The sequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the movie that started it all, Episode IV: A New Hope. And it makes sense Gareth Edwards made this particular movie given his extreme fandom of the property and the fact that A New Hope is his favorite Star Wars movie.
We're going to examine several plot elements of Rogue One and how they connect, add context to, or directly setup the plot threads of A New Hope so be warned: Spoilers Ahead!
There's much more to Rogue One setting up the story of the first Death Star as depicted in George Lucas' first Star Wars than just the final scene and how it compares to the first scene in Episode IV (Vader's Star Destroyer chasing the Tantive IV). There are other characters who shift roles, characters that reappear in other places or go missing, and Rogue One helps establish a lot of it. In that respect, Rogue One needs to be commended for not just being a truly standalone movie for a franchise, studio, and era of Hollywood where everything is built with followups in mind. No, Rogue One is additive. It fleshes out something we already know and love and it successfully enhances the original trilogy by making A New Hope even better than it already was - something the prequel trilogy arguably failed to do.
Let's get into some of the important and notable elements of how Rogue One connects to and sets up A New Hope...
Tarkin in Command of the Death Star
Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin didn't have that much screen time in the original trilogy but his presence, unique look and conviction thanks to actor Peter Cushing made him one of the most memorable characters of the Galactic Empire after his role in Episode IV as commander of the Death Star. Tarkin was brought back in the prequel trilogy briefly as a younger man with the rank of Governor played by Australian actor Wayne Pygram and again in the Clone Wars animated series.
Since the relaunch of in-canon books post-Disney sale, author James Luceno fleshed out the character even more with the Tarkin novel and more recently, Catalyst - the latter serving to setup the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It's here where his rivalry with Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) is built up over years of time construction the Death Star and where both are established as cunning high-ranking Imperial officials both looking for power, and both being ruthlessly manipulating.
It's these books that add context to the introduction of Krennic and Tarkin together aboard the newly finished Death Star in Rogue One before they perform the first weapons test against the moon Jedha. And it's how the events of Rogue One play out which explain how and why Tarkin is fully in command of the Death Star, why he works with Vader instead of for him, and why Krennic is nowhere to be seen or mentioned.
Red Squadron and Gold Squadron
Only seen in video games and toys up until now, Rogue One confirms that back in the original trilogy era of films there were indeed X-Wings with different color schemes and it wasn't always Red Squadron as the X-Wing aces of the Alliance's Yavin IV headquarters.
Rogue One establishes a three-squadron system working under Admiral Raddus led by General Merrick (Ben Daniels) and his Blue Squadron pilots who in the final battle of Rogue One around the planet Scarif make the dive through the shield gate to provide air support for the Jyn Erso and the ground units.
This squad is mostly annihilated leaving Red Leader and his team of X-Wing pilots (soon to be bolstered by Wedge Antilles, Biggs Darklighter, Jek Porkins, and Luke Skywalker in A New Hope) to be the first line of Starfighter defense in their next major battle, supporting by Gold Squadron and their Y-Wing bombers.
Lock S-Foils in attack position!
Known as the Blockade Runner, officially designated the Tantive IV, and classified as a CR90 Corvette class starship constructed on Corellia (Han Solo's homeworld known for ship building), this is one of the most iconic ships in Star Wars lore. Several Corvette class ships or similar looking light cruisers have factored into many Star Wars stories and conflicts dating back to the events leading up to the Clone Wars and decades later, the Galactic War.
The opening shot of A New Hope begins with the Tantive IV on a mission to get the Death Star plans to the Rebel Alliance and to recruit legendary Master Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and bring him back into the fold to help stop the Empire. It just so happens that director Gareth Edwards' Rogue One ends with that very same ship escaping a battle around the Imperial planet Scarif with Princess Leia aboard.
Rogue One puts into context how much went into getting the Blockade Runner to Tatooine with the Death Star plans, and how it came directly from the Rebel base at Yavin IV under direct orders of Bail Organa (Leia's adoptive father played by returning actor Jimmy Smits). This was only allowed to happen because Organa and Admiral Raddus (the Mon Calamari fish man in charge of Rebel Fleet that joined the Scarif skirmish against orders of Rebel high council) did what needed to be done and sacrificed everything for the greater good.
It also puts into context why Kenobi came out of hiding when he did in the original Star Wars and why the Death Star had the weakness it did in the first movie.
Ever since Disney and Lucasfilm made it clear to shareholders that they were going to expand the Star Wars universe and fill in some gaps with standalone spinoffs/anthology stories and potential sub-franchise in the live-action movies (to help annualize the money-making franchise) fans (and people involved) have wanted to see Obi-Wan return.
Complain all you want about George Lucas' Star Wars prequels, no one can question how brilliant the casting and portrayal was of young Obi-Wan Kenobi rising through the ranks from Jedi Apprentice to Knight to Master. The fact that he's referenced in this movie in a big way and is a key driver in the Tantive IV's mission that directly connects Rogue One to A New Hope gives more credence to the idea that Obi-Wan can return, that actor Ewan McGregor could (and should!) play him again in a future spinoff.
Perhaps that third anthology movie, originally meant to be about Boba Fett, can be about Obi-Wan instead. There are certainly lots of rumors out there, including interest from Rogue One director Gareth Edwards who told us at he press junket that as a fan he wants to see an Obi-Wan spinoff more than any other.
Vader has little screen time but when he's there, Edwards makes it count. He unleashes in final sequence using force abilities and lightsaber tactics like the Dark Side Master he was built up to be. The final action set piece for him is a nice nod to the relatively tamer introduction in A New Hope where he catches up to the Tantive IV and boards it with a legion of Stormtroopers. When he's boarding the much larger Rebel capital ship in Rogue One, he needs no trooper support.
Given how that scene plays out, some time must have passed between that battle and the next time he catches up to the Tantive IV because it should have been a much more aggressive attack otherwise. Given how Leia's ship escapes the Scarif battle, how could she have any hope to claim she's on a "diplomatic mission" when she's confronted by Vader?
Still, film sets up explanation for why Vader is personally boarding the Tantive IV in the introductory scenes of A New Hope and interrogating instead of easily destroying the ship. At this point in time Leia isn't known to be a Rebel (although she clearly is as we know from Star Wars Rebels TV show and the films). But Vader knows and Tarkin knows which is why Tarkin uses the full power of the Death Star against her and Bail Organa's home planet of Alderaan first because they're primarily responsible for the Rebellion.
R2-D2 and C-3PO
R2-D2 and C-3PO make cameo appearance in temple hangar on Yavin IV and we know they belong to "Captain Antilles" who's namedropped by Bail Organa in a conversation with Mon Mothma in Rogue One. This Antilles is not to be confused with the notable pilot Wedge from the original trilogy, but rather the Raymus Antilles from Alderaan.
The droids belong to him until - as any fan well knows - they crash via escape pod on Tatooine and get picked up by Jawas who sell the pair to Luke's aunt and uncle. It does however, make you wonder why the gun turret operators aboard Darth Vader's Star Destroyer were so willing to let empty escape pods get away if they knew the mission was to recover data records.
Bonus: Ponda Baba & Cornelius Evazan
You'll remember this pair from the original Star Wars (A New Hope) since they help introduce audiences to the sheer power of a Jedi Master's lightsaber when one of them loses an arm to Obi-Wan Kenobi. They help introduce audiences to the cutting power of the Jedi weapon in a scene in Mos Eisley Cantina where they first get aggressive with young Luke Skywalker before Obi-Wan steps in to remove Baba's right arm.
As we now know not long before their return to Tatooine where they - like Han Solo - smuggle for Jabba the Hutt, they were on the moon Jedha just before the Death Star ran its first weapons test against its main city. We also know, their aggression towards Luke is not an isolated incident since they also bump into Cassian on Jedha.
Similar to the Tantive IV's mission to Tatooine to locate Obi-Wan (at the beginning of A New Hope), we Baba and Evazan had already gotten their first, putting into question just how much time passes between the finale events of Rogue One and the opening crawl of A New Hope. Note: some time passes by the time the droids crash on Tatooine at the beginning of Episode IV and the time they head to Mos Eisley with Luke and Obi-Wan.
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From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, with Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel are producing, with John Knoll and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The story is by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and the screenplay is by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.
- Star Wars: Rogue One / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) release date: Dec 16, 2016