9 Rogue One connections to the Star Wars saga
It goes without saying that Star Wars fans have been chomping at the bit to learn anything and everything of how Lucasfilm‘s new spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars Story connects to the larger cinematic Star Wars saga. Now that we’ve seen the film, we can tell you all the juiciest Rogue One connections to the Original Trilogy as well as the Prequel Trilogy, which you can read about in our gallery below!
For those wondering if they should read this article before they head into the movie this coming weekend, know that we do not discuss major spoilers on the fate of any of Rogue One‘s squadron of new heroes like Jyn Erso or Cassian Andor. What we do talk about is the many surprise cameos of saga characters and vehicles, as well as important story elements that overlap with the six films that George Lucas made between 1977 and 2005. There are no real prominent connections to last year’s The Force Awakens… that we know about yet.
Directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters everywhere this Friday, December 16.
Check out our list of 9 Rogue One Connections to the Star Wars Saga in the gallery below, and let us know what you’re most excited to see in the comments section!
*WARNING: This gallery contains spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, proceed at your own risk!*
As the marketing for Rogue One has been very clever to anticipate, the film has two key scenes featuring iconic villain Darth Vader, giving him an opportunity to do what he does best, namely being an evil badass. The trailers have also shown that the classic stormtroopers of the Original Trilogy are also back (as opposed to the more streamlined versions of The Force Awakens), but one famous character has been withheld entirely from marketing: Grand Moff Tarkin. Yes, despite having died over two decades ago, the great Peter Cushing is able to reprise his role as the scheming Governor Tarkin via the magic of ILM’s finest CGI. While it hasn’t been announced who provides his voice yet, whoever it is did a stellar job, especially when he says his classic line, “You may fire when ready.”
Among the Rebel alliance sees the return of two key characters: Senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) and Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits). Both are vets of George Lucas’s prequel trilogy, with Smits having played Rebel leader/Princess Leia’s adoptive father in Episode II and III, and O’Reilly playing a younger version of the role Caroline Blakiston originated in Return of the Jedi, as she did in a deleted scene from Revenge of the Sith. When we last see these two characters confer together in Rogue One, Organa says that he is returning to his (ultimately doomed) planet of Alderaan to warn them of the Death Star.
Bad Guy Cameos
On the moon of Jedha where Jyn and Cassian go to look for Saw Gerrera, there are cameos from several famous Saga baddies, including Episode IV cantina denizens Ponda Baba (a.k.a. “Walrus Man”) and Dr. Cornelius Evazan (“I don’t like you either!”), an Imperial probe droid from Empire Strikes Back and Imperial Red Guards first seen in Return of the Jedi as well as the prequels. Red Guards are also visible during Darth Vader’s first scene.
Good Guy Cameos
One surprise cameo we should have expected in retrospect was a quick appearance by our favorite droid combo R2-D2 & C-3P0, with the latter remarking, “Scarif? They’re going to Scarif? Why does nobody tell me anything?” General Jan Dodonna, the white-bearded military leader on Yavin 4 (originally played by Alex McCrindle in A New Hope) is played this time around by Ian McElhinney, best known as Barristan Selmy on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Another surprise was the use of A New Hope footage to integrate Y-Wing pilot Jon “Dutch” Vander (a.k.a. Red Leader) and X-Wing pilot Garven “Dave” Dreis (a.k.a. Gold Leader) into the fight against the shield gate in Rogue One‘s climax. They are, of course, part of the lucky group of pilots that are able to jump to lightspeed before Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer arrives. Lastly, through the same miracle technology that resurrected Peter Cushing, we get to see another vintage 1977 character come to life in the film, but you’ll have to see it to know who it is!
It’s no secret that the Death Star (and plans to destroy said Death Star) plays a major role in the plot mechanics of Rogue One, and you also may have been able to tell from the trailers that the Aztec-influenced Rebel base on Yavin 4 also pops up quite a bit. What you may not realize, even after you’ve seen the film, is that a flashback scene showing a very young Jyn Erso in a private chamber with her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) and Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) takes place in the capital city of Coruscant, which is briefly visible outside their windows.
The movie is quite literally loaded with classic Imperial ships, including Star Destroyers, loads of tie fighters, AT-AT Walkers as well as the underappreciated At-ST Walkers (a.k.a. “chicken walkers”). On the Rebel front you get classic X-Wing action (as opposed to the slightly re-designed version seen in The Force Awakens), Y-Wings, the famous Tantive IV rebel blockade runner from A New Hope‘s opening and many other components of the rebel fleet seen throughout the Original Trilogy.
Unused Ralph McQuarrie Designs
As with The Force Awakens and Star Wars Rebels, Lucasfilm is eager to use every scrap of unutilized Ralph McQuarrie design work from the Original Trilogy. As far back as The Empire Strikes Back creator George Lucas had the idea of Darth Vader living in a castle on a lava planet, which McQuarrie illustrated in detail. The castle later became a throne room for the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, but that was not used either and McQuarrie ultimately left Episode VI with almost none of his work used… until now! Vader’s castle sanctuary in Rogue One (possibly on Mustafar?) sits perched on a mountain with lava flowing through it. Also, if you look very carefully, you can see one of McQuarrie’s original unused designs for Chewbacca amid the creatures in Saw Gerrera’s lair.
There are several key Star Wars Saga characters referred to but not really seen in Rogue One. Obi-Wan Kenobi is mentioned by Mon Mothma as being a Jedi ally of Bail Organa that he knew during the Clone Wars that they should at last contact. The Emperor is referred to several times by Tarkin and Krennic, yet is never seen (much as he was throughout much of the OT) Finally, multiple amputee Anakin Skywalker is seen floating in a gooey healing chamber sans Vader costume in his castle fortress, though his face is obscured so we don’t get that Hayden Christensen cameo we were all pining for… at least not yet.
George Lucas Touch
There are two key ideas that creator George Lucas came up with that are explored for the first time in a theatrical Star Wars movie. The most important one is Kyber crystals, which are being mined by the Empire on several planets throughout the film. Kyber crystals are the main component used by both the Sith and the Jedi in creating the beams in their lightsabers. The Empire is using the power of the crystals to fuel the destructive beam of the Death Star, which explains why the beams look very similar to those of lightsabers. Another important concept is that of the “Whills,” which was Lucas’s original name for the chronicle of the Star Wars Saga, a.k.a. “The Journal of the Whills.” It later morphed into The Ancient Order of the Whills, which was a higher order of Shamans who had a deep connection to the Force. In Rogue One the character Donnie Yen plays, Chirrut Îmwe, is a non-Jedi Force adherent who along with Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) claims to be a former member of “The Guardians of the Whills,” which hopefully the movies will elucidate further in the future. He also states that, “The stronger stars have hearts of Kyber.”