Did ‘Rogue One’ Just Put a Big Plot Hole in Star Wars?
By now I think it’s safe to say that most of us have seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story if we really wanted to, but just in case let’s put a big SPOILER WARNING up right now, because we’ve got to talk about the ending of this movie.
Rogue One is nestled pretty snugly into a corner of the Star Wars universe. It’s tells a story that worked perfectly well as a short anecdote in the original trilogy, and whether you love it or not, it’s fair to say that the series worked pretty well without knowing the exact details of how the Death Star plans were stolen in the first place. (Although it’s interesting to note that in Return of the Jedi, the Bothan spies get a moment of reverence for giving their lives to steal the second Death Star plans, but none of the heroes from Rogue One get any sort of shout out in A New Hope. Back when we knew nothing about this it didn’t seem like a big deal but after seeing how many people died to steal these things in Rogue One, it sure feels like a posthumous slap in the face.)
The point is, the events of Rogue One had one important job: not to contradict anything, because inserting a plot holes into the series is a very “Prequel Trilogy” thing to do and nobody wanted any more of that. And for the most part the film succeeded. It’s kind of a huge coincidence that Evazan and Ponda Baba left Jedha just minutes or hours before everyone died, and went directly to Tatooine to have a drink and get an arm cut off, but whatever. That’s pretty minor. And the fact that Darth Vader killed a bunch of people as they were running onto the Tantive IV, and then they spend the first few scenes of A New Hope acting like they came from a diplomatic mission instead of a violent war zone that Darth Vader was present for feels like a big screenwriting oversight, but okay. You can write those off as nitpicks. Let’s just move on.
Earlier today I received an email from The B-Movies Podcast listener Jonathan Lazo, and he brought up an observation about Rogue One that has a pretty serious impact on the rest of Star Wars. It’s doesn’t ruin the series but it’s a pretty major plot hole, and I think it deserves some real attention.
At the end of Rogue One, the Rebels have to transmit the Death Star plans off of the planet Scarif but they can’t, because the planet has an impenetrable shield that surrounds it. The Rebel fleet keeps trying to destroy the shield from space, but they can’t… seemingly because nobody thinks until the last minute to try to destroy the shield’s unshielded shield generator that’s floating right in front of them on top of the shield, but that’s not even the point.
The point is: The Empire had an impenetrable shield that could cover an entire planet and they didn’t use it on the Death Star.
Think about it, I know Grand Moff Tarkin is pretty cocky but if you had an impenetrable shield that floats around a planet-sized object, why wouldn’t you use it on a planet-sized weapon of mass destruction? Especially after you know the Rebels have just stolen the Death Star plans, and that the designer of the Death Star was a subverter who leaked the plans in the first place. Maybe he knows something you don’t about the Death Star. Maybe you should put a shield on the thing. And maybe you should also put a shield on the planet Eadu, where you’re building the Death Star. And maybe every planet in the Empire should have one of those bad boys too.
Granted, the Empire puts a shield generator on the forest moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi and aims it at the second Death Star, but why use a version that isn’t connected to the planetoid and even harder to protect? And why not put some kind of shield on that shield generator anyhow? Having an impenetrable shield generated by a highly penetrable satellite station that looks about as advanced as a scientific outpost on Lost is still implausibly short-sighted. Maybe you should put the shield generator on the Death Star, you know, like those shield generators you had back in Rogue One.
And hey, when you have a Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens, that would also be a really good time to use an impenetrable shield. I’m just saying, it’s weird. There may be supplemental material that explains this in impossible detail but it’s not in the movies, and expecting millions of moviegoers all over the world to forgive plot holes just because they might be filled in by tie-in novels that the majority of those people won’t read is… well, it’s not good storytelling, is it?
Now again, this doesn’t kill Star Wars. Nobody wants to kill Star Wars. The franchise has weathered logistical conundrums in the past, both minor and severe, and it keeps chugging along. I don’t think anyone will turn their backs on Star Wars just because Rogue One cribbed this one plot point from Spaceballs and didn’t follow it to the reasonable conclusion that it doesn’t necessarily track throughout the rest of the franchise.
But noticing these sorts of issues and inconsistencies does keep us on our toes, and it does remind us that updating Star Wars – and in particular, introducing new ideas in these prequel stories – has consequences that need to be carefully considered and pitfalls that, whenever possible, should be avoided. So let’s just consider this a learning experience and move on to bigger and (hopefully) better Star Wars films.
Top Photo: LucasFilm
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved, Rapid Reviews and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.