For Star Wars fans, every passing day leading up to the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story serves to amplify the mystery and excitement surrounding the first film in the standalone anthology’s arrival. As news continues to evolve and find its way to the public, the image that is being created of director Gareth Edwards’ vision is one set firmly in Star Wars lore but with plenty of new appeal.
Ever since fans were treated to a truly exhilarating Rogue One sizzle reel during last month’s Star Wars Celebration 2016, pieces of what a world without Jedis will look like is rapidly forming a very unique whole. We are aware that the action of Rogue One takes place on a new planet called Jedha, but up until now exactly what role this planet plays has been limited to the knowledge that it is a spiritual place for Jedis – a place of holy pilgrimage.
Speaking with EW, Gareth Edwards expanded on what Jedha means as a location to those who subscribe to what is essentially the religion of the Force. As a holy mecca of spirituality, Jedha has become occupied by the Empire in Rogue One and those who are adherents to the power of the Force are being faced with the very serious decision of succumbing to the will of their occupiers or resisting. Said Edwards on the subject:
“The Force is basically in Star Wars like a religion, and they’re losing their faith in the period that we start the movie. We were trying to find a physical location we could go to that would speak to the themes of losing your faith and the choice between letting the Empire win, or evil win, and good prevailing. It got embodied in this place we called Jedha.
“It’s a place where people who believe in the Force would go on a pilgrimage. It was essentially taken over by the Empire. It’s an occupied territory… for reasons we probably can’t reveal. There’s something very important in Jedha that serves both the Jedi and the Empire. It felt very much like something we could relate to in the real world.”
[Mild SPOILERS ahead for Rogue One.]
What exactly this special something is that the Empire wants so badly from Jedha is of course a secret, but during Star Wars Celebration, actor Donnie Yen (who plays the blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe) revealed that Jedha is the planet that contains the special resources needed to build lightsabers. While there is very likely more to this issue, it makes perfect sense that in order to combat or even wipe out the Jedi, control over the production and use of their most trusted weapon is highly advantageous for the Empire. But Jedha is not to be easily overtaken, as a strong movement of rebels fight back against the occupation – among them Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), a former Imperial solider whose home planet is Jeddha. Edwards emphasized the strength and number of those who follow the Force and Jedi during this time:
“Within Jedha, even though there’s the oppressive foot of the Empire hanging over them, there’s a resistance that won’t give up and our characters have to go and meet people there to try and secure a person from this group.
“In a wider level, there must be loads of people who just believe in the Jedi and believe in the Force and have been affected by it. If it’s a really ancient religion, as Obi-Wan Kenobi said, it’s got to exist in thousands or millions of people in the galaxy.”
With this information now added to what we know about Rogue One, the battle that the rebels face against the Empire seems more urgent to the film, but also more relatable to real world struggles. It is this level of intensity encased in a battle of good versus evil that really captures the heart of what Star Wars has always been about. Come December, fans will finally have the opportunity to see for themselves if that’s really the case and if Rogue One will be embraced amongst followers of such a hallowed and beloved franchise.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.