WARNING: This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Rogue One
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is finally here, and after enduring a tumultuous road to the big screen (typical for the Star Wars franchise), it's safe to say the first standalone anthology is another winner for Disney/Lucasfilm. Using the positive critical reception as a springboard, Rogue One posted one of the strongest box office opening weekends of the year and is well on its way to having a lucrative run. If the Mouse House higher-ups considered Rogue One an experiment due to its status as a spinoff, it was a successful one that opens new avenues for the franchise.
Most people, including Mark Hamill, noted that Rogue One (and whichever anthologies follow) have an advantage over the main saga installments. As a one-off, Gareth Edwards' film had relative creative leeway and didn't have to adhere to a specific formula, or even set up sequels. Prior to the movie's release, Kathleen Kennedy revealed viewers would probably not see the likes of Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, K-2SO, and the rest of the team again in film. That led many to believe that the characters would perish at some point, and the main group all died during the Battle of Scarif in Rogue One's electrifying third act. It was a risk by Edwards, and he was pleasantly surprised that Disney let him go through with it.
In an interview with Empire Podcast (hat tip Heroic Hollywood), Edwards discussed the development of Rogue One and how the conclusion changed over time. He revealed that the original draft of the script, some of the heroes lived to fight another day, but after further conversations with the executives, it was changed:
I mean, it’s a great Disney tradition isn’t it? For every single character to die in all their movies. I think there was an early version – the very first version they didn’t [die] in the screenplay. And it was just assumed by us that we couldn’t do that and they’re not gonna let us do that. So we’re trying to figure out how this ends where that doesn’t happen. And then everyone read that, and there was just this feeling of like, “They gotta die right?” And everyone was like, “Yeah, can we?” And we thought we weren’t gonna be allowed to, but Kathy [Kennedy] and everyone at Disney were like, “Yeah, makes sense.” I guess they have to because they’re not in A New Hope. And so from that point on, we had the license and I kept waiting for someone to go, “You know what, can you just film an extra scene where we see Jyn and Cassian, they’re okay, and they’re on another planet and la la la…” And [that] never ever came, and no one gave us that note so we got to do it.
From the beginning, Rogue One was pitched as a gritty war drama in space, and the marketing made sure to hammer that point home. Much of the imagery was reminiscent of World War II or Vietnam, so it logically fit with the tone of the film that many of the main players would meet their noble ends. Stealing the Death Star plans from a heavily-guarded Imperial data facility is very much a suicide mission, especially for a scrappy, under-funded Rebellion forced to make the best of what resources they have. One of the goals of Rogue One was to show the hardships and tremendous sacrifice of the conflict, meaning it arguably would have been inconsistent if some of the characters received a happy ending. Credit has to go to Disney for realizing this early on and allowing Edwards to make a massive tentpole where all the characters die.
Shortly after Rogue One's premiere, it was announced that star Felicity Jones had a sequel option in her contract, but fans shouldn't read too much into that. The multi-picture deal has become a standard in the industry (Hugo Weaving signed one with Marvel), and it is far from a guarantee the actor or actress will make another appearance. Unless Jyn Erso shows up in the young Han Solo spinoff, it's difficult to see where she'd fit in given that she (seemingly and likely) died on the beach. Her time in a galaxy far, far away may have been short-lived, but Jones left her mark on the legacy and became a meaningful part of the canon.
Source: Empire Podcast [via Heroic Hollywood]