Back in 1977, audiences were introduced to Star Wars through the unconventional medium of scrolling text. Setting the scene instantly, the opening crawl became a staple for the franchise, catching audiences up on the state of the galaxy before diving straight into the action. 39 years later, Rogue One would pick up that opening crawl, and take up the task of explaining quite how the Rebellion got their hands on the Death Star plans.
It’s a story many didn’t feel needed to be told, but as the old Expanded Universe showed with numerous retellings, the Rebellion’s first major victory over the Empire is a story worth seeing. Few could have predicted that story would have such a positive impact on A New Hope, with Rogue One casting new light on key scenes in the original movie – the fact that it fits so seamlessly in with a movie written nearly 40 years before is a testament to the hard work of not only director Gareth Edwards, but the entire writing team at LucasFilm, who fleshed out moments from A New Hope into a thrilling 2 hour movie, and provided us with new ways of looking at the original movie.
Spoilers for Rogue One and A New Hope follow – you have been warned!
The Battle of Scarif
Eluded to in the opening crawl of A New Hope, The Battle of Scarif is the Rebellion’s “first victory against the evil Galactic Empire”. While we’ve seen rebel cells score numerous victories over the Empire throughout Star Wars Rebels, we’re shown in Rogue One that this isn’t just another cell, but the formation of the Rebel Alliance. Naturally this isn’t as seamless as it appears in the original trilogy, with different cells offering different opinions, something that adds to the disharmony when news comes in of the Emperor’s new weapon.
The result of the battle is the start of the civil war, the words first seen in A New Hope’s crawl. As mentioned by Mon Mothma in Rogue One, revealing the rebels have organised themselves into an Alliance begins a period of all-out war, unlike the small pockets of resistance that had been in place before.
Why the Rebel fleet seems so small
Here’s one that you may never have questioned until you saw the fleet in Rogue One – why are there only two squadrons in the attack on the Death Star? Surely the Rebel Alliance isn’t that ill-equipped? Answered during the assault on Scarif, we see Blue Squadron dive beneath the shield gate, where they are all but destroyed during the battle, while the rest of the fleet sustains heavy damage up above the planet.
With Vader’s Star Destroyer, the Devastator arriving at the end of the battle and destroying a third of the fleet, as well as the Rebel flagship, it’s easy to see why only Red and Gold squadrons lead the attack on the Death Star. Equally worth noting here is the use of archive footage for Red and Gold leader, as well as the demise of Red 5, leaving a spare pilot’s seat for Luke when he arrives on Yavin IV. We also see the main leaders of the Rebellion leave Yavin IV to return to the Senate (which will ultimately be disbanded), explaining why only General Dodonna remains to lead the rebels in A New Hope.
The Death Star’s Flaw
It’s been parodied often, and has been something that you just have to accept, but Rogue One provides the answer to the age-old question of just why does the Death Star have a flaw that will instantly blow it up? The answer comes in the form of Galen Erso, whose forced labour at the hands of the Empire allowed him to place a trap inside the reactor – any concussive blast will make “the whole system go down”, as K-2SO reminds us.
It adds a lot to the Rebellion’s attack. Firstly we know why they were so quick to identify a weakness, and why they were so confident that this was the only way to destroy it. It also explains why the plans were taken back to the Rebellion so urgently, and why the Rebels were ready when it arrived. We also now know why the entire Death Star blew up from two simple shots – it was Galen Erso’s final victory over Director Krennic.
First Use of the Death Star
Why would you build a massive weapon, then test it on Alderaan first? Surely that’s asking for failure? This (fairly minor) issue is resolved by showing us two successful tests of a single reactor blast from the Death Star; one on Jedha, one on Scarif. It explains why Tarkin is so confident of a successful “test” above Alderaan – he already knows it works.
We’re also given a nice explanation as to how Krennic is deposed as the Director of the Death Star, and replaced by Tarkin, with the latter using his sway with Vader and the Emperor to remove his Imperial adversary from the equation. The destruction of the Scarif base also neatly explains away the lack of a presence of Death Troopers and Shore Troopers in the original trilogy.
“I regret that I am unable to present my father’s request to you in person, but my ship has fallen under attack, and I’m afraid my mission to bring you to Alderaan has failed.”
Here’s one you may never have noticed before Rogue One. Mentioned briefly by Mon Mothma to Bail Organa, she suggests bringing in as many allies as possible once war breaks out, suggesting Organa’s old Jedi friend may be of assistance. Organa says he will dispatch a ship straight away, saying “I trust her with my life”.
While it was always assumed Leia was simply caught by the Empire over Tatooine, her presence there makes much more sense now – the reality is, she was dispatched to Tatooine to collect Obi-Wan Kenobi, and during the Battle of Scarif, has to escape with the plans. As a nice continuity nod, we also see Organa talk to Captain Antilles, and see R2-D2 and C3PO at the Yavin IV base before departing with Leia.
Escape of the Tantive IV
Perhaps the most thrilling moment of any Star Wars movie, the desperate escape of the Tantive IV from an approaching Vader will chill the heart of even the most hardened Star Wars fan. Tying into the start of A New Hope perfectly, the Tantive IV docks with the Rebel flagship, allowing the plans to be transferred to the ship. As it flees from Vader, it heads to Tatooine, Leia’s original mission location, with escape pods being prepared for the inevitable boarding party.
It’s the perfect explanation as to why Vader knows the plans are aboard, and why the Rebels seem ready to fight long before it becomes clear they are about to be captured. It adds such an incredible weight to those opening scenes of A New Hope, as we now know the sacrifices and desperate struggle that was made to get the plans this far. The entirety of Rogue One also adds a huge weight to A New Hope – this is very much the last part of a plan that has cost so much.
The Jedi post-Order 66
While this has been explored a little in Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One shows us the true state of the Jedi as the Empire tightens it’s grip on the galaxy. Jedha, a former holy city of the Jedi, has been occupied, and it is here that we meet Chirrut Imwe, a Guardian of the Whills, an order that protects the Kyber Crystal Temple on Jedha.
That is until the Death Star’s first test fire takes place there, destroying any trace of the Jedi’s spiritual home. How does this connect to A New Hope? Tarkin’s statement, “The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that’s left of their religion” – seems somewhat fitting after he personally oversaw the destruction of the last remnants of the Jedi’s spiritual home.
Because this wouldn’t fit in anywhere, we also see Mos Eisley cantina patrons Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba on Jedha, where once again they are threatening anyone that gets near them. An odd moment, but something that was definitely enjoyable!
In a rare twist for a prequel, Rogue One actually elevates the source material of the movie that follows it chronologically, turning A New Hope from the battle to destroy the Death Star, into the last part of a plan that has cost the Rebellion almost everything. It’s a brilliant companion piece, that creates a two-parter that epitomises everything we love about Star Wars.