In most ways, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story could not have been more different from last year’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, in tone, characters, and the entire overall feel of the film. Clearly, that was Disney and Lucasfilm’s intention with the standalone, living up to their promise that the new anthology films will be completely separate from the saga films that they’ll be releasing in the future, giving fans the opportunities to see Star Wars films unlike any that they’ve seen before. However, if there was one similarity between the two films, it would be in their shared desire to increase diversity onscreen, giving more and more prominent roles to ethnically diverse actors.
Coincidentally enough too, both Rogue One and The Force Awakens feature strong female characters as their lead protagonists, with Daisy Ridley’s Rey coming out of nowhere and taking control of the new series of saga films, and Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso embodying the unknown heroine most responsible for the Rebellion’s capture of the coveted Death Star plans. Apparently though, the film’s creative team were more aware of the similarities between Jyn and another, iconic female protagonist in film than they were anyone else.
While talking about the character in The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (H/T Comicbook.com), producer Allison Shearmur revealed why she loves the character of Jyn, comparing her to none other than Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley, from the Alien franchise:
“What I love so much about Jyn Erso is that she’s an imperfect female warrior – authentic and genuine, truthful and humble, strong and modern without feeling contemporary. Oftentimes, Hollywood wants to see a strong woman apologize for not appreciating her life, or dedicate herself to figuring out why she’s a certain way. What I love about Jyn is that hers isn’t a story of wishing she’d made other life choices. This isn’t an apology.
She’s equal parts Joan of Arc and Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley [from the Alien series] – a pure hero, independent of gender. Someone who sets out to do something impossible, and does it.”
These kinds of comparisons were inevitable, and indeed, it’s impossible to deny the impact that characters like Ripley, as well as Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, have made when it comes to the modern day definition of strong onscreen female characters. Both arose from near-death situations to be the strongest members of their respective groups, with Ripley literally being the last one left standing against the Xenomorph at the end of the first Alien, similar to how Jyn is eventually pulled, unwittingly into the war efforts of the Rebellion.
While Rogue One proves to be a somewhat divisive film amongst Star Wars fans, one of the most generally agreed upon aspects of the movie is the strength of Jyn’s character and Jones’ performance. The trope of a rebellious character pulled against their will into fighting for a cause they actually believe in is one we’ve seen many times before, including in previous Star Wars films, but the backstory of the character and her overall connections to the rest of the characters in the Star Wars universe have helped to make her stand out from the rest. So whether or not she’s actually remembered as one of the all-time film greats, like Ripley or Sarah Connor, remains to be seen, but there’s no denying the strong similarities she shares with them.