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The one thing Rogue One should have done differently

As the first truly standalone film in the franchise, there was a lot of pressure riding on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Thankfully, the film is pretty great—but it's not perfect.

Director Gareth Edwards does a positively amazing job of creating the look and feel of a story that lives and breathes in the 1970s retro-future George Lucas created with his first Star Wars film. From the clunky tech down to the mustaches, he gets all the little details right. The story also does an excellent job of introducing a diverse cast of new characters to lead the narrative, with the only real stumble coming when they try to directly tie it into A New Hope itself. Disney was aiming for cohesion, but we'd argue it came off a bit clunky.

Crossover woes

The one thing the film should've done differently? Either better develop the crossover characters from A New Hope, or don't have them at all. The one character they mostly got right was Grand Moff Tarkin (though the CGI used to digitally resurrect the late Peter Cushing left much to be desired). We see him featured here as Krennic's superior, and though his role is small, it works. He sees the potential success of the Death Star and wants to take credit for it, so he hangs Krennic out to dry once the planet-killer is proven to work. A simple but effective arc.

The Darth Vader Dillema

Darth Vader also gets a few scenes, but they really don't feel all that useful. Darth Vader is awesome; we love Darth Vader. But he's only really here to deliver bad puns, Force-choke Krennic, and mow through a brigade of Rebel soldiers while trying to recover the Death Star blueprints. (It is one heck of an action sequence.) But his role just doesn't feel entirely necessary. You have to wonder if Vader originally played a bigger role, since the cut footage from the trailers shows at least one additional Vader scene that wasn't in the final version.

The real problem is when they try to build in the future heroes of the classic Star Wars franchise. First up is the brief, throwaway cameo from C-3PO and R2-D2. Yes, it's a running gag that the fan-favorite droids pop up in pretty much every Star Wars movie. But if there's any movie to break from that tradition, it's this one. Flashing down to them for a random shot feels a little cheap.

The Leia problem

Then there's the big one: That gasp-worthy final scene. For the entire two-hour runtime, we're told this is Jyn's story about stealing the Death Star plans. It's about these characters and their (spoiler alert) suicide mission to give the Rebellion a chance to survive. It works really well, and gives the story real stakes—which is a big deal, especially considering we already know the ending going in. But while discussing how they'll eventually smuggle out the plans, Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits, reprising his role from the prequel films) alludes to the fact that he has an agent he'd trust with his life. Anyone who's seen A New Hope knows he's obviously referring to his daughter Leia, who ends up hiding the Death Star plans in A New Hope and kickstarts the original trilogy. The final scene of the film ends on a CGI shot of the young Leia as she receives the plans. Sure, it's a fun "Wow!" moment, but it distracts from the tragic end of Jyn, Cassian, and everyone else on her mission.

Trying too hard to tie into A New Hope

It introduces a character who is obviously of monumental importance in a pivotal scene with no additional setup. Yes, fans know who Leia is and what she's about to do. But it doesn't fit in the context of Rogue One. Imagine you've never seen a Star Wars film, and this movie ends on this extremely odd beat. They should have done one of two things: first, they could have introduced Leia in an earlier scene, provided some background on her role, and fleshed her out a bit more. Or they could have axed the "OMG!" moment completely and just wrapped the story with Jyn successfully getting the plans to the Rebel Alliance. Ironically enough, trying to add in too much Star Wars is one of the things that holds Rogue One back.