The Battle of Scarif is the climactic centerpiece of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Since Rogue One serves as a prequel to 1977’s A New Hope, the battle lays a significant amount of groundwork for that film. The two movies have surprising connections, as Rogue One bridges the gap to A New Hope in unexpected ways. Here’s how the Battle of Scarif sets up the major plot threads of A New Hope.
Major spoiler warning for Rogue One. Continue reading at the risk of incurring a Death Star-shaped hole in your gut.
Several familiar faces appear during the Rebel Alliance’s starfighter assault over Scarif. Straight out of A New Hope, Gold Leader Jon Vander and Red Leader Garven Dreis serve as commanders for the Battle of Scarif. Their Rogue One appearances originated from archival footage of their respective actors, Angus MacInnes and the late Drewe Henley. Thus, Vander and Dreis provide a direct line of continuity between Rogue One and A New Hope.
However, what’s even more notable about the Battle of Scarif is a certain member of Dreis’s X-wing squadron. Rebel pilot Pedrin Gaul flies under the call sign Red Five, but he perishes over Scarif. Thus, Gaul’s death vacates the Red Five slot for a certain farmboy from Tatooine. New recruit Luke Skywalker flies as Red Five during the Battle of Yavin from A New Hope, making the call sign famous when he destroys the Death Star. It’s a detail that’s easy to miss, yet Rogue One wisely preserves it.
The death of Rogue One‘s main characters was a sad but necessary part of the film. Because Lucasfilm created all-original characters, the movie also had to explain why they didn’t appear in later works. Jedha survivors Chirrut Îmwe, Baze Malbus, and Bodhi Rook all perish during the Battle of Scarif’s ground campaign. Moreover, Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor die after transmitting the Death Star plans to the Rebel fleet in orbit. And Andor’s loyal droid, K-2SO, meets his end while helping secure the plans.
It’s a grim yet fitting end to the Battle of Scarif. Erso and her allies sacrifice themselves for the Rebel Alliance’s first major victory, setting the stage for the next one: the Battle of Yavin. Ultimately, Rogue One is a war movie, which makes the sacrifices of Erso and her fellow rebels all the more poignant.
The Tantive IV Escapes
Even though it’s a prequel to A New Hope, it seems like Rogue One took its premise a little too literally. It was nice to see Darth Vader swoop into the Battle of Scarif and, well, prove that he’s still the murderous menace he’s always been. But personally, I wasn’t expecting Rogue One to go as far as it did.
Jyn Erso transmits the Death Star plans to Admiral Raddus‘s flagship, the Profundity. When Vader boards the Profundity, the crew ensures that the data file reaches the docked Tantive IV, where Captain Raymus Antilles gives the data file to a figure in white: Princess Leia Organa. Afterward, the Tantive IV narrowly escapes, evidently bound for Tatooine in time for the opening scene of A New Hope.
The weird part about Leia’s appearance in Rogue One means that technically, she and the Tantive IV were present for most of the Battle of Scarif. What were they doing that entire time? Furthermore, Leia’s inclusion in Rogue One complicates her subsequent encounter with Vader in A New Hope. At that point, Leia claims she’s on a diplomatic mission, but that doesn’t hold up to the fact that Vader literally just encountered her ship at Scarif. It’s not an outright continuity error, but it certainly makes it convoluted.
Personally, I’d have been fine with Jyn sending the Death Star plans to Leia off-screen. Nevertheless, it’s evident that director Gareth Edwards and his filmmaking team had a strong vision of how to have the Battle of Scarif lead directly into A New Hope. That’s what makes Rogue One essential viewing for Star Wars fans of any age.