The Star Wars timeline is already long and quite twisty, and that's not even taking the expanded universe of novels, comics, games, and other media into consideration. In 2015, Star Wars looked to its own future with Episode VII: The Force Awakens. In 2016, it returned to its past with Rogue One: A Star War Story. The entire original trilogy takes place between the events of these two movies, and yet, they are still linked by story, character, and those perennial Star Wars themes of duty, democracy, and courage. Rogue One and The Force Awakens are connected in many ways, despite the passage of time in the universe they both occupy. Spoilers ahead!
Obviously, the same "rules" apply to both films. Audiences go into both having a clear understanding of the Force and of its competing Dark and Light sides. They know what a hyperdrive is, the absolute power that the Empire and its successor desire, and that droids — though they're programmed — have their own personalities and quirks. With that in mind, I looked at the two most recent Star Wars releases to see where they cross paths. Here are eight connections between Rogue One and The Force Awakens.
1. The Looming Presence Of Darth Vader
Darth Vader is long dead in The Force Awakens, but that gives him even more power over Ben Solo, rebranded as Kylo Ren. The conflicted Force-sensitive youth wants to "finish what [he] started," ignoring the fact that Anakin Skywalker turned to the Light just before he died and in doing so, saved the galaxy.
In Rogue One, Vader is on the rise. He's not the main villain of the piece, but man, does he know how to make an entrance. His impact on both movies prove that this is one enduring big-screen villain.
2. Starkiller Base Is The First Order Trying To Outdo The Death Star
How very Imperial to look at the failure of a big weapon and decide that the solution is to make one that's even bigger. The Empire are very cocky about the Death Star in Rogue One, unaware that Galen Erso booby-trapped it with a fatal flaw. To drive home the inspiration behind the new weapon in The Force Awakens, the Resistance base even has a comparative visual aid on hand.
3. The Jedi Are Missing
In Rogue One, the few remaining Jedi (including that old hermit on Tatooine) are in hiding after Palpatine, Vader, and the rest of his minions executed all the masters and apprentices they could find. The followers of that religion are still scarce in the original trilogy. By the time The Force Awakens begins, Luke is the last known Jedi and living in self-imposed solitude after failing to keep Ben Solo from the Dark Side.
4. Concerned Parties Are Defending The Force
Belief in the Force didn't die out with the Jedi. In both movies, there are characters like Chirrut and Maz Kanata who put their trust in it and pass what they know on to younger or less well-traveled characters.
5. Intelligent People Still Trust Leia Organa With Their Lives
In Rogue One, she's a princess who's about to become an invaluable Rebel Alliance operative. In The Force Awakens, she's a general: respected, revered, and as independent as ever.
6. Men Are Forced Into Imperial Service
The circumstances change, but the Empire and its ilk generally don't want for talent or muscle to sign on the dotted line. Finn was taken from his family as a child to be stripped of his free will and trained as a stormtrooper. Galen was older. For him, serving the Empire against his desires meant making his daughter an orphan.
7. Droids Comment On The Action
Constant rebel companions R2-D2 and C-3PO show up in both movies. (The fans would riot if they didn't.) But also the spirit of their cheeky banter and effect on the action lives on in both BB-8 and Kaytoo, A+ droids in their own right.
8. "I Have A Bad Feeling About This"
If no one has a bad feeling about something in a Star Wars film, the stakes just aren't high enough.
The differences between Rogue One and The Force Awakens make them great examples of the possibilities that still exist in the Star Wars universe. But even when the movies deviate in their tone, they both tie to a common mythology and in that way, to each other.