WARNING: The article contains spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The concept of the Force is one of the underlying principles of the Star Wars galaxy. An energy field that permeates all living creatures, binding them all together. Sensitive individuals can feel it. Receptive individuals like the Jedi and Sith master it and use its incredible power to perform great feats or terrible atrocities. There are others, who while they are unable to touch the Force, believe in it and worship it all the same. They know it exists and have seen proof of its power. The phrase “may the Force be with us” is more than a simple saying; its akin to a prayer.
Some believe that the Force has a will, and that it influences events by controlling those sensitive to it. In Rogue One, Chirrut Îmwe firmly believes in the will of the Force. Everything that happens is meant to happen. He will be in the right place, at the right time, to enact its will.
But is it really faith if what you believe in is tangible and real? Obviously, this depends on which definition of faith you use. The belief in the spiritual without quantifiable proof is the common usage, but we do place our faith in the everyday. In technology not to fail, or in people to do what’s right. The Force is an established, well, force (for lack of a better term) in the Star Wars galaxy, a constant as real as spaceflight and alien species. Placing one’s faith in the Force combines the two definitions.
The Will of the Force
Rogue One introduces the moon of Jedha. Its inhabitants are said to be one of the earliest civilisations to have studied the Force. During the height of the Jedi Order, it was considered to be a spiritual home for the Jedi and those who followed their teachings like the Church of the Force. Jedha was a place of pilgrimage, a holy city for those who worship the Force, and Jedha City was home to the Temple of the Whills. The temple and its store of kyber crystals were protected by the Guardians of the Whills. At least until the Empire arrived on Jedha and began stripping it of kyber crystals to use as a power source for the Death Star.
The Guardians of the Whills now have nothing to protect. Two of them, Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus, still reside in Jedha City. While the blind warrior-monk Chirrut preaches about the Force on the streets of Jedha City, Baze keeps a watchful eye over him with his heavy repeater. In truth, Chirrut does not need protecting. Although blind, his senses are heightened enough that he is more than capable of defeating a squad of armed stormtroopers with nothing more than a bo staff. Chirrut believes the Force guides his actions and protects him. He fears nothing, and believes that everything that happens is the will of the Force. Chirrut’s skill is so profound that when Cassian Andor witnesses his prowess, he asks if the monk is a Jedi.
Baze regards Chirrut as a dreamer and seemingly does not believe in the Force. In fact, he seems exasperated at his friend’s willingness to believe that the Force will guide his actions, or provide them with the means to move forward in desperate situations. Tellingly, however, Chirrut mentions that Baze was once one of the most devoted Guardians of the Whills. Maybe Baze once believed in the Force as Chirrut did, but lost his faith. When the Empire exterminated the Jedi, did they also destroy one man’s faith?
“The Force is with me, and I am one with the Force”
Chirrut’s often repeated mantra is “The Force is with me, and I am one with the Force.” It is his guiding principle. If what happens to him is meant to happen, then it is because the Force commands it. Chirrut has a sense of certainty to his actions. He never once questions joining Jyn Erso’s mission to find her father, or to steal the Death Star plans. From his perspective, the Force has guided him to this moment and therefore he is right where he is meant to be. If there is one other thing that Chirrut places his faith in, it’s Baze. He believes that Baze will always be there when he needs him. Chirrut doesn’t need luck when he has Baze.
During the Battle of Scarif, in the time of their greatest need, Chirrut once more calls upon his belief in the Force. Pinned down in a bunker, agonisingly close to the master switch that would allow them to contact the Rebel fleet in orbit to relay their plan to transmit the Death Star plans from the surface, Chirrut places all his faith in the Force. Repeating his mantra to himself, he steps out into the battlefield, surrounded by blaster fire and explosions. Chirrut’s faith is not misplaced as he reaches and activates the switch, allowing Bodhi Rook to contact Admiral Raddus. Chirrut is mortally wounded soon after when a Death Trooper destroys the console, triggering an explosion.
Having surrendered himself to the will of the Force, and helping to ensure that the Death Star plans will be secured by the Rebels, Chirrut dies. In a way, it almost appears he dies because he has fulfilled his part in the Force’s “plan.” The Force no longer has any use for him; Chirrut has served his purpose and the Force withdrew its protection. But he dies believing that he will be one with the Force, and his faith has been rewarded. Dying in Baze’s arms, he tells his friend that if he looks to the Force, then he will find him. Grieving, Baze takes up Chirrut’s mantra, defeats a squad of Death Troopers, and then is killed by a grenade. In his final moments, did Baze find his faith again?
Trust in the Force
Despite being the first Star Wars film to have no Jedi or overt Force users, the Force still plays a critical role in the film, albeit understated in places. Chirrut’s belief is the most obvious, but there are smaller instances at play. Lyra Erso urges a young Jyn to trust in the Force, and gives her a kyber crystal necklace. As Rogue One attempts to breach the shield surrounding Scarif in a stolen Imperial shuttle, she holds tightly to the necklace. Did Jyn’s belief and trust in the Force at the vital moment allow them to pass through unhindered?
The corruption of the Force is another issue. Kyber crystals, the power source for the Jedi’s lightsabers have been repurposed into a fuel supply for the Death Star. Once, they powered the weapons of the galaxy’s defenders. Now, they power the superweapon of the galaxy’s oppressors. In a cruel twist, kyber crystals are used to scour Jedha.
Towards the end of the film, we also finally see Darth Vader at the height of his power as he cuts down Rebel troops aboard the Profundity in pursuit of the Death Star plans. Having only seen him in single combat in the original Star Wars films until now, Vader shows exactly why he is so feared as his uses both the Force and his lightsaber to cut through a squad of Rebels.