On May 25, 1977, moviegoers first learned that Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, had stolen the plans for the Galactic Empire's ultimate weapon, the Death Star. Now, some 39 ½ years later, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" will reveal just how it all went down. Not only is "Rogue One" a chance to re-create the classic "used universe" look of the original "Star Wars" trilogy, it's an opportunity to come at the source material from a different angle.
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As part of that process, "Rogue One" also allows filmmakers to patch some continuity holes and connect some points along the overall "Star Wars" timeline -- and to do so "officially," as opposed to the various novels, comics and video games already connected to this backstory. Thus, today we're looking at some of the most pertinent questions "Rogue One" might address.
15 How Much Expanded Universe Will We See?
Even before the prequels fleshed out the last years of the Old Republic, the Expanded Universe delved deep into the Rebels' scheme to destroy the Death Star and restore democracy to the galaxy far, far away. Under the umbrella name of Operation Skyhook, the series of interconnected capers touched on a number of familiar elements. The construction used Wookiee slaves, Leia learned about the battle station from a boastful Imperial bureaucrat, and Han Solo was somehow involved; indirectly, of course.
Ultimately, the job of stealing the plans themselves fell to video-game hero Kyle Katarn -- a former stormtrooper-cum-Jedi and integral rebel operative who has a long and rich history in the expanded universe -- in Level One of the old "Dark Forces" first-person shooter. While we don't expect much of that to make it into "Rogue One," maybe the movie's Easter eggs will include Skyhook, Lord Tion or Katarn himself.
14 Where Is The Dantooine Base?
Immortalized in one of Leia's many defiant moments, the Rebel base on Dantooine has been defined mostly by what it isn't. Apparently it isn't close to much of anything, since Tarkin says it's "too remote" for an effective Death Star demonstration. While it appeared in "Knights of the Old Republic" and was the subject of an early "Clone Wars" sequence, it hasn't housed Rebels for a long time.
Still, since the Empire didn't know anything about it, clearly they didn't chase the Rebels away from it. What, then, made the Rebellion relocate to Yavin IV? Did Dantooine have bedbugs? Was it too far from a bright center to the universe, or at least a decent grocery? Although the "Star Wars" card game suggested that Boba Fett may have snuck an Imperial homing beacon into the Rebel base, the official story of Dantooine has yet to be told.
13 What Made Everyone Forget The Jedi?
The Old Republic stood for over a thousand years, but the Jedi Knights were around for a thousand generations. At the height of their power, they numbered in the thousands, keeping the peace across countless star systems. They were known throughout the universe, from the core systems to the Outer Rim. That's not the kind of fame that goes away overnight, but thanks to the Emperor's Order 66, it's pretty much what happened. After the Jedi Purge, the order's influence evaporated.
Did the universe just take the Jedi for granted? Were they too hard to believe in to begin with? Perhaps it was just easier to deal with their loss by brushing them away as myths, motivated by a "sad devotion" to a "hokey religion." Clearly the Rebellion, which uses "may the Force be with you" as a rallying cry, is motivated to bring back the Jedi; but we hope "Rogue One" examines how the general public feels.
12 What's Mon Mothma's Deal?
Since "Return of the Jedi" introduced Mon Mothma (played then by Caroline Blakiston) as the leader of the Rebel Alliance, we're not surprised to see her at the Yavin base in "Rogue One." The Senator from Chandrila also appeared in a deleted scene from "Revenge of the Sith," where -- played by Genevieve O'Reilly, who reprises the role in "Rogue One" -- she met with Padmé Amidala, Bail Organa and other future Rebel leaders.
However, both scenes left us wanting more. Is she a devoted humanitarian? Did the Emperor hand her a devastating loss? Does she burn with a desire to see justice done? And how is she at bullseye-ing womp-rats? In short, we're hoping "Rogue One" fills in the details about just what makes Mon Mothma tick, especially as she has been showcased so prominently in the trailers we've seen thus far. In general, as a character, Mothma represents the opportunity to flesh-out previously bit parts more robustly into a lasting legacy for the series.
11 Why Do Officers Talk Back To Vader?
Darth Vader has a unique role within the Empire, but sometimes that means taking a lot of back-sass from Imperial functionaries (who should really know better). The famous "I find your lack of faith disturbing" scene is a good illustration of Vader's position. Admiral Motti felt pretty comfortable mocking the Force, but Vader felt equally comfortable showing Motti just what the Force could do.
Clearly the Dark Lord considers himself at least the equal of your average Imperial admiral. Moreover, Vader answers only to Grand Moff Tarkin and has been the Emperor's right-hand man for the past 19 years -- both of which should make even the most self-confident of officers think twice. Regardless, we think something happened along the way that made the Imperial leadership question Vader's authority, and we'd like "Rogue One" to address that.
10 The Death Star: What Took So Long?
From a certain point of view, "Rogue One" is the third "Star Wars" movie to deal with the theft of the Death Star plans. The first time the plans were stolen was during the Battle of Geonosis at the climax of "Attack of the Clones," whereupon Count Dooku delivered them to Darth Sidious on Coruscant. Therefore, from the time the first contractors were hired until the moment the last drop of paint dried, it took some 22 years to complete the first Death Star. Of course, none of us has any experience building a planet-killing battle station which is the size of a small moon, but still -- 22 years?
The end of "Revenge of the Sith" revealed the station's rough superstructure, and that was just three years into the process. (To be fair, that could have been a mere prototype. Measure twice, destroy once, after all.) We suspect the massive engineering feats required were simply too much for the average Imperial builder, and we think Galen Erso (Jyn's dad) had the right know-how to speed the process along. But again, that's just speculation... for now.
9 What's With The Death Star's Final Design?
Speaking of the Geonosians, we know from "Attack of the Clones" that the hive-based society drew up the plans for an ultimate weapon as part of the Separatists' revolt against the Republic. Nevertheless, the final product doesn't look like it came from an insectoid race. Instead, it appears rather bleak and utilitarian, in keeping with the rest of the Empire's aesthetic and certainly not the designs of a sand and lava-based insect people.
That got us thinking about whether the differences might just be skin deep, with the human-style control panels and vertical lights intended to make things easier on the end users. Maybe the Geonosians' real innovations are in the parts we didn't see. Or maybe they (like most contractors) were building to the specs of those commissioning them, however doofy or easily destroyed. Either way, it's another opportunity for "Rogue One" to strengthen the connections between the prequels and the Original Trilogy, and particularly between the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War.
8 Did Galen Erso Doom The Death Star?
We might forgive the Empire for overlooking a small thermal exhaust port (located right below the main port). It's ray-shielded, so an effective attack would have to use proton torpedoes. The target isn't much bigger than two meters wide, which is almost impossible to hit even for a computer. Besides, the Death Star's defenses were designed around a large-scale assault, not a couple dozen snub fighters making trench runs.
All that said, though, if someone were going to bake a fatal flaw into the most powerful weapon the galaxy had ever seen, and then hide it in plain sight, one could do worse. It looks like Galen Erso doesn't join the Empire willingly, and it may even be the case that he trusts the Force (at least a little) to provide a pilot with that kind of one-in-a-million aim. While such a scenario arguably fits too neatly into the events of "A New Hope," it's the kind of thing "Rogue One" could foreshadow (and in many ways, fix).
7 What Does Vader Really Think About The Death Star?
"A New Hope's" aforementioned conference-room scene lays out Darth Vader's perspective on the Empire's "technological terror." Even though the Death Star can destroy planets, that's "insignificant next to the power of the Force." In hindsight, this is a bit of a curious position for Vader to take, since the Death Star has been his boss's project since before Anakin became a Sith. Certainly Vader knows what both sides of the Force are capable of, since he was willing to destroy Jedi colleagues and friends to save his wife and unborn child. For that matter, "Rogue One" could give us an example of the Force being more powerful than a world-destroyer.
Ultimately, in the abstract, the Death Star is just a tool to achieve the Empire's goals, and Vader's got to be on-board with those. Alternately, perhaps Vader's mockery is nothing more than an extreme example of Anakin Skywalker's self-centeredness: "You think you're so big, but I'm still hurting!" (Or something like that.) Either way, we sense the conflict within Vader, that's for sure.
6 How Does Jedha Relate To Ahch-To?
For all its focus on ordinary Rebels, "Rogue One" appears to touch on some significant Jedi lore. At the head of the list is the planet Jedha, a holy place for the Order and an important location in Jedi history. That's all well and good, but "The Force Awakens" has already shown us the first Jedi Temple on the planet Ahch-To. The two planets are demonstrably different: Jedha's desert and mountains include Jedi monuments and artifacts, while Ahch-To's simple stone temple is on a green island in the middle of a vast, choppy sea.
No doubt we'll learn more about Ahch-To in 2018's "Star Wars: Episode VIII," when we will presumably see Luke Skywalker train Rey in the ways of the Force. Until then, "Rogue One" can whet our appetites by connecting the two through their shared Jedi heritage, and build on the mythos of the order to new heights; an interesting twist in a "Star Wars" films that doesn't seem to touch too heavily on that side of the universe.
5 Why Not Return The Plans To Yavin IV?
It appears from the various "Rogue One" trailers that after Jyn is broken out of an Imperial prison, she's taken to the hidden Rebel base on Yavin IV. From there, she's briefed by Mon Mothma et al., and begins assembling her crew for the big theft. We know already that the Rebels will launch their Death Star attack from Yavin IV, but we also know that Princess Leia will wind up with the plans and have to get them back to the base (by way of Alderaan, apparently).
The simplest answer may be that the Rebels don't want the Empire to track the Rogue One crew back to Yavin, because that would be the end of the Rebellion right there. It's circuitous, perhaps, but it would arguably get the job done. Regardless, "Rogue One" should explain exactly why the plans take such a roundabout route, which really, is completely unnecessary.
4 Why Doesn't Vader Pursue Rogue One?
Although we're not going to speculate about just what happens to Jyn and her associates, we're well aware that none of them is guaranteed to make it out of "Rogue One" unscathed. Even so, at some point, the Empire's attention has to shift from Jyn and crew to Princess Leia Organa and the Tantive IV. At some point (as Vader reminds the Tantive's doomed captain), "several transmissions were beamed to [that] ship by Rebel spies."
Assuming that Jyn was told not to return to Yavin, that suggests they got to a point where the Rogue One gang couldn't go any further and could only transmit the plans to Leia. Vader then discovered those transmissions and tracked them to the Tantive. If that meant the Empire no longer considered the Rogue One crew a threat, and the Rebels got away without further incident, good for them. Otherwise ... well, there probably wouldn't have been a "Rogue Two" anyway.
3 Why Have Only One Copy Of The Plans?
Stay with us here, because this gets even more nit-picky. After Jyn has stolen the plans, she transmits them to Leia. (we're just boiling this down to the two of them.) Leia then transfers them to a disc and sticks them in R2-D2. In light of how we use information today, this strikes us as a bit old-fashioned, even for a long time ago. Granted, in 1977, nobody was thinking about "the cloud" or the notion that "online is forever" -- but wouldn't Jyn still have her copy of the plans?
We're not IT professionals, but even if the plans were encrypted, wouldn't the fact that they could be transmitted mean that the transmission would create a copy? Maybe all that is true, and the Rogue One crew lit out for Alderaan while Leia took her copy to Tatooine. Maybe Jyn destroyed her copy once she was satisfied that the transmissions had been successful. More ominous, though, is the probability that the Rogue One crew's copy was lost in some sort of catastrophe.
2 Why Does Bail Organa Want Leia To Pick Up Obi-Wan?
Speaking of Leia and Tatooine, why indeed is she headed there? When she gives the plans to R2-D2, she knows she's going to Imperial jail, so she's sending the droid to Obi-Wan Kenobi for him to take to Alderaan. That would make more sense if it was her idea to contact Obi-Wan -- why not recruit one of the last Jedi Knights for help against a superweapon?.
However, according to her holo-message, Bail is downright "begging" Obi-Wan to "join him in his fight against the Empire" and Leia's "mission to bring him to Alderaan has failed." Either way, the job involved getting the plans, retrieving Obi-Wan and putting them together on Alderaan. Perhaps "Rogue One" reveals something about the Death Star that is suited especially to a Jedi's powers, or perhaps the Rebels just want to level the playing field if they're worried about encountering the dreaded Darth Vader in person.
1 Was Bail Preparing To Tell Leia Everything?
Let's review briefly: after Leia gets the plans, her orders are to pick up Obi-Wan on Tatooine and then go to Alderaan. What Leia doesn't know (but Bail does) is that Obi-Wan has been watching over her twin brother for the past 19 years. If Leia had gotten away from Vader and contacted Obi-Wan herself -- let alone if Obi-Wan would then have retrieved Luke from the Larses -- would Bail have explained everything, including Leia's real parentage, once they were together on Alderaan?
Now, we don't expect Bail Organa to rehash the last few minutes of "Revenge of the Sith" for Mon Mothma and company, but it would be nice if "Rogue One" could confirm just what Bail was thinking when he sent Leia on her way. One of the great things about "Star Wars" generally is its elevation of unlikely heroes, and making Luke look like Plan B is the prime example. Thankfully, "Rogue One" appears to carry on the tradition in fine fashion.
What mysteries do you want "Rogue One" to explain? Let us know in the comments!