to destroy that notorious weapon. So a what else is left to do? Just re-watch A New Hope and see how Rogue One provides clarity to some of its subplots!