This post contains spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
After my first viewing of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I have to admit I was angry about the fact that all of the major characters died. I had expected one or two survivors, so the death of them all was both shocking and disappointing. Since then, I’ve come to accept the fates of the characters, having come to the understanding that it was, in fact, a suicide mission and that they weren’t going to give up after all that they had done in the name of the Rebellion.
That said, many viewers believed the characters were killed off because they’re not in A New Hope or the movies that followed.
One fan wrote, “I also thought it was pretty brave of them to kill everyone off, but I guess it makes sense since they’re not in A New Hope.”
Another one wrote, “I’m gonna be upset if everyone in ‘Rogue One’ doesn’t die… it’s the only way to explain that they’re not in ‘A New Hope.'”
Fans weren’t the only ones to think this way. Apparently, key creators in Disney also felt the same way, according to the director of Rogue One, Gareth Edwards, in a podcast interview with Empire (io9).
The very first version, they didn’t. In the screenplay. And it was just assumed by us that we couldn’t do that. ‘They’re not going to let us do that.’ So I was trying to figure out how this ends where that doesn’t happen. And then everyone read that and there was this feeling of like, ‘They’ve got to die, right?’ And everyone was like, ‘Yeah, can we?’
We thought we weren’t going to be allowed to but Kathy [Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm] and everyone at Disney were like ‘Yeah it 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.
I kept waiting for someone to go, ‘You know what? Could we just film an extra scene where we see Jyn and Cassian, they’re okay and they’re on another planet?’ And it never came. No one ever gave us that note, so we got to do it.
What troubles me most about this mentality of “well, they have to die because they’re not in [insert movie here]” is that people forget where all of these events take place:
A galaxy far, far away….
A vast galaxy where multiple characters can exist in different parts and contribute to the same cause without knowing or having heard of each other.
Thane whispered to Yendor, “Who the hell is General Solo?”
“You know. Han Solo! Captain of the Millennium Falcon?”
The ship name sounded vaguely familiar, but Thane couldn’t quite place it.
Yendor’s eyes widened with disbelief. “Come on! He’s one of the guys who rescued Princess Leia from the first Death Star. You remember that, right?”
“I wasn’t with the Rebellion then. I didn’t join until right before Hoth.”
“Oh. I guess Captain Solo got captured by a bounty hunter right after Hoth.” Yendor’s lekku drooped. “So you wouldn’t know him—but, hey, he’s one of the best.”
—Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
While some characters may be aware of the reputations of other characters, there are plenty more, like Thane Kyrell, who aren’t familiar. This passage from Lost Stars emphasizes the fact that not everyone knows everyone else and word doesn’t spread as quickly and widely as people think. Take the following excerpt from Star Wars Propaganda as another example.
For his safety, Rebel messagesmiths avoided publicizing Luke Skywalker’s name, but the tale of a young Rebel pilot with minimal combat experience who destroyed the Empire’s ultimate weapon was too powerful to keep secret for long.
—Star Wars Propaganda by Pablo Hidalgo
While the tale of a young pilot who destroyed the Death Star circulated throughout the Rebel cells, Luke’s name isn’t as commonly known as one would think. (At least, not at this point in time.) Again, characters can exist in the same galaxy without crossing paths or learning about each other’s existence.
For someone to think that the answer for why a character isn’t around in the original films is because they died, I can’t help but feel that that’s a result of a lack of imagination. There are other fates out there other than death. Think back to when Ahsoka Tano first came into existence in 2008. Most fans believed she had to die during Order 66 because she didn’t exist in the content that came after. Dave Filoni pushed for something different, and the result was both mind-blowing and refreshing.
“When gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be.” That’s what Yoda told Luke in Return of the Jedi. Just recently, the title for Episode VIII was revealed to be The Last Jedi. Additionally, the crawl for The Force Awakens refers to Luke as “the last Jedi,” so what does this mean for Ezra and Kanan? (And yes, I know Jedi is both singular and plural.) Again, most people went straight to the “they’re obviously dead” mentality.
Although Kanan is on the path of the Jedi, Ezra is not there yet. He’s training to become a Jedi, but he could easily carve out a new path for himself. Kanan, despite being a Jedi Knight, also has that potential. There’s so much room to play with when it comes to these characters that death, in my opinion, seems overrated. I know characters have to die eventually and that deaths are a way to express that the stakes are high, but it gets tiring when the automatic answer for why a character isn’t present during a certain event is because they’re dead.
That shouldn’t be the answer and it shouldn’t be the go-to solution on the creative side of things.
There’s a galaxy out there. Play with it and think of the many possibilities instead of holding yourself to just one.
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