Rogue One is wonderful addition to the Star Wars film library, which is now eight films spanning five decades. My enjoyment of all things Star Wars is well-documented, and I was happy to see Rogue One twice over the past week. If you can find a theater with the 70mm IMAX print, then go out of your way to see that; it’s an amazing experience! While I loved the new addition to Star Wars lore, there are several things about the ending of Rogue One that continue to itch my brain days later. And I feel the need to externalize those thoughts!
The rest of the article contains details about the plot and conclusion of Rogue One. If you have already seen the movie and wish to indulge in my nerd-brain madness, then please continue!
Rogue One Rocked
Before dissecting continuity concerns, I want to clearly state the things I enjoyed about Rogue One. The characters – and the actors portraying those characters – were excellent. There is not a weak link among the ensemble cast, and I appreciated the performances more on the second viewing. Riz Ahmed especially does great work infusing Bodhi with tortured nuance, and Diego Luna presents Cassian as a conflicted soldier who has been involved in too many traumatic situations. It seems clear the character of Jyn went through some revisions between the trailers and release of the film, and Felicity Jones puts herself up their with Carrie Fischer and Daisey Ridley as strong women in the Star Wars universe. K-2SO is voiced by the “fonging” wonderful Alan Tudyk, and channeled one of the greatest droids in Star Wars history, HK-47. The crew members of Rogue One all serve a purpose, and it reminded me of the unique personalities in the strike team in Predator.
The visual and sound effects were stunning, and this includes the computer-generated performance of Grand Moff Tarkin. When Tarkin first appeared in the movie, I assumed it was a brief cameo. I was incorrect because Tarkin is a major character in the film. The scenes with him certainly passed the uncanny valley for me though his complexion seemed too dark and sickly. The computer-generated Leia at the conclusion of the film felt more unnatural to me, though it was still a cool moment. I am guessing the brightness of the room and the whiteness of her clothing made that a tremendously difficult shot to execute well. The sound in the IMAX version of the film was a delight, and the soundtrack felt like Star Wars.
The final act of the film repeated the tried-and-true, space-land-and-individual-battles-happening-at-the-same-time formula first brought to life in Return of the Jedi. Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO sneaking around the base while the Rebels provide a distraction is great theater, and the space battle that ultimately takes place as a result of their actions is fulfilling. The cameos by pilots from A New Hope were awesome, and the pacing of the Battle(s) of Scarif is excellent. It all builds up to a moment I was hoping would take place in some capacity during the film – a scene with Darth Vader demonstrating why he was once one of the best villains in all of cinema. I even posted a poll about this possibility earlier in the month:
And man-oh-man did Rogue One deliver on that! Vader shows up and literally cuts through a group of over-matched Rebel officers as they try to escape with the stolen Death Star plans. The plans are passed along to crew aboard a ship that leaves the hanger just as Vader is within reach.
Vader watches the ship leave the battle, and the final scene in Rogue One is the crew on that escaping vessel turning over the plans to Princess Leia. The ship is indeed the Tantive IV, the same ship that Vader boards at the beginning of A New Hope.
Rogue One Makes A New Hope a Little Awkward
I cannot count the number of times I have watched A New Hope; likely somewhere north of one hundred. Walking out of the theater after Rogue One, my brain was itching. I thoroughly enjoyed Rogue One (see above), but I had to watch the beginning of A New Hope to see how the events in Rogue One lined up. Several things about the ending of Rogue One felt a bit “wrong” so I went back to the source material. First, I reviewed the opening crawl for A New Hope:
“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.”
So far so good. The Battle of Scarif included Rebel spaceships striking from a hidden base.
“During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”
Again, this is all lining up for the most part. It is a bit of a stretch to call Jyn and the crew of Rogue One “Rebel spies” since their mission was not sanctioned by the Rebellion and they steal the Rebel ship from Yavin IV to travel to Scarif. In fact, the leaders of the Rebellion told Jyn more or less, “We cannot support the effort to take the plans.” It is fair to say that Cassian and K-2SO are Rebel operatives, and Jyn and her newfound allies are certainly working for the cause of the Rebels. Their goal is to steal the “secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon.” Overall, it checks out.
“Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….”
We learn the “sinister agents” are led by Darth Vader, who we just witnessed at the conclusion of Rogue One tearing through Rebels only to see Leia’s ship, Tantive IV, fly out of his grasp. He watched her get away, and he knows the plans are on her ship, which makes the following few minutes in A New Hope a bit awkward for me:
STORMTROOPER: The Death Star plans are not in the main computer.
VADER: Where are those transmissions you intercepted? What have you done with those plans?
REBEL OFFICER: We intercepted no transmissions. This is a consular ship. We’re on a diplomatic mission.
VADER: If this is a consular ship, where is the Ambassador? Commander, tear this ship apart until you’ve found those plans. And bring me the passengers, I want them alive!
Several points here in Vader’s questions are off according to what we now know from Rogue One. The Tantive IV did not intercept any transmissions; intercept implies they stole transmissions that were intended for somebody else. First, “Rebel spies” purposely sent the transmissions. That’s semantics I’m more than happy to handwave away. Second, the plans were physically passed along on a disc soldier-to-soldier down a hallway onto the Tantive IV, and Vader was in the same hallway as this happened.
Being charitable, if you substitute “intercepted” with “stolen,” then Vader’s statements here line up perfectly with the conclusion of Rogue One. Bonus points for the Rebel Officer heroically holding onto an absurd lie given they all just fled from the Battle of Scarif and know Vader watched them get away! It’s also interesting that Vader was killing anyone in his path in an attempt to retrieve the plans, and now he wants the passengers alive. Turning to the Light Side already, Vader?
While Stormtroopers search the ship, Princess Leia stores the plans in R2-D2 and she distracts the Imperials so R2-D2 and C-3PO can escape. This all begs the question of why Princess Leia – the adopted daughter of Bail Organa, Rebellion supporter – travels to the Battle of Scarif in a capital ship with two droids that were seen in Rogue One on Yavin IV. It means Princess Leia was most certainly on Yavin IV while Jyn and company were there speaking with Mon Mothma, and she decided to join the Rebel Fleet for their attack on Scarif.
For a Senator who is supposedly working undercover to support The Rebellion, flying into a battle in Imperial-controlled space seems reckless and suicidal – but then again, so is “attacking that battle station,” so what do I know!?
Leia is captured by Stormtroopers and escorted in front of Darth Vader, and here’s where my brain really started to itch:
LEIA: Darth Vader, only you could be so bold. The Imperial Senate will not sit still for this. When they hear you’ve attacked a diplomatic –
Knowing what we know from Rogue One, the bluff attempt here by Leia is worthy of the Glengarry Glen Ross Brass Balls Award! She must know that Vader came within inches of boarding her ship at the Battle of Scarif. The surviving Rebel soldier that received the plans handed them to her and probably said, “By the way, the Dark Lord of the Sith just murdered about 20 of us, and we barely escaped. Here’s what he’s after.” So she knows she’s caught red-handed. I thought maybe some time had passed since the Battle of Scarif as Leia hyperspaced away, and Vader had to do some investigative work to track her down.
That is not the case.
Leland Chee is a member of the Lucasfilm Story Group, and he is the Keeper of the Holocron – meaning he is one of the best sources of knowledge on the planet for what is and is not (and I hesitate to even type this word) canon in the Star Wars universe. The amount of time between Rogue One and A New Hope is, “Hours, if that.”
My imagination from decades of watching A New Hope was that Vader had to do some serious legwork to track Leia down. It turns out he had to catch a ride back to his Star Destroyer and simply follow her from Scarif to the greater-Tatooine area. It changes the events I imagined in my mind all these years.
VADER: Don’t act so surprised, Your Highness, you weren’t on any mercy mission this time. Several transmissions were beamed to the ship from Rebel spies. I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you.
The dialogue from Vader is a bit clunky when compared to the events that just happened a few hours ago in Rogue One. Yes, the plans were beamed to the Mon Calamari cruiser that Leia’s ship was docked in, but the plans were stored on a disc and physically passed along to the crew of Tantive IV in full view of Vader. Perhaps an explanation is that Vader was too busy in his murderous frenzy to see the small disc being passed along to the crew inside Tantive IV.
Given the events of Rogue One, it seems like a more appropriate line from Vader at this moment would be, “I just watched you flee the Rebel attack on Scarif, and I watched the plans be passed to this ship. Now turn over the plans before I kill everyone on board!”
LEIA: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan.
Leia continues to turn the gaslighting up to 11 as she coolly sticks with her story about being on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan. She just fled a crime scene, and was witnessed running away by the Empire’s top enforcer.
I do not want to play poker against Princess Leia! She’s got ice in her veins!
VADER: You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor. Take her away!
This line certainly makes sense because Vader is thoroughly beyond tolerating Leia’s boldface lies and nonsense. Go back and watch Vader’s body language throughout this conversation. He starts with his hands on his hips as if saying, “This outta be good.” Then he cannot fathom how Leia is trying to stick with her sad excuse for a cover story, and he quickly dismisses her to get on with the business of finding the plans.
The scene continues after Leia is escorted out of Vader’s sight.
COMMANDER: Holding her is dangerous. If word of this gets out, it could generate sympathy for the Rebellion in the senate.
One could make the argument that Leia would become a sympathetic symbol of the Rebellion if she were held by the Empire without evidence of wrongdoing. However, the Empire has clear evidence Leia participated in an attack against the military facility on Scarif. Her ship was there, and was seen fleeing the area by Vader and other members of the Imperial Navy. This comment makes it seem like she is only being held for suspicions that she is collaborating with the Rebels.
The Commander’s comment deals with the possible political ramifications of Leia’s capture, which could have any number of outcomes; his speculation is not misaligned with the facts from Rogue One, though it’s a bit of a stretch.
VADER: I have traced the Rebel spies to her. Now she is my only link to find their secret base!
This comment from Vader is perhaps the most awkward moment in A New Hope since we now know he just left a battle where hundreds – if not thousands, or even tens of thousands – of Rebel personnel are stranded in disabled spacecraft over Scarif. Plus there are the other passengers on board who might know the location of the Rebel base. Vader’s statement here implies he has no other options to track down the secret base, and no one else to interrogate. Granted, everyone left on the ground on Scarif is dead after the Death Star blew up the facility, but the disabled Mon Calamari cruiser over Scarif has a crew of thousands just by itself, and it’s clearly intact at the end of Rogue One. None of them are willing to talk? Not to mention any of the navigation computers on those Rebel ships that could be sliced to learn their point of origin.
Again, this runs into my 30+ years of experience and assumptions watching A New Hope. I always imagined the Rebellion as a small group of people, and Leia as an undercover operative out on her own. I assumed she received the plans while traveling on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan, so her cover story had some credibility. The events in Rogue One chip away at those long-held assumptions. She participated in a massive Rebel operation, though it’s unclear why she was at the Battle of Scarif. Did Bail Organa have the authority to tell the Rebel Fleet to turn the plans over directly to Leia as soon as possible? Was she planning to share the Death Star plans with Kenobi even before Vader overran her ship?
Rogue One takes away some of the happenstance that I had weaved in my mind over the years related to Leia’s role in the Rebellion and her travel to Tatooine. Vader’s comment that “she is my only link” implied that the Rebels were difficult to find, and he thus had no other leads. That comment no longer holds up without some mental gymnastics to explain away the number of Rebels Vader likely has access to over Scarif.
COMMANDER: She’ll die before she tells you anything.
VADER: Leave that to me. Send a distress signal and then inform the senate that all aboard were killed!
Now there’s a guy who is plum out of (cares) to give about the senate!
SECOND OFFICER: Lord Vader, the battle station plans are not aboard this ship. And no transmissions were made. An escape pod was jettisoned during the fighting, but no life forms were aboard.
VADER: She must have hidden the plans in the escape pod. Send a detachment down to retrieve them. See to it personally, Commander. There’ll be no one to stop us this time.
Vader rides in like lightning to storm a huge Rebel cruiser by himself, and then immediately follows the escaping spacecraft to retrieve the Death Star plans. When the final suspected resting spot for the plans is an escape pod on a nearby planet, Vader turns over this vitally important duty to his lackeys?!
In all fairness, if I was Vader, then I wouldn’t want to step foot on Tatooine again either!
This Is My Memory. There Are Many Like Them But This One Is Mine.
Nothing in Rogue One ruins the opening minutes of A New Hope; I’m not sure anything could ruin A New Hope for me. But it does make it a bit clunky, which was totally unnecessary. I know the Lucasfilm Story Group exists, and I imagine they held long meetings about how the plot of Rogue One affected the existing scenes in A New Hope. So it is somewhat surprising that these choices were made when other options existed. Either they knew about these minor inconsistencies and found them acceptable, or they did not find them to be inconsistencies in the first place; I would have a more difficult time with the second explanation.
They could have had the Vader moment – and the Leia moment – at the end of Rogue One while changing a few details to ensure the beginning of A New Hope was not strained like this. Vader could have still boarded the cruiser, chopped through dozens of Rebels, and reached the final Rebel who is just able to finish the upload to another ship. The digital readout on the screen could even show the name and an outline of Tantive IV. And then the final shot is Leia on Tantive IV receiving the plans.
That would have accomplished the same “Wow!” moments with Vader and Leia currently at the end of Rogue One without stepping on dialogue that takes place a few “hours, if that” later in A New Hope. It would allow for Leia to be somewhere other than Scarif and for Vader to track her down.
Now, the early minutes in A New Hope with Vader itch my brain more than the reveal that the flaw in the Death Star was planted by a member of the Empire, which invalidates the analytical work I always imagined the Rebels completed in those hectic moments after Leia and company arrived on Yavin IV with the plans. General Dodonna already knew the Death Star had an exploitable flaw, courtesy of Jyn Erso sharing Galen’s message. The Rebels had to find that flaw, sure, but they knew it was there. It is another piece of information from Rogue One that changes my assumptions about A New Hope.
And speaking of Galen Erso, why not include in the first message to Jyn and others in the Rebellion how to bring down the Death Star? Why make them go find the plans when he can tell them the flaw since he designed it? It’s seriously three extra sentences, “The target area is only two meters wide. It’s a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system.” I suppose the Death Star is the size of “a small moon” and just searching for a 2-inch exhaust port in a snubfighter while taking anti-spacecraft fire isn’t wise, but it again makes my brain itch!
A Day Long Remembered (Even When Evidence Indicates Those Memories Are False)
There are my thoughts on how Rogue One ties into A New Hope. It was great to see a new Star Wars film that felt like it belonged in the era of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It was fantastic to see Vader get his groove back! I enjoyed the Dr. Evazan cameo. So much of the movie worked beautifully, and I am thrilled new Star Wars movies continue to be made, and continue to be entertaining.
The Star Wars Universe is in excellent hands!
And at the same time, some of the plotting decisions in Rogue One skew the content of A New Hope in ways that were avoidable (to me). I have the utmost respect for the talented individuals involved in the Lucasfilm Story Group; the weight of that responsibility and having to deal with fan expectations and emotions that are likely less level-headed than my own must feel crushing at times.
My hope is the folks on the Story Group had meetings about these inconsistencies and decided, “You know what, it’s close enough. This movie kicks ass, and we can live with everything not lining up exactly.” If those meetings did not happen, then I am happy to offer my services to facilitate those meetings in the future!
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be involved in those meetings?
Thank you to everyone that made Rogue One a reality. It was a great way to cap off the year, and now I can focus my attention on the little one about to arrive any day now. I would be excited to interview a member of the Story Group to discuss the challenges of making new content in the Star Wars universe, and to ask about my nerd-tastic quibbles above!