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Rogue One could’ve ended very differently, writer says (update)

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“Rebellions are built on hope”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Jyn in Scarif base
Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) dons an Imperial uniform in Rogue One.
Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Studios

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells the story of a daring Rebel Alliance mission to steal the plans for the Death Star, and we’ve known for a long time that the story was going to end badly for most of the people involved. That wasn’t necessarily always the case, though.

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Rogue One, including the film’s ending.]

The climax of Rogue One involves the Alliance’s sneak attack on the planet Scarif — a suicide mission undertaken in an attempt to steal the Death Star plans, which would be the Alliance’s only hope of defeating the Galactic Empire and its planet-destroying superweapon. Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso, the daughter of the scientist who was forced to build the Death Star for the Empire, lead the raid on the Imperial facility where the plans are being stored.

While Jyn and Cassian succeed in transmitting the Death Star schematics to the Rebel fleet hovering above Scarif, they and all the Rebels who landed on the planet to launch the attack end up dying — either in battle with Imperial forces, or when the Death Star fires upon the citadel in an effort to stop the theft of the plans.

It’s a devastating loss for the Alliance, although despite Darth Vader’s best efforts, the Rebels do achieve their goal. And even though we knew it was likely going to end this way, seeing it unfold on screen in Rogue One is stunning on a couple of levels: It makes the film feel like a war movie in the vein of, say, Saving Private Ryan, and it makes you feel shocked that this could actually play out in a Star Wars movie — spinoff or not.

As it turns out, the filmmakers were just as surprised. Gary Whitta, who is credited as a co-writer of Rogue One’s story, said today in a Q&A on Twitter that he and director Gareth Edwards didn’t think Lucasfilm and Disney would allow them to kill off all the characters introduced in the film, Jyn in particular:

“Rebellions are built on hope,” Jyn tells the Rebel council, in a line cribbed from another character in Rogue One. That’s all the Alliance has — until she and her comrades manage to steal the Death Star plans.

For more on Rogue One, read our review.

Update: Whitta’s tweets about the ending of Rogue One have since been deleted. His other tweets related to the #SWCanonChat discussion remain up.