Although Rogue One: A Star Wars Story features no Jedi (except for a quick nod to Obi-Wan Kenobi), the Force is strong with this movie. From Guardians of the Whills to Darth Vader, this film incorporates the ideals of Star Wars and helps to flesh out the canon universe now that much of the history and knowledge has been retconned to Legends. We gain further knowledge of Kyber crystals, which power both the Death Star and lightsabers, and glimpse the inner turmoil that Vader maintains.
With characters who believe strongly in the Force like Jyn Erso and Chirrut Imwe, the film incorporates the ideals of the Jedi in individuals who will carry on through conflict with hope, even in the face of overwhelming odds and a full-powered Sith Lord like Darth Vader. Despite the complete absence of Jedi in the film, our heroes persevered and dealt the Empire a devastating blow, one that would be felt for decades to come in this storied sci-fi franchise.
But just how big of a role did the Force play in the latest Star Wars outing? We're glad you asked! Here are 13 Things We Learned About The Force In Rogue One.
The concept of the Whills has existed since the earliest drafts of Star Wars. Lucas originally intended for the series to be “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as Taken from the Journal of the Whills.” The Whills were entities who recorded the events of the universe; this is why each film opens with the phrase “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
In the film franchise to this point, we haven’t seen a direct reference to the Whills, but Rogue One broke from that mold by incorporating two characters who are former Guardians that once served to protect the temples (in this case, the temple on Jedha).
This point might be particularly important, as The Force Awakens' Maz Kanata, who little is yet known about, might very well be one herself. We know that she is strong in the force, as the Star Wars: Force Awakens Visual Dictionary explains that her Force sensitivity allows her to sense Force relics, similar perhaps to how Chirrut Îmwe can sense Kyber crystals. Kanata’s abilities might be more pronounced than Chirrut’s, in fact, as a deleted concept scene from Force Awakens revealed that she was able to collapse a tunnel using the Force.
Jyn Erso, leader of the Rogue unit set on uncovering the plans to the Death Star, holds a piece of Kyber crystal around her neck, keeping faith in the last words her mother spoke to her before dying: “Trust the Force.” In many ways, Jyn’s connection to the Force could be an emotional attachment to her mother and father, thinking back on the discussions her father had with her about the ancient Jedi. While in Jedha, Jyn explains to Îmwe that her father claimed Kyber crystals were what powered the Jedi’s lightsabers. Clearly, her father found a way to manipulate that energy without using the Force.
Her strongest connection to the Force is displayed as the Rogue One team descends onto Scarif, an Imperial base where the Death Star schematics are kept. After a faulty attempt to send the correct call sign to the gate, Jyn grasps the necklace around her neck, closing her eyes, just as the ship is granted permission to land. Later, on the surface of Scarif, Baze calls her “sister”, implying that he now considers her to be one of the Guardians of the Whills.
Although Chirrut Îmwe wholeheartedly believes that his chant, “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me”, is a prayer that both protects and guides him, there is real-world scientific evidence that chanting can provide an individual with improved memory and sustained attention, both things which would benefit a blind warrior monk. In fact in 2006, a study published in the Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge suggested that there is a positive correlation between the activity and attention and memory. With that, regardless of the actual existence of the Force, Îmwe’s belief in it would likely aid him in battle and in his everyday life.
As a secondary point, both Îmwe and Baze Malbus utilize the chant within the film. For Chirrut Îmwe, he aligns himself first with the Force using his aforementioned prayer. For his pal Baze, however, the expression is reversed: “The Force is with me, I am one with the Force.” This reversal might relate to the individuals’ relationships with the Force; for Baze, he is returning to the Force after a dying Îmwe tells him, “you will always find me in the Force.” Perhaps Baze believes more in his connection with Îmwe than in the Force itself.
In much the same way that Marvel’s Daredevil or Last Airbender’s Toph compensate for their loss of sight with their intensified sense of hearing, Chirrute Îmwe utilizes a similar ability, enhanced perhaps by his reliance and belief in the Force. Although not a Force user, he is able to sense the Force vibrations within Kyber crystals. The Star Wars Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide by Pablo Hidalgo explains that inside Îmwe’s staff is a sliver of Kyber within a “crystal containment lamp” at the end of the staff. Serving as both a symbolic representation of “inner illumination, it also allows Chirrut to better gauge where the end of the staff is, as he can hear both the battery and crystal harmonic.”
It is impossible to know if his fighting ability is purely a physical or spiritual one, but it seems most likely from this film that it is, in fact, a combination of the two. He may lack the ability to see, but his reliance on the Force allows him a clarity and serenity in battle that amplifies his other physical abilities.
Beyond the physical assistance that the Force provides to Îmwe, he is also able to sense the energies of individuals. In the case of Cassian Andor, he asks if “he has the face of a killer”, since he senses the sort of darkness that is present when an animal is about to kill.
"I’m beginning to the think the Force and I have different priorities.”
In the same way that Îmwe is able to connect to the Force for his own stability and calm in battle, the Force itself also seems to exert its will upon various characters within Rogue One. For Îmwe’s part, the Force most openly exhibits itself when he is tasked with turning on the transmitter amidst a hail of laser fire. In Rogue One, the newly introduced Deathtroopers are more aptly prepared for battle with near perfect aim (breaking from the longtime mold of Stormtroopers not being able to hit anything). Regardless, Îmwe, chanting as he does so, is somehow able to walk calmly and slowly through the fighting without being struck, that is until he has accomplished his task.
The same is true for Baze Malbus, who returns to his belief after witnessing the death of his longtime friend. Holding Chirrut's corpse, Baze repeats his inverted take on his pal's mantra, “The Force is with me, I am one with the Force.” The implication for this being that he understands he is likely about to die, but trusts that the Force will be with him as it was with Îmwe -- and, in death, they will return to each other. This scene once again shows the Force exerting its own will in some manner, as Baze is seemingly protected from gunfire and only brought down by a grenade explosion.
In deleted scenes from Revenge of the Sith, Mon Mothma appears in the counsel of Senator Amidala and Senator Bail Organa. Both scenes show these individuals sowing the seeds of the Rebel Alliance. Where Amidala desires to inform “one Jedi” of their plans (likely Anakin, although it could also be Obi-Wan), the other Senators refuse her wishes.
Interestingly, with the conclusion of the prequels and the years since, Mon Mothma seems to have seen the error of not including a Jedi in those early plans. When Bail Organa suggests that he has a friend in hiding who could help them against the Empire, she exclaims, “the Jedi.” Clearly, she has realized the potential importance of such a figure, and the asset he could be against the Empire. Of course, little does she know that in Obi-Wan’s place, she will receive a Skywalker, and that the other Force sensitive twin (Leia) has been by her side for years.
The volcanic planet upon which Obi-Wan and Anakin engage in the explosive battle in Revenge of the Sith is revealed to be the new home of Darth Vader, who has constructed a literal castle above the lava fields. The castle seems isolated and bleak, with hooded individuals serving Darth Vader in his Bacta tank.
Anakin, always known to be a hot-head, is likely maintaining, if not increasing, his Force abilities by remaining on the planet. Yoda makes clear that fear and anger lead to the Dark Side, and from the battle between Vader and Luke in Return of the Jedi, we know that the Dark Side provides an exceptional strength when channeling strong negative emotions like anger and fear. Nothing would keep someone dwelling on the past like sitting on a lifeless lava planet where your best friend/mentor left you for dead as you burned to near-death.
"Before the dark times. Before the Empire.” Obi-Wan Kenobi clearly equates the Dark Side with the Empire, and for obvious reasons: the Empire is led by a Sith Lord. With this comes the discussion of how the Dark Side has managed to maintain their power. Yes, the vast majority of the Jedi were killed, but with only two Sith in existence themselves, the sides are even, if not skewed in favor of the Light. What this leads to is the realization that the Dark Side of the Force must be incredibly strong.
We see this on a physical manner in Rogue One with arguably the best Darth Vader scene of any Star Wars film. He effortlessly takes on a room of soldiers, even in the debilitated state he is in (we're assuming Bacta tanks can only preserve a person for so long). Based on The Weakness of Inferiors (now a part of Legends), Darth Sidious claims that the Dark Side gains much of its strength simply by ignoring the rules placed upon Force use by the Jedi.
The silhouette of the city of Jedha (on the moon of the same name) mirrors the domed structures often associated with modern day holy sites like Jerusalem or Mecca, which serve as the inspiration for the city. The moon and city are home to the Jedi temples where the Empire has begun stripping the ancient temple of Kyber crystal for, as we discover in the film, powering the Death Star. Kyber crystals are Force-attuned crystals forming on various planets. Ilum, the main location that Jedi retrieved their crystals from, was destroyed by the Empire, who then turned to the moon of Jedha for more Death Star-powering crystals.
With the obliteration of the Jedi Order in Revenge of the Sith, the temple remained protected by the Guardians of the Whills. However, with the occupation of the moon by Imperial forces, the now war-zone is under constant threat, with the Guardians seeking out an existence in whatever manner they can.
Jedi relied on Kyber crystals to power their lightsabers. Based on Legends, the Sith utilized synthetic crystals initially for lack of the natural ones, but eventually because they believed them to be the superior fuel compared to the Jedi's weapons. However, this notion was retconned by Pablo Hidalgo, in a tweet indicating that, “the synthetic crystal thing is Legends. Maul. Sidious. Vader. All those were kyber crystals.” What this means is that a site like the temple on Jedha would continue to hold significance even with the destruction of the Jedi, as Sidious (Emperor Palpatine) and Vader are clearly aware of its existence. Instead, the canon holds that the Dark Side lightsabers gain their coloration from the malevolent manipulation of the crystal towards the Dark Side.
Although not a lightsaber, the staff of Chirrut Îmwe includes a fragment of a kyber crystal; prior to the film’s release, there was speculation that perhaps the staff was actually a lightsaber. Obviously, this was not the case.
The Death Star, perhaps the most ominous figure of the power of the Empire, was revealed to utilize Kyber crystals in Rogue One. Previously, it was pure speculation that indicated what could be creating such a powerful and destructive beam. With the scientific knowledge of Galen Erso, it was made clear that Kyber crystals -- although utilized by the Jedi for their connection with the energy of the Force -- could be manipulated in other ways, even by non-Force users. The use of large Kyber crystals was suggested to be used in Sith weapons in various Clone Wars storylines, which might be where the Empire’s idea came from. They turned to Erso, because he (as introduced in the film's prequel novel, Catalyst) was researching Kyber crystals for their renewable energy source.
Even Darth Vader ignores any Force relation to the Death Star or the crystals that power its beam in A New Hope, when he states “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.” Clearly, Vader is not impressed.
Lyra Erso, mother of Jyn Erso, bestows a Kyber necklace upon her daughter as a parting gift before she is killed by the villainous Director Krennic. According to Catalyst, Lyra and Galen Erso met while she guided his expeditions into Kyber caves. Ultimately, Lyra believed in the Force -- even though she was unable to wield it -- and trusted in the will of the Force itself to protect believers (in much the same way that Guardians of the Whills trusted in it).
Throughout the film, Jyn is seen clutching her necklace in times of turmoil (so, basically the entire film), like when the group attempts to enter Scarif and she clutches it with closed eyes. There is also a connection between the crystals and dreams, seen when Jyn awakens from flashback-like sequences of her father and her.
The necklace is also how Chirrut Îmwe notices her in the crowd, claiming that the “the strongest stars have hearts of Kyber.” This could be either a reference to the literal centers of stars, which are filled with Kyber (perhaps why Starkiller Base in the Force Awakens drains stars for its power), or a more symbolic nod to the nickname her father gave her, Stardust. Either way, the necklace serves as an immediate connection between Jyn and Îmwe, ultimately leading him and Baze to follow her and Cassian through Jedha City and the remainder of the film.
The cold, machinated breathing of Darth Vader is enough to set one on edge. But at the end of Rogue One, it elicits child-like squeals from audience members who had hoped to see him pull off some true Sith Lord badassery. The sudden beam of his lightsaber from the darkness. The audience holds its breath. In this moment, Vader proves why he is the most feared (and revered) bad guy in the Star Wars films. He can single-handedly mow down a hallway of soldiers without a stormtrooper in sight. Guns are nothing compared to the Force.
As thrilling as this scene is, it might have more significance when compared to his fights in the original films, particularly A New Hope. In it, he and Obi-Wan battle aboard the Death Star. This fight, however, seems oddly simple and slow compared to the fighting in Rogue One (or any other lightsaber battle we've seen over the years). It seems that Rogue One put too much emphasis on his fighting for that to be a mistake. In some ways, it makes the battle between him and Obi-Wan all the more surreal. Both of them know how it will end. At this point, Vader isn’t mincing words when he says, “Now I am the Master.” He could easily beat the world-weary Obi-Wan, but instead the two slowly dance, exchanging a few attacks and parries. Vader is toying with his former mentor, but that game appears to be being played by both combatants. Obi-Wan knows that, in death, he will be more powerful. But for Vader, he believes in defeating his former Master that will he truly feel the full measure of the Dark Side. Neither is entirely wrong.
What else did we learn about the Force in Rogue One? Let us know in the comments.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now.