Below is a piece I wrote for the Star Wars site Clashing Sabers:
Last night, the premiere showing of Rogue One took place. What that means to the non-media layperson is this: some people know the greatest question we have had with the first “Star Wars Story.” How will the filmmakers handle the problem of fans knowing the ultimate outcome of the mission taken on by Jyn Erso and her compatriots?
It’s not a new problem for a Star Wars film, but a problem nonetheless. We have known for some time – 39 years to be exact – that the mission to steal the Death Star plans was successful. We knew that before ever laying eyes on Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. Less than one minute into the original Star Wars, the opening crawl tells us :
“During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon.”
This is the same kind of knowledge that caused significant issues for the prequel trilogy. We already knew what happened to Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, etc., leaving us precious few open ends to generate ample drama or suspense. It could have been achieved with better writing and direction. But the writing was lazy, if not incoherent, and George Lucas was clearly rusty at the helm.
Since we have similar knowledge about the outcome of the mission at the center of Rogue One, where will the drama lie? What will keep us on the edge of our seats? The answer can be found in the film’s major advantages over the prequel trilogy: we have no idea what happens to the main characters.
The fate of the characters works as a device for suspense only as much as director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weit, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, and Gary Whitta are able to make us care about them. Audiences formed quick attachments to Luke, Leia and Han as well as Rey, Finn and Poe. Can the creators of Rogue One achieve the same connections between the team of spies and the audience?
No matter how the story unfolds, there are only three possible outcomes for the Rogue One team.
Most Likely Outcome : Some survivors, some casualties
The most likely fate of the team is that some characters will be killed and some will survive. It makes sense that at least one character needs to survive to escape with the plans. But, that may not necessarily be the case.
Traditionally, action movies that feature a team of characters have a few dramatic deaths to highlight what is at stake, while one or more of the protagonists gets the job one and barely escapes. Examples are too numerous to list, including Predator, every Alien film and – coincidentally – the original Star Wars.
Disney may want some characters to survive in order to use them in future shows, films or comics. If everyone dies, then all future potential projects with these characters dies, too. Although, if Darth Maul returned, anyone may.
There have been a few significant death scenes in the Star Wars films (Qui-Gon, Padme, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Vader, etc.). Any of the Rogue One characters being killed will actually add weight to the original Star Wars because we will know that the stolen plans R2-D2 is carrying came at a significant cost. Up until this film, did you ever wonder how many – or if ANY – spies were killed trying to get the plans?
The potential drawback of survivors, however, is how to explain the complete and utter absence of these characters from the original trilogy. If Jyn Erso survives the mission – the most important in the history of the Rebellion to this point – then how can it be explained that she simply disappeared thereafter? Wouldn’t she remain a major part of the fight?
There are plenty of ways they can write her out of the story at the end of the film, but it will take great storytelling to make it believable.
To read the rest, please head on over to Clashing Sabers…