*Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Rogue One ending and the fate of leading characters. Continue at your own risk, dear reader.*
Before we start, let's not beat around the Galaxy — Hollywood is afraid of taking risks. There are films out there that do surprise, of course, but when it comes to big budget franchises, the main aim is mass appeal. Popularity makes money.
Rogue One, however, is different. For the first of the Star Wars anthologies, Disney gathered our planet-sized expectations and obliterated them like a direct laser blast from the Death Star. This is a story set within a universe of the improbable, where the good guys tend to come out on top, but, unexpectedly, each of the lead characters die.
While that ending seems like the most appropriate option, it wasn't always the case. In fact, the #RogueOne ending could've been completely different, it could've been devoid of taking risks and, instead of death and destruction, it could've gone down the route of the "happily ever after" scenario.
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The Rogue One Ending Wasn't Going To Be As Brutal
In an interview with Empire (reported by io9), director Gareth Edwards confirmed that in the original screenplay, the characters weren't set to meet their demise. Within the paradigm of #StarWars, he and his crew didn't believe it would be possible to wipe out the entire cast. However, following an initial reading of the script, the realization hit that death was the only option. He said:
"The very first version, they didn’t [die]. 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?’"
Edwards then approached the studio, and received the confirmation from #Disney and the president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, that they had the green light to massacre the Rebel Alliance defectors. Even following the decision, though, Edwards was still cautious of being able to follow through with the plan.
And, although there were numerous reshoots to re-imagine the Rogue One ending, a version where any of characters survived was never filmed. That doesn't mean Edwards didn't expect a last minute change. He added:
"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."
The Deaths That Needed To Happen
Rogue One, although set in the fantastical background of Star Wars, felt like an authentic depiction of war; it's brutal, uncompromising, and people die, regardless of which side they're fighting on.
It's the first Star Wars film where throughout it feels as if all the leading characters are facing genuine peril, in contrast to #TheForceAwakens, where it was a given newcomers such as Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren will survive. The Rogue One story needed to be different, with the small group of rebels facing such unlikely odds. As a result, the narrative was tragically fitting.
The battle weary Saw Gerrera needed to leave his faith in Jyn, and remain on Jedha despite his impending death. Chirrut Îmwe's heroic act — thus completing his part of the mission — was made even more fitting by being immediately killed. Baze Malbus is inspired but doesn't end up saving the day. Bodhi Rook dies unexpectedly in an instant, showing how savage the battle ground is.
Then there's the heartbreaking death of quick-witted droid, K-2SO, the warranted demise of Orson Krennic and, most of all, the poignant end for #JynErso and Cassian Andor, who embrace each other shortly before they are engulfed by the current of destruction caused by the Death Star.
In Rogue One, there are no unexpected resurrections. Instead, here are a team of mortals who paid the ultimate price in order to try to save the universe. In today's climate of low-risk, for a studio of Disney's multi-billion might, this is an ending that should be applauded.
Were Disney right to kill the lead characters? Or would you have preferred a happier ending to Rogue One?