Before I jump into my thoughts, let me just state that I grew up watching the original Star Wars films and loved them. I also loved Rogue One; it was the first Star Wars film that actually moved me emotionally. On the other hand, I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan in the world, and the movies aren’t films that I’m apt to revisit the way I re-watch other movies. With that said, the Star Wars story that I know lost just a little magic now that Rogue One adds a lot of context.
Let’s first examine how A New Hope begins. An Alliance freighter desperately attempts to outrun an Imperial star destroyer, but is eventually overtaken and swallowed into the underbelly of the larger vessel. The Alliance crew makes a last stand as their hull is breached and the ship is boarded by Storm Troopers who overwhelm the defenders. Then Darth Vader enters to begin impromptu interrogations. The Alliance crew, including Princess Leia, feign ignorance and claim that they are on a diplomatic mission. Vader doesn’t believe them and takes Leia away for further interrogation. And, of course, we know that Leia gave R2D2 the Death Star plans to take to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
By itself, this sequence of events makes sense to me. Whatever happened before that lead up to this scene, I’m sure the Alliance crew had hoped to fly under the radar and get to their destination unimpeded. But now that they were captured, their only play left was to plead ignorance, deny everything, and hope not to break under torture. From the Imperial point of view, Vader’s actions also make sense. We know he has good reason for his accusations because we see Leia give something to R2D2 who makes a quick escape. But Vader never gives any evidence to justify his search. The audience just assumes he has a credible tip.
Now let’s look at the end of Rogue One. The plans get beamed up to the Calamari Cruiser, which is immediately boarded by Darth Vader and accompanying Storm Troopers. As such, the Death Star plans are transferred to some kind of portable storage, which must be carried to Princess Leia who is waiting on a docked Alliance vessel. Meanwhile, Vader starts killing his way through the Alliance crew, but arrives too late at the dock to stop Leia from escaping, watching them flee from the flight deck.
Putting this ending sequence together with the beginning sequence of A New Hope doesn’t make for a clean splice. Assuming that it took some time to pinpoint Leia’s ship, A New Hope is probably just hours after the end of Rogue One. The Alliance crew knows that they narrowly escaped the clutches of Vader. Vader actually watched them leave with his own eyes! Yet the Alliance crew is still going to try and lie to him when he catches up to them? For all we know the guy Vader was choking was the same guy who was running with Death Star plans in his hand. And Vader never states the obvious when he’s being lied to, which would be, “I literally watched you run away from me with the Death Star plans! You made eye contact with me!” The beginning of A New Hope will now always remind me a little bit of this Key & Peele sketch:
Also, I won’t understand why Vader is willing to do his own dirty work in Rogue One, easily killing a dozen Alliance soldiers by himself, but then let’s a bunch of Storm Troopers lead the charge on Leia’s ship. I’m hoping for a prequel sequel that explains this where Vader is in the restroom or something. “Remember, wait until I’m done before you board the ship!” It could be called Rogue Going Two: A Star Wars Explanation.