Rogue One: A Star Wars Story director Gareth Edwards talked to Entertainment Weekly about Jedha, a new planet in the film and a mecca for Force believers.
The name of the planet, Jedha, was revealed at Star Wars Celebration Europe, as well as the fact it is a mecca for Force believers. We also learned it is occupied by the Empire in Rogue One, and for a very specific reason, per Gareth Edwards’s recent interview with Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican.
"“It’s a place where people who believe in the Force would go on a pilgrimage,” Edwards says. “It was essentially taken over by the Empire. It’s an occupied territory… for reasons we probably can’t reveal.”"
Edwards discussed the concept of the Force being an ancient religion, and how millions of people, whether they were Force-sensitive or not, believed in it. That’s why Jedha, for whatever reason, is still an important place for believers in the Force to travel to, though the Empire’s occupation of Jedha is making life difficult for those who would otherwise be there to seek the wisdom and peace of the energy that binds the galaxy together.
Again, Edwards didn’t explicitly say why Jedha is so important to the Empire. Breznican of EW speculates Jedha houses kyber crystals, used by Jedi and Sith to generate lightsaber blades and also the sources of power for the Death Star’s superlaser. Given Rogue One is mostly about the Death Star and how to destroy it, it makes sense to incorporate kyber crystals into the story and throw a little Force lore in there to enrich the setting.
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There could be other reasons for the occupation, however, like a Jedi Temple hidden somewhere on the planet’s surface (makes sense to have a Jedi Temple on a world where the Force is particularly strong and revered) or some other nexus of Force power there which a certain lord of the Sith would love to get his gnarled hands on. It could also be a reason as mundane as the Empire wanting Jedha for its position in its sector of the galaxy, but then Edwards would have no reason to keep the reason a secret. It’s clear that whatever the Empire is on Jedha for, it’s because they want something. And they will beat down whoever gets in their way to get it.
Interestingly, Jedha seems to be where we will meet three of the Rogue One team members: Chirrut Imwe, Baze Malgus, and Bodhi Rook. Jedha is Bodhi’s home planet, and it could be Chirrut’s, too; but because of Chirrut’s faith in the Force, I’d be willing to bet he is a pilgrim, with his friend and non-Force believer Baze coming along to protect the crazy blind staff wielder from the Empire.
We also saw Rebel Alliance pilots being herded through the streets of one of the villages on Jedha in the Rogue One trailer, just like we saw Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor there in the behind the scenes sizzle reel. It makes sense all these beings tied to the Rebel Alliance would converge on this spot, where three potential new allies are: the Force is strong in Jedha, and it is guiding everyone’s fates.
What’s curious about including a Force-sacred mecca in Rogue One is Edwards and Lucasfilm Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo said there would not be any Jedi in this film. Yet, Edwards implied in his interview with Entertainment Weekly that faith in the Force is still an important theme, even while people are “losing their faith” in the Force “in the period that we start this movie.”
"“We were trying to find a physical location we could go to that would speak to the themes of losing your faith and the choice between letting the Empire win, or evil win, and good prevailing,” he says. “It got embodied in this place we called Jedha.”"
Whether or not the Force itself will be a prominent theme (I suspect it will, because of Chirrut’s devotion if nothing else) in Rogue One, faith is being set up as one. There are many different kinds of faith: in the Force, in hope, in friends, in family. The Force, hope, friends, and family are the biggest and most important parts of Star Wars, and the first three, at least, are likely to be at work in Rogue One. It’s a depth I hoped for but wasn’t necessarily expecting from a movie purported to be focused on the “wars” part of Star Wars.
Entertainment Weekly will continue to release interview articles discussing more revelations from Rogue One ahead of the release of the film’s new trailer on Thursday on NBC. Stay tuned to Dork Side as we report the juiciest news from EW’s coverage.