Jyn’s Mom Was Originally a Jedi, I’m a Jedi, He’s a Jedi, She’s a Jedi, We’re All Jedi, Hey
In a (perhaps not so) startling revelation in the Rogue One concept art book, Rogue One screenwriter Chris Weitz said that in the original draft of the script, Jyn’s mother, Lyra, was originally a Jedi Knight in hiding. However, that decision obviously didn’t stick, as Lyra was instead made into a follower of the Church of the Force, which is the church that Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) leads in The Force Awakens. Explaining the decision to remove that part of Lyra’s backstory, Weitz said:
For a long time in the story, there were Jedi around, even if only in the background—Jyn’s mother was a Jedi. But we thought that it would be more interesting to have a story without Force powers—without lightsabers.
We could explore a period of broken faith, a galaxy without hope. There’s despair because the Jedi are gone—and with them, for many, even the memory of the Force. We know from A New Hope that Luke Skywalker hasn’t even heard of the Force, out on distant Tatooine. That meant our story could be about normal people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.
Straight up: I totally agree and am happy with the decision that there are no “actual” Jedi in this film. Aside from Chirrut Îmwe’s wonderful portrayal of a Guardian of the Whills, the mysticism and spirituality of the Force are absent from Rogue One, and that’s totally fine, in my opinion. But, while I absolutely believe we need more female Jedi in the films, Rogue One definitely doesn’t feel like the right movie in which to introduce that.
For starters, it makes more sense in the context of the movie. Weitz said as much when he said they were going to explore some of the more darker parts of the Star Wars chronology. Star Wars, as a saga, has been a story essentially revolving around one aspect of galactic culture: the Jedi and the Sith. (Aside: it’s also about one family royally fucking a lot of things up in ways both good and bad, but I digress.) Usually, explorations of the Star Wars universe outside of the context of the Force or the Jedi/Sith were left to the books and novelizations.
But for Rogue One to truly set out onto its own and literally establish a whole new series of films, it makes sense that they had to take leaps creatively. If that means leaving the Jedi and Force aspects of the saga films behind, then so be it.
Second, it would have changed the dynamics of Jyn’s story. While much of the plotline would have remained intact (Lyra dies in a last stand against Krennic, Galen’s history is still tied to the Death Star), the implications for Jyn’s character would have been much further-flung. Rogue One is a story about a scrappy, new, upstart Rebellion that still isn’t exactly sure how they want to lead themselves.
Throwing even a potential Jedi with a trackable history like Jyn into the mix would have detracted from the “ragtag crew of misfits” that the Rogue One team was made out to be–it would have trivialized the risk involved in the mission, because given the way the Force has been presented thus far in the films, it essentially makes one a superhero. And there’s no way you introduce someone’s parent as a Jedi and not have the kid explore or exhibit some amount of Force power.
Basically, the story doesn’t need a Jedi. The movie itself didn’t need a Jedi to put butts in seats, either (though Vader’s final two minutes certainly became a highlight).
You’ll remember way, way back when the movie was first unveiled at Star Wars Celebration in April 2015, director Gareth Edwards made it a point to say that this was a time without Jedi. In a panel, Edwards said, “It’s about the fact that God’s not coming to save us. The absence of the Jedi hangs over the movie.” That feeling of helplessness, that there will be no last second rescue, that’s something that Rogue One can certainly count on as one of its strengths.
To me, Rogue One, at its core, is a story about what a determined enough group of (albeit skilled) people can do if given just a little bit of hope. To make it another story about the Force would have made it a superhero flick, and I’m thankful that wasn’t what happened here.
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