Rogue One is a unique Star Wars film in many ways, but most notably in its distinct absence of Jedi. The Force connects the entirety of the space saga, emanating from the background and acting as a catalyst for the plot, the battle between light and dark personified by Jedi masters and Sith Lords.
While the Force isn't completely ignored — kyber crystals, hope and the Darth Vader cameo see to that — it only flutters subtly in the background, instead emphasising the perils of rebelling against the Empire by removing the fantasy element and replacing it with the grisly reality of war.
Surprisingly, that emphasis was a huge part of Rogue One's success, a billion dollar film lauded for its differentiation from all #StarWars tales before it. However, in original concept, the Force still had a significant presence, with a key character depicted as a Jedi Knight.
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Early 'Rogue One' Concept Had Lyra Erso As A Jedi Knight
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, director Gareth Edwards explained how the original #RogueOne concept directly linked to the end of the Clone Wars, and in particular the brutal destruction of the Jedi Order by the Galactic Empire. He said:
"The prologue, at one point a long time ago, was going to be the Empire coming to kill the Jedi. And Jyn’s mom was going to be a Jedi. We were witnessing one of those kills and Krennic would be the person sent to do it."
Instead, the Rogue One opening scene shows the Galactic Empire's director of weapons research, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), land on Lah'mu, the planet where the Ersos are hiding. He intends to persuade scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) to return to work for the Empire, but, in defiance, Lyra Erso (Valene Kane) resolutely draws her weapon and takes aim at Krennic, before she is shot and killed by a Death trooper.
Before the ambush, Lyra gives Jyn (Felicity Jones) a #kyber necklace, and tells her to "trust in the Force." In the original concept, though, due to concerns that audiences wouldn't get behind a Star Wars film without Jedi, Krennic's motivation was different: He was arriving to wipe out the the lightsaber-wielding Jedi Knight, Lyra, as part of the Order 66.
Why 'Rogue One' Didn't Include Any Jedi
The reason the creative team decided to not include was down to one dramatic principle: Chekhov's gun. The principle claims that any element of a story must be necessary, to avoid "false promises." Even in early concepts, Jyn was never scripted to become one with the Force, which caused Edwards to change the story. He added:
"Our instinct told us that we wanted a scene where Jyn is orphaned because of what Krennic does, which sets her on her path of being a child of war. The problem was that the second you make her mom a Jedi you spend the entire movie questioning whether Jyn is a Jedi or not."
Changing the destiny of Lyra created a domino effect on the narrative. To avoid setting viewers up for a fall, Edwards focused on Jyn's father, Galen Erso, and made him a key link to the Empire as the scientist who constructed the Death Star, giving #JynErso pertinent motivation to undertake the fateful mission to steal the plans to the super weapon.
Without Lyra as a #Jedi Knight, Rogue One required another character to step in and sprinkle the Force over the story — albeit more discreetly — a role which eventually went to Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), a character who saw the Force as a spiritual-guide.
The creative process paid off in the end, with Rogue One becoming a huge success, celebrated for its original, fresh take on the franchise. But in a script far, far away, the story could've been completely different.
Would you have preferred a version of Rogue One with Lyra Erso as a Jedi Knight?
(Source: Entertainment Weekly)