Rogue One: A Star Wars Story artwork composite by Tim Sexton
Almost 40 years after Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope arrived in theaters, fans are finally able to witness the fateful events hinted at in the movie’s opening crawl. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), tells the story of a brave band of Rebels who set out on a mission to retrieve the plans for the original Death Star – plans that eventually find their way into the hands of Luke Skywalker and set in motion the fall of the Empire.
The connection to the Death Star is a personal one: protagonist Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), one of the men responsible for designing the deadly superweapon. 15 years after Galen is press-ganged back into the Empire’s service by Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), Jyn is recruited by the Rebellion to retrieve an important message from her father, and embarks upon an adventure that collects a ragtag group of fighters: pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), reprogrammed Empire android K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), blind warrior monk Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and his burly, cynical companion Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen).
As an immediate prequel to the place where the Star Wars franchise began, Rogue One had the potential to offer some important revelations and to cast A New Hope in a new light – and it delivers. For those who have seen the movie – or those who decided to skip it but want to know the important beats – here are the biggest spoilers and reveals from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Jyn Loses Her Family
Rogue One does not open with the traditional Star Wars crawl text. Instead, we are introduced to Jyn during her childhood, hidden away with her mother and father on the planet Lahmu, where Galen is leading the humble life of a farmer. Unfortunately, Krennic catches up with Galen and, though he tries to protect his family, Lyra Erso (Valene Kane) is killed when she emerged from hiding and tries to prevent Krennic from taking her husband. Jyn sees her mother die and her father captured, and flees to a hidden bunker concealed as a rock – where she hides until Rebel extremist and family friend Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) comes to rescue her. Jyn’s backstory is elaborated upon much further in the tie-in novel Catalyst – read our summary of her and Galen’s past here.
Galen Erso Builds an Achilles Heel into the Death Star
Having been captured by the Empire, Galen knows that if he refuses to help with the design of the Death Star, Krennic will eventually figure it out without him. Ultimately, Galen makes a difficult choice: he obediently plays along with Krennic’s plans, allowing for the completion of the Death Star, but secretly hides a deadly flaw within the superweapon’s design. A single explosion in the vicinity of the Death Star’s reactor will set off a chain of destruction capable of tearing the whole thing apart. Galen entrusts knowledge of this plan to an Imperial cargo pilot, Bodhi Rook, and instructs him to take the message to Galen’s old friend Saw Gerrera (a mission that proved to be very unpleasant for Bodhi). The message is a hologram addressed directly to Jyn, in the hope that she is still alive somewhere and will be able to help find the Death Star plans, but Jyn and Saw are the only people to witness the message before Saw is killed and the data destroyed in an Imperial attack.
Jedha City is the Death Star’s First Target
There’s a lot of tension between Director Krennic and Grand Moff Tarkin (a digitally resurrected Peter Cushing) in Rogue One, as the Death Star is Krennic’s baby and Tarkin treats it with derision. The Death Star’s destructive capabilities require vast quantities of kyber crystal, the same material used to create lightsabers, and the Empire has been stripping kyber crystals from a holy temple in Jedha City, on a moon called Jedha. Jedha is also home to Saw Gerrera’s extremist camp, and as Jyn and Cassian search for the paranoid Rebel and the pilot Bodhi, who is in his custody, the Death Star readies to test fire upon the moon. The decision is made to only target Jedha City, rather than blowing up the whole moon, but the destruction caused is still massive and ends up destroying Saw Gerrera’s base outside of the city as well.
Krennic Gets Choked Up Over Lord Vader
A much-hyped part of Rogue One‘s marketing was the return of Darth Vader, and while the terrifying Sith Lord only appears in a couple of scenes, they’re certainly memorable. We first see Anakin Skywalker in a high-tech bath called a bacta tank, where he is rejuvenating his ruined body, offering a rare glimpse at the former Jedi outside of his iconic black armor. The sycophantic Krennic boasts of his accomplishments with the Death Star and complains about Tarkin’s interference, but Vader appears to be unimpressed by the Director’s bluster. As their encounter ends, Vader brings Krennic to his knees with a Force choke, and warns him not to “choke on [his] ambition.” Darth Vader: the only thing deadlier than his Force powers and his lightsaber are his wicked pun skills.
Cassian is Up to No Good
When we first meet Captain Cassian Andor, he comforts a panicked informant before calmly shooting him in the back – and no, the informant did not shoot first. It’s clear that this Rebel soldier has done some terrible things in the name of bringing down the Empire, and the latest terrible task that he has been charged with is assassinating Galen Erso. He tells Jyn that they are on an extraction mission, but when they reach the planet Eadu (where Galen’s lab is located), Cassian makes up an excuse to slip away to a strategic vantage point with Bodhi, so that Bodhi can identify Galen and Cassian can shoot him. Cassian has a change of heart while looking through the scope of his gun, and cannot bring himself to pull the trigger – having already been affected by Jyn’s need to be reunited with her father. When Cassian fails, however, backup Rebel ships show up to finish the job.
Rogue One Goes Rogue
Rogue One doesn’t get its name completely arbitrarily. After her father is killed on Eadu and Kyn is left as the last living person to have heard his message about the Death Star’s weakness, she makes an impassioned plea to the Rebel leaders to send their forces to Scarif. However, after hearing about the terrible destructive power of the Death Star, several members vote in favor of disbanding, and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) tells Jyn that she cannot provide Rebel troops without a consensus. Cassian, having found faith in Jyn’s mission on Eadu, gathers together a small force of Rebel fighters who are willing to go to Scarif and create an opening for Jyn to retrieve the Death Star plans. As their ship departs, Bodhi is prompted to give a call sign, and comes up with “Rogue One” on the fly.
The Rebellion Comes to the Rescue
When the Rebel leaders learn that Rogue One has gone to Scarif, they finally step up and decide to help. The Rebel Fleet – with Mon Calamari leader Admiral Raddus in command – heads to the planet and manages to send a few fighter ships through the shield gate before it closes. Thus, a massive battle commences both on and above the planet’s surface, with Rogue One’s recruits and the Rebel ships keeping Imperial forces busy while Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO slip into the archive building to retrieve the Death Star plans. The Rebel casualties number in the thousands, but the plan is effective; as K-2SO points at with his trademark tactfulness, Jyn and Cassian stand no chance at all of reaching their destination at first, but the Rebel intervention draws away the Stormtroopers and opens up a path for them.
The Death Star’s Code Name Was “Stardust”
Galen Erso doesn’t have too many lines in Rogue One, but he frequently calls Jyn by the endearing childhood nickname “Stardust” – often enough that you know it’s going to be significant somewhere down the line. Sure enough, as Jyn and Cassian are desperately searching through the Imperial archives for the Death Star plans – through files that are organized by project code names – Jyn spots a code name that looks very familiar. Yes, Galen Erso called the Death Star project “Stardust,” providing a final point on the treasure map left behind for his daughter.
Admiral Raddus Collects the Death Star Plans
At a certain point, it becomes clear that Rogue One’s original escape plan – to fly away on the Imperial ship that Bodhi commandeered – is not going to be possible. However, just because the crew themselves cannot get off the planet, it doesn’t mean that the Death Star plans can’t. The Imperial base is topped with a huge satellite dish capable of transmitting vast quantities of data, and Jyn and Cassian decide that this is their best hope for delivering the vital information to the Rebel fleet. After being informed of the plan (more on that later), Admiral Raddus orders a Hammerhead corvette to ram an immobilized Star Destroyer, which helplessly crashes into another Star Destroyer, slicing it practically in half and sending them both careening into the planet’s shield gate. With the gate down, Jyn and Cassian are able to send the Death Star plans, and Admiral Raddus receives them.
Darth Vader Nearly Retrieves the Death Star Plans
Even after the Rebel fleet has hold of the Death Star plans, the fight is not over. As a Rebel crew member grabs hold of the disc holding the invaluable prize and races towards the hangar in hope of escape, Darth Vader boards Raddus’ flagship cruiser in pursuit of the stolen information. Damage to the ship leaves the hapless crew member and several of his compatriots trapped behind a door that is stuck just slightly open. In a highly-lauded second and final appearance, Darth Vader appears in the hallway and proceeds to brutally slaughter the Rebels as the crew member holding the Death Star plans screams at his fleeing comrades to open the door. Realizing that it’s not going to budge, the crew member passes his precious cargo to a Rebel on the other side of the door and tells them to take it, before he himself is impaled on Vader’s lightsaber. The Sith Lord comes within arm’s reach of taking the plans back, but ultimately fails.
Scarif is Destroyed
The Empire is not afraid to fire upon its own people in an effort to get a situation under control, and as such the Imperial base on planet Scarif becomes the second victim of the Death Star’s terrible power. Thousands of Rebels and Stormtroopers are fighting on the planet – along with the Rogue One crew and Director Orson Krennic – when Tarkin orders the destruction of the base. The shot comes too late to prevent the valuable information from reaching the Rebel fleet, however, and despite total losses on both side the battle of Scarif ends as a bloody and hard-won victory for the Rebellion.
The Messenger That Bail Organa Trusts With His Life
Since Rogue One is an extremely direct prequel to A New Hope, it only makes sense that it should end where the original Star Wars began (just about) – with Princess Leia Organa receiving the Death Star plans. Though at first her face is concealed by the camera angles and the white hooded outfit she is wearing, Rogue One ends with a young Leia proclaiming that the Rebellion has hope again. Carrie Fisher’s 19 year-old appearance was recreated using the same CGI trickery used to bring Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin back for the prequel, and earlier in the film we even see R2-D2 – the android that Leia entrusts with the Death Star plans – watching ships leave the Rebel base with C-3PO.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was always intended as a standalone tale, and when Kathleen Kennedy confirmed that none of the characters would return in future movies, it led many fans to the conclusion that Rogue One would have a high body count among the main cast. Sadly, those guesses were accurate: every single member of the Rogue One crew is killed in the pursuit of the Death Star plans, along with thousands of their fellow Rebels. However, none of the characters die in vain, and ultimately the final act of the movie feels far more triumphant than tragic. Saw Gerrera, Galen Erso, K-2SO, Chirrut Îmwe, Bodhi Rook, Baze Malbus, Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso each play their own crucial role in helping to steal the information from the heart of the Empire, and for most of these characters their final act is one of defiance. Read on to find out how each one of Rogue One‘s heroes goes out.
Saw Gerrera Stops Running
As much machine as man when Jyn finds him, Saw Gerrera has become paranoid and cruel in his old age, going so far as to inflict brain-damaging torture upon Bodhi Rook in order to ascertain whether or not he is telling the truth. As it turns out, he is, and Saw witnesses Galen Erso’s message alongside Jyn. However, when the Death Star fires upon Jedha City, Saw refuses to leave the moon’s surface, saying that he will not run any more. As Jyn and her fellow Rebels make their escape, Saw remains in his base and watches the horizon give way to a wall of rocks and dirt as the explosion ripples across the surface of Jedha. As the Rogue One crew leave Jedha, Saw’s final home crumbles around him and becomes his final resting place.
Galen Erso Sees His Daughter Again
After fifteen long years estranged from his daughter, Jyn, Galen Erso finally gets to see her again when she and her fellow Rebels arrive on a rescue mission (as far as Jyn is told, at least). Galen is on Eadu, having been posing as an obedient Imperial lackey for years, but his science team is confronted by Krennic, who has learned that someone in the laboratory sent a message about the Death Star to Saw Gerrera. The whole team is lined up in front of a firing squad, and Galen steps forward and confesses in the hope of saving his colleagues. Krennic has them all shot anyway, and shortly afterwards the Rebels arrive and attack the base. Jyn runs out and calls out to her father, but Galen is hit by an explosion. Jyn manages to crawl over to him, and tells him that she got his message. Galen calls Jyn by her childhood nickname one more time, before dying in his daughter’s arms.
K-2SO Holds Back the Empire
When Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO reach the archive at the Scarif base, K-2SO hangs back at the control panel in order to locate the Death Star plans, while Jyn and Cassian head into the central tower to manually extract the data. Jyn leaves K-2SO her blaster, since he had grumbled earlier about not having one, and the android uses it to hold off attacking Stormtroopers after his extremely poor bluffing skills fail him. K-2SO manages to locate the Death Star plans and closes the blast doors behind Jyn and Cassian, giving them time to grab the plans and escape while he holds off the Stormtroopers. He is shot repeatedly until he finally falls to the floor, the light fading from his eyes as Jyn and Cassian climb the tower.
Chirrut Îmwe Flips the Switch
Before the Death Star plans can be sent to the Rebel fleet above Scarif, the shield gate controlling access to the planet’s surface must first be broken. The only way that the Rebel fleet will know to do this, however, is if Bodhi can send override Imperial communications to broadcast instructions, and it just so happens that the master switch that will allow him to do this is in the middle of a battlefield. A brave Rebel fighter attempts to reach the switch, but is killed as soon as he emerges from cover. Enter Chirrut Îmwe, who uses his force-sensitive capabilities to walk amid the gunfire while chanting “The Force is with me and I am one with the Force.” Chirrut flips the switch and smiles at Baze Malbus, before being blown off his feet by an explosion. Baze rushes out to him, and Chirrut dies in his old friend’s arms.
Bodhi Rook Strikes a Blow For Galen
With the master switch flipped, an injured Bodhi runs back to the Rebels’ hijacked Imperial ship and connects the final cable, opening up a line of communication to the Rebel fleet. He calls out, and Admiral Raddus responds. Bodhi explains that the shield gate must be destroyed at all costs in order for the Death Star plans to get through. Once the message is sent, Bodhi falls back in relief and says, “This is for you, Galen.” Unfortunately, he is not given much time to celebrate as an Imperial grenade is thrown into the ship and explodes, presumably killing him. There’s a definite poignancy to the fact that Bodhi is first introduced as a man desperately trying to deliver a message, and his final act is to deliver an equally important message.
Baze Malbus Goes Out Fighting
Baze, who is a former guardian of the temple at Jedha City, had lost much of his faith as the temple was ransacked and treated Chirrut’s prayers and chanting with skepticism throughout their journey. Having witnessed Chirrut’s miraculous walk through gunfire and heard his friend’s dying words, however, Baze regains his belief in the Force and heads back into battle with renewed determination. Now seemingly unafraid of death, Baze walks slowly towards the Imperial troops, picking them off with his gun. He is shot repeatedly, but keeps struggling on until eventually he is overcome by his wounds and falls down. The last Stormtrooper that he shot had been holding a live grenade, and as they fall to the ground the grenade rolls near Baze. It explodes and he is killed – if not immediately, then along with everyone else as Scarif is destroyed.
Orson Krennic Falls On His Own Sword
Director Krennic demonstrates an obsessive love for the superweapon that he helped build throughout the film, and remarks upon its destructive abilities as “beautiful” after the order is given to destroy Jedha City. At the end of the movie, Krennic is lucky enough to be given a front row seat to this beautiful destruction when the Death Star’s power is unleashed again – this time on Scarif’s Imperial base, where Krennic himself has been trying to prevent the theft of the Death Star plans. Having been shot by Cassian and left injured upon the platform, Krennic looks up unto the sky and the last thing he sees is the Death Star, before it fires on the planet and destroys the structure where Krennic has been left stranded.
Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor Go to the Beach
Orson Krennic comes close to preventing Jyn from transmitting the Death Star plans in a confrontation on the top of Scarif’s communications platform, but is shot in the back by a wounded Cassian. Together, Jyn and Cassian are able to transmit the plans to Admiral Raddus, thereby setting in motion the events of A New Hope. Cassian dissuades a still-angry Jyn from finishing off Krennic, and the two of them descend the tower. As the order is given for the Death Star to fire upon Scarif, Cassian and Jyn find their way to a beach and fall down on the sand at the water’s edge. Elated and triumphant at having given the Rebellion a fighting chance against the Empire, Jyn and Cassian embrace one another as the massive explosion approaches on the horizon, and they are consumed by the planet’s destruction together.