7 Tips For Watching Rogue One & A New Hope Back-To-Back

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Rewatching Star Wars films is an ideal lockdown activity. And of all of them, watching Rogue One and A New Hope back-to-back is possibly the best experience in terms of continuity. Rogue One is basically a prequel to A New Hope, but there is more. The filmmakers made sure to create a seamless connection in terms of visuals and plot but also included other details that make sense to appear in both.

So what should you pay particular attention to and which details should you keep an eye out for when you are rewatching Rogue One and A New Hope back-to-back?

1. Rogue One’s Final Scene

The last scenes of Rogue One and the opening scene of A New Hope form an uninterrupted arc. If you wish, you could even skip the opening crawl of A New Hope and have a continuous experience of one long line of action scenes.

There is unavoidably some difference in the visual quality of the film, but it is minimal. Mostly it is the question of camera technology and a little bit the question of pace. Rogue One‘s makers however made sure to faithfully replicate the visuals and the 70’s design of the environment.

Darth Vader watching princess Leia’s ship depart at the end of Rogue One. The chase will continue right in the following film’s first scene.

2. Opening Crawl

There is one reason not to skip A New Hope‘s opening crawl, however. You would be missing out on reading it fully knowing what every single word in it means.

For four decades the opening title of the original movie has been something iconic. Hardcore fans would learn to quote it by heart. But there are a few sentences that receive their meaning only after you have seen Rogue One.

For example the second one: “Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.” This has been long perceived as a generic statement and, to be honest, it contains a lot of information that is irrelevant for the original film. What battle, what victory? You could have just skipped to the part that says the Rebels managed to steal the plans for the evil Empire’s superweapon. It does not matter how or where.

Rogue One tells the story of how and where. The abstract events can now be filled with the image of specific people and scenes. But it tells even more: it shows why it was a battle, and not for example just an infiltration op of a few Rebel agents. It gives the explanation why the opening crawl talks about “Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base”. You can literally see those spaceships (and see them taking off from the base). And it shows, in very much detail, how did the plans end up, of all places, on princess Leia’s corvette. Keep an eye for it: in the final scene, it is attached to the larger ship until the moment it detaches, in the last moment.

Princess Leia transferring the Death Star plans into R2-D2 in A New Hope.

3. The Plans

From the moment Jyn Erso retrieves the disk (yes, the ridiculous hard drive she literally clasps to her belt) with the Death Star plans, you can literally keep your eyes on where the plans are and what is happening to them. It is an extremely fragile thing: a piece of data that exists in one copy that gets transmitted via the antenna to one (and only one) ship, on the ship it gets copied on a single data card, which then gets physically carried aboard Leia’s corvette and then (in A New Hope) is inserted into R2.

From roughly the last fifteen minutes of Rogue One until the last half an hour of A New Hope, you can literally check where that particular one file is at the given moment. A string of data, a small datacard that is the key to the lives of billions.

Jyn Erso climbing with the data disk clasped to her belt.

4. Red Five (And Others)

During the Battle of Scarif in Rogue One, keep an eye for the “coloured” squadrons, and compare to the final battle for Death Star in A New Hope. The filmmakers literally transferred the footage from the older film to the newer one with a bit of editing

The battle of Yavin has Gold Squadron and Red Squadron, and both of these are present in Rogue One along with Blue Squadron. Why are the Gold and Red in A New Hope and Blue is not? Rogue One shows it in detail with very specific answers why Red and Gold managed to stay out of the devastating action.

In A New Hope, Luke is last-minute signed into the Red Squadron, under the codename Red Five. But the numbers go up to six – so why is Luke only Five, if he is the latecomer? Again – keep an eye out for Red Five during the Battle of Scarif in Rogue One.

“Gold Leader”, one of the X-wing pilots who appeared both in A New Hope and Rogue One.

5. Commence Primary Ignition

The Death Star is activated twice in Rogue One and twice in A New Hope (the last time it does not come through). The sequence is nearly identical, including the camera shots, engineers taking cover in the beam shaft and so on. But only in A New Hope is the Death Star used to actually destroy a planet. Both times in Rogue One, the parameters are set to “single reactor only”.

Not that it makes much of a difference. The Death Star laser’s impact pretty much rips off a chunk of the planet and likely makes it uninhabitable, single reactor or not.

Ponda Baba and Doctor Evazan in Rogue One.

6. “I Don’t Like You Either”

During her stroll through the streets of the Holy City on Jedha, Jyn Erso bumps into an unfriendly alien. He snaps at her but is promptly dragged away by his companion. Lucky for them – they probably just manage to catch a transport off-world before half of Jedha is blown up.

And where did they fly to? Tatooine, of course. The irritable pair, who are, it turns out, wanted men (their names are Ponda Baba and Doctor Evazan) settle down in the Mos Eisley cantina, only for Ponda Baba to end up having his arm chopped off by Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It is interesting to note that Gary Whitta, one of the writers of Rogue One‘s script, was originally against including the cameo of the two.

7. All Along The Watchtower

We cannot finish without mentioning the poor souls that are guarding the Rebel base on Yavin 4. The shot of a lonely Rebel guard watching a landing/departing ship through his scope from the tower in the woods is iconic and that is probably why Rogue One included it twice. It is a small detail, but it can warm our heart to know that the Rebels’ hidden base is being watched constantly, no matter what time you happen to land in.

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Dorothee Sölle, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.