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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiered in December 2016. This epic space opera explained the previously untold story of how a group of heroic Rebel fighters faced overwhelming odds to retrieve the plans of the Death Star deep-space battle station. The movie grossed over $1 billion worldwide and was the third most valuable blockbuster of 2016. Celebrated as one of the best Star Wars movies despite not being part of the original series, Rogue One brings a level of character development almost unmatched in sci-fi today.
Bottom Line Up Front
Gritty yet inspiring, Rogue One: A Star Wars story details how a jaded girl finds a dysfunctional group linked only by their dislike for the Galactic Empire, and how their teamwork eventually leads to its most significant defeat ever. The tale of Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor adds a different spin on the Star Wars storytelling style while remaining awe-inspiring and touching.
From Republic to Empire
The Galactic Republic enjoyed a thousand years of peace. The High Republic era brought prosperity and safety to the galaxy on a scale never seen before. There was harmony among systems. Levels of dissent had reached a record low. However, the growing power and involvement of the Republic’s administration began eroding the principles responsible for maintaining it. Greedy bureaucrats and politicians, propped up by conglomerates, prioritized personal gains over the well-being of their constituents.
The conflicting interests of the Galactic Republic, its many systems, and large companies came to a head during the taxation crisis. Tensions escalated drastically when the Trade Federation deployed a droid army to invade the planet of Naboo. Despite its defeat at the hand of locals with the help of Jedis Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the battle broke the lasting peace forever.
The Republic sleepwalked into a full-blown war. The newly established Confederacy of Independent Systems began poaching disgruntled systems from the Republic’s sphere of influence. Augmented by the galaxy’s trade and manufacturing conglomerates, it amassed a mixed fleet of battle droids and sentient soldiers. Their goal was to win power in combat and leverage this during negotiations. The Republic’s response to this was the deployment of a custom-made army of clones, designed and raised by specialists in the remote water planet of Kamino.
The armies first clashed in the rocky planet of Geonosis, home to the largest separatist droid foundries. The Grand Army of the Republic landed a large assault force to relieve a besieged group of Jedi Knights in the Petranaki Arena. The unexpected arrival of the then-secret clone forces tipped the scales in their favor and led to the withdrawal of most separatist troops from the planet.
War spread across the galaxy, with the ever-growing forces on both sides warring over strategic planets, their resources, and influence. The degree of violence employed was without precedent. Battles raged for control of entire worlds, leaving a trail of destruction behind. The civilian populace suffered greatly, both in warzones and in adjacent systems where supply disruptions became the norm.
Despite only lasting three years, the degree of discontent with the Clone Wars surpassed any crisis endured in the High Republic period. Matters came to a head during the final stages of the conflict when the clone army had driven the dwindling separatist forces to their last stand.
The attempted intervention by the Jedi Council against Chancellor Sheev Palpatine shocked Coruscant. Spinning this into a failed coup by the knights, the Republican leader put the final stages of his plan in motion. He issued Order 66 to the Grand Army of the Republic. This protocol, programmed into a chip implanted in every clone trooper, designated all Jedi knights as traitors to be eliminated immediately.
Jedi knights, acting as generals in the Grand Army of the Republic, fell victim to the very troops they had led in combat for three years. Most of them perished, and survivors had to exile themselves in the remotest corners of the galaxy to escape the seemingly omnipresent clones. With the Jedi and the separatists out of the picture, Chancellor Palpatine used the emergency powers bestowed upon him by the war to reorganize the Republic into the First Galactic Empire. Delegates widely accepted the Proclamation of the New Order.
Reshaping an Army
Now-Emperor Palpatine had absolute powers. He promised to bring peace and prosperity to the galaxy. Remnants of the Confederacy of Independent Systems fell to the might of the new Imperial Army. Clones became enforcers, cracking down on rebellions and dissent across the galaxy. Palpatine delegated most of such tasks to Darth Vader, a Jedi who had fallen to the dark side and helped the Sith Lord in his rise to power.
Due to their firm grasp on most of the galaxy, the Empire’s needs changed from a mobile force to occupation and law enforcement. The army reorganized the battle-hardened and well-trained clones into elite and shock formations that could be deployed on short notice to destroy any opposition to the emperor’s reign. Instead of the leadership of Jedi Generals came officers from the former Republic’s Judicial Department. One notable exception was the 501st Legion, an elite formation placed under the control of Darth Vader.
One of the top proponents of the imperial army’s reform was Wilhuff Tarkin, a Judicial Department veteran widely regarded as Emperor Palpatine’s protégé. In his vision, the Empire required an affordable military based around conscription now that it controlled most of the galaxy and its population.
Tarkin’s main issue with the initial organization of the Empire’s military was its reliance on clones. The Kamino cloning facilities produced excellent soldiers in record timelines, but this process was extremely costly. Clone troopers were genetically modified to accelerate their aging to shorten the time from birth to combat-ready.
The accelerated aging made sense within the Republic’s escalating war against the Confederacy of Independent Systems where new forces had to be available in short order. For peacetime though, their service time was dramatically lower than that of an average human. The only way to remedy this was to order more batches, increasing costs in a way that Wilhuff Tarkin felt to be unnecessary.
Following negotiations with the leadership of Kamino, the Empire announced its new policy. The planet would provide them with a single additional batch of troops to smoothen the transition period. Meanwhile, the Galactic Empire changed the core of its military to conscripts augmented by officers formed in their many academies.
The Ultimate Weapon
The other pillar of Wilhuff Tarkin’s plan for the power projection relied on fear. He banked on a stolen separatist design that the Republic had slowly worked on before its reorganization.
Nicknamed the Death Star closer to its completion, the DS-1 Orbital Battle Station was a deep-space battle station capable of obliterating entire planets with its laser. Tarkin believed that having a weapon with previously unimaginable firepower and the ability to deploy anywhere in the galaxy would force rebel groups to lay down arms, or else have their planet and their people destroyed in their entirety.
Geonosian engineers had completed the Death Star’s design on the eve of the Clone Wars, work had begun shortly after the First Battle of Geonosis. The Confederacy of Independent Systems intended to use the weapon as a force multiplier in their struggle against the Galactic Republic. After the capture of Geonosian leader Archduke Poggle the Lesser during the Second Battle of Geonosis, both the battle station’s plans and the actual construction fell in the Republic’s hands. The Galactic Republic kept the project secret. Besides its leadership, only the Special Weapons Group, a team of specialists responsible for overseeing its completion, was aware of its existence.
The Death Star propelled the career of Lieutenant Commander Orson Krennic, a young and talented engineer involved in the construction. The Republic had considerable trouble working with the Geonosian design philosophy. Krennic leveraged that it would be beneficial to both the battle station and the stability of occupied Geonosis to allow Poggle the Lesser to leave, on the condition that he oversaw the efforts to complete it.
In the First Galactic Empire, the Special Weapons group became the Imperial Military Department of Advanced Weapons Research. Emperor Palpatine agreed with Wilhuff Tarkin’s doctrine of fear and appointed him as the overall supervisor of the project. Due to his extensive experience with the battle station’s construction, the Sith Lord picked Orson Krennic to lead it. While both were favorites in the Emperor’s eyes, the two men wished to have individual control of the Death Star.
A Scientist’s Struggle
The superlaser was the cornerstone of the Death Star. This weapon gave it ‘planet killer’ capabilities. If completed, it would bring the galaxy to its knees. However, constructing such a powerful weapon proved to be complex. The weapon drew inspiration from ancient Sith technology and relied on kyber crystals to extract the power for the laser. These materials required highly specialized and experienced workers.
Hellbent on completing the station, Director Krennic turned to an old acquaintance for help. Galen Erso was a former classmate and close friend of his from the Galactic Republic young talents program. Whereas Krennic was determined and opportunistic, Erso had an idealistic worldview and believed strongly in using science for peaceful purposes.
Choosing the project over his friend’s morals, the Director manipulated Galen into doing essential work to accelerate the laser’s construction. He assigned Erso to projects ostensibly involving communication and energy networks across the galaxy. Without the scientist’s knowledge, his projects became components of the Death Star’s superlaser.
Krennic’s gamble had paid off initially, but Erso’s wife Lyra exposed her husband to his friend’s lies. Saddened by the weaponization of his work and passion, Galen and his family fled Coruscant with the help of Saw Gerrera, leader of the Partisans’ rebel movement. Together with Lyra and their daughter Jyn, Erso relocated to the remote planet of Lah’mu. They lived a modest but calm life as farmers, away from the Empire’s reach.
Key Characters (Roles and Motivations)
Jyn Erso was the daughter of imperial scientist Galen Erso. She was a young woman jaded by both the Empire and the Rebellion.
Professional and determined, Cassian Andor was a Captain serving in the Rebel Alliance’s intelligence service.
A talented engineer and ruthless opportunist, Orson Krennic were the Director in charge of the Death Star’s construction.
A brilliant scientist and pacifist, Galen Erso was the galaxy’s most renowned specialist in kyber crystal technology.
Formerly an imperial enforcer droid, K-2SO was reprogrammed by the Rebel Alliance to serve as a sidekick to Cassian Andor in intelligence missions.
One of the Guardians of the Whills, Chirrut Îmwe held an unwavering faith in the Force and its teachings. His beliefs and acute senses made him a fierce warrior despite his blindness.
A Guardian of the Whills. Baze had become a mercenary but remained Chirrut’s closest friend.
An Imperial Navy cargo pilot entrusted by Galen Erso to defect and deliver his message to the Rebellion.
The leader of the extremist rebel faction known as the Partisans, Saw Gerrera favored a combative approach to resisting the Empire. He was a close friend of the Erso family.
After years in exile in Lah’mu, the Empire tracked Galen Erso down. Work on the Death Star had stagnated once more. Director Orson Krennic knew his friend’s talents made him indispensable and personally flew to Lah’mu accompanied by Death Troopers to retrieve the scientist. Understanding the gravity of the situation, Lyra scrambled to hide Jyn in a shelter and contacted their friend Saw Gerrera.
Galen initially refused Krennic’s offer. As the Director clarified there was no alternative, Lyra walked out armed. She opened fire and wounded the officer in the arm. His troopers killed her in response. Out of options, Erso reluctantly agreed to go, leaving Jyn behind. After hiding in the shelter fashioned by her parents, Saw Gerrera saved her.
The leader of the Partisans became her guardian and inducted her into the fight against the Empire. After over a decade of combat alongside Gerrera, he left Jyn behind during a failed operation. The Empire captured and sent her to a forced labor camp.
Despite resuming his work on the Death Star’s weapon, Galen Erso remained firmly against it. Knowing running away was fruitless, he recorded a holographic message critical about the space station. The scientist entrusted this to cargo pilot Bodhi Rook. The officer defected to the desert moon of Jedha and delivered the hologram to Saw Gerrera, as instructed by Erso.
An informant reported to Rebel intelligence Captain Cassian Andor about the deserter acting under Galen Erso, and the existence of the space station. Despite fighting against the Empire, the Partisans and the Rebel Alliance did not see eye to eye. Captain Andor eliminated the panic-stricken informant and flew on a mission to find a way to Galen Erso.
Rebel intelligence had tracked her daughter Jyn Erso to an imperial labor colony. Together with reprogrammed enforcer droid K-2SO, Cassian helped stage a prison break and extracted her from the planet. The former prisoner was not thrilled with the intervention, having given up on the fight against the Empire after Saw Gerrera abandoned her.
Andor took Jyn Erso to the Rebel Alliance’s headquarters carved into the Yavin IV Temple. The leadership believed they could use her relationship with Galen Erson to their advantage. Mon Mothma, one of the senior Rebel leaders, persuaded Jyn to use her connection to Saw Gerrera to find out more about the deserter and the message her father conveyed through him. The leader hoped that Erso could convince her father to abandon the project and join the Rebel cause.
Rebel intelligence assigned Captain Cassian Andor and his droid K-2SO to escort Jyn on this trip. Unbeknownst to her, the agent had secret instructions from General Davits Draven. The commander knew Galen Erso was indispensable to the planet killer’s construction. Believing the Empire would not give up on the scientist even if he willingly defected, Draven ordered Andor to eliminate Galen Erso at the first opportunity.
The Destruction of Jedha
The team traveled to the desert moon of Jedha, the site of imperial kyber mining facilities and an abandoned Jedi temple. Veteran rebel fighter Saw Gerrera’s Partisans had operated from the moon. As Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO probed the city for leads, they were caught in the crossfire when a Partisan team ambushed a group of stormtroopers. The Rebel party survived the skirmish. The Partisans kidnapped and took them to Saw Gerrera’s hideout, together with former temple guardians Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus.
Saw Gerrera had been holding pilot Bodhi Rook prisoner after a grueling interrogation at the hands of Bor Gullet, which had led him to insanity. Gerrera arrested all other party members besides Jyn. She was like a daughter to him. Erso confessed to still holding a grudge against Gerrera for leaving her. Nevertheless, Saw played her the recording Bodhi Rook had brought with him.
Galen Erso’s message called out to his daughter. He revealed that the Death Star, as the Empire called it, was almost operational. Its completion had entered its final stages. This assessment was despite Galen’s best efforts to stall the project. As a last resource, he had placed a hidden vulnerability in the space station. The auxiliary reactor cooling port was unshielded, allowing explosives to be installed and create an overpressure that would then destroy the main reactor and the Death Star itself. The scientist instructed the Rebels to infiltrate the Empire’s data bank located in Scarif for the complete schematics of the area in question.
Aware of the desertion attempt and the leak, Director Krennic relocated the Death Star to the orbit of Jedha. After imperial personnel had evacuated the facility, the officer ordered a single, low-power shot aimed at the temple to eliminate the Partisan threat and liquidate the security breach. The blast destroyed the moon’s capital and all its surroundings.
Witnessing the incoming blast wave, K-2SO flew Cassian’s ship close to the base and helped Andor, Jyn, Chirrut, Baze, and Bodhi escape. Knowing this was the end, Saw Gerrera embraced the blast and died as his hideout crumbled. Lost with him was Galen Erso’s message.
For Orson Krennic, the successful debut of his project was a personal victory. His triumph crashed when his superior, Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, brought up the desertion and security breach after congratulating him. The Emperor’s right-hand man declared that effective immediately. Tarkin controlled the Death Star now.
Finding Galen Erso
After a close brush with death in Jedha, Cassian Andor and his augmented party set off for Eadu. According to former Imperial cargo pilot Bodhi Rook, the planet was home to the Empire’s most important research facilities, including those Galen Erso worked with. Upon arrival, they found dicey weather conditions that made it difficult to conduct a safe approach to the facility.
Their ship was damaged while descending through clouds over rocky terrain, forcing Cassian and K-2SO into an emergency landing. The crew and passengers survived without serious injuries. They could not radio the Rebel Alliance for assistance at the risk of revealing their position. Armed with his rifle and a sniping attachment, Cassian Andor left the wreck to scout its surroundings. Back at Yavin IV, General Davits Draven attempted to contact the team but received no response. Assuming the worse, he dispatched a group of Rebel fighters to attack the facility.
Cassian found a position with a clear line of sight of the facility’s landing pad, where he spotted Orson Krennic and his troops talking to Galen Erso’s research team. The Director wanted to find out who was responsible for the information leak. Jyn’s father confessed it was him, but Krennic had the rest of his team executed all the same. Shocked by the scenes unfolding, Captain Andor held fire and continued to scout his surroundings. He found Jyn Erso climbing the maintenance ladder under the landing platform.
Just as Jyn arrived at the top, Rebel fighters hit the facility with a series of bombs from General Draven’s airstrike. The blast killed most of those present. Jyn ran to her father Galen and held him in her arms, as he apologized for his regrets as her father in his last moments. With no time to lose, Cassian reached her and dragged her to the rest of the team as they boarded an imperial space shuttle and escaped the planet.
Word of the imperial attack on Jedha had reached Darth Vader. The Sith Lord summoned Orson Krennic to his lair in the volcanic planet of Mustafa to discuss the matter. Darth Vader was concerned about the seemingly reckless move by the Director, which compromised the secrecy of the project.
Despite the intimidating aura of the Empire’s enforcer, Krennic tried to argue with him to arrange a meeting with Emperor Palpatine to discuss Grand Moff Tarkin’s takeover of what the Director felt was his achievement. Before he could finish his points, however, Darth Vader began choking Krennic. He reminded the Director that his main concern was to prevent additional leaks and security breaches.
The Battle of Scarif
Visibly shaken by the events that transpired in Eadu, the party returned to Yavin IV where they debriefed with Rebel intelligence. A meeting of the Rebel council had been underway, and Jyn decided to plead her case. She requested committing the Rebel Alliance’s fleet to attack Scarif and create a diversion for an infiltration team to retrieve the Death Star’s schematics from the imperial archives.
A lack of solid evidence beyond Jyn’s word and her father’s imperial connection made many council leaders unwilling to accept such a risk. Frustrated with their inaction, she and Cassian Andor gathered a group of volunteers and departed without permission. Among them were the survivors of the Jedha attack. The group stole the imperial shuttle flown when fleeing Eadu and headed towards Scarif.
Bodhi Rook lent his expertise as an imperial pilot to brief them en route. As one of the core databases in the Empire, Scarif was a high-security facility. Visitors had to pass through a shield gate in space. When its operators contacted the shuttle, Bodhi identified himself as “Rogue One”. Due to the ship’s recent visit to Eadu, it still had a valid authentication code.
Once they reached the surface, the party split into different groups. Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO would infiltrate the archives and retrieve the schematics. The other volunteers had to attack different sectors as a diversion. Despite its initial success, the size of the garrison made odds increasingly grim to the rogue rebels. However, commanders in Yavin IV intercepted imperial distress calls related to a raid in Scarif. Certain this was the work of Erso and her allies, they decided to deploy the Rebel Alliance’s fleet in support.
The losses began to mount. K-2SO sacrificed himself while buying time for Jyn and Cassian to access the schematics. Îmwe and Malbus gave their lives to restore communications with the Rebel fleet. Shortly after indicating the shield had to be down to allow the data transfer, Bodhi Rook fell victim to a hand grenade in the shuttle he had been sheltering in. The gate went offline after Admiral Raddus, who rammed two star destroyers and pushed them into the structure, collapsing it entirely.
At the antenna tower, Jyn and Cassian fought against Krennic before overpowering him. They successfully uploaded the data and began making their escape. Shortly afterward, however, the Death Star appeared over Scarif. Under the command of Moff Tarkin, the battle station fired a low-energy shot directly at the antenna tower. Director Orson Krennic died instantly, and the blast’s shockwave accompanied by a tsunami killed other survivors, including Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor. They died in each other’s arms.
With the ground battle in Scarif over and armed with the schematics, the Rebel fleet prepared to retreat to hyperspace before being intercepted by Darth Vader’s star destroyer. The Empire used a traction beam to drag the Rebellion’s flagship into its hangar. An officer ran to deliver the data to the corvette carrying Princess Leia Organa, which managed to escape. Darth Vader boarded the captive ship and slaughtered its crew in search of the station’s plans. As she fled aboard the Tantive corvette, Leia mentioned hope.
Question: What is the point of Rogue One?
Answer: Rogue One acts as a bridge between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It shares crucial details about the Death Star’s construction, the power struggles around it, and the heroic actions that eventually allowed the Rebellion to attack it during the Battle of Yavin.
Question: Is there a sequel to Rogue One?
Answer: No. The movie is a standalone release, as the events immediately after its story are already told in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. However, there is a prequel series in the works called Andor. It tells the story of Captain Cassian Andor five years before the events told in Rogue One.
Question: Should I watch Rogue One before A New Hope?
Answer: It is not mandatory, but I highly recommend it. Rogue One tells the story of the Death Star in a way that complements A New Hope to perfection, adding a lot more detail and context than the first Star Wars movie did.
Question: Is Rogue Squadron related to Rogue One?
Answer: Luke Skywalker picked ‘Rogue’ as his callsign to honor the mission to Scarif.
Question: Is Chirrut a Jedi?
Answer: No. Despite adhering to the Jedi Code and its beliefs, he was not a knight himself. Instead, Chirrut dedicated his life to protecting the temple.
Despite losing irreplaceable assets and some of its best warriors on Scarif, the Rebel Alliance gained invaluable intelligence on the Death Star. The plans detailing the vulnerability inserted by Galen Erso reached the Rebel leadership through Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan. This knowledge gave the organization hope in what at many times seemed like a fight against impossible odds.
The Rebel actions using the intelligence gathered by the Rogue One infiltration in Scarif marked a new era in the struggle against the Galactic Empire. Grand Moff Tarkin’s reliance on the Death Star as the cornerstone of his policy for the galaxy made his doctrine extremely fragile to actions taken against it.
After years in the shadows waging guerrilla warfare, the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin gave the Rebel Alliance the confidence needed to engage imperial forces as a near-peer adversary. The Empire’s military superiority remained evident, but now a serious challenger appeared.
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