Warning: This post contains spoilers for Rogue One.
The movie—which tells the story of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and her Rebel crew’s attempt to steal the plans for the Imperial Death Star—is set chronologically between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, a time when Emperor Palpatine’s iron-fisted rule over the galaxy far, far away has all but snuffed out the Jedi Order. Those who survived the execution of Order 66—including Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi—have been in exile for nearly 19 years, meaning many involved in the Rebel effort have lost faith in the power of the Force.
However, as is evidenced by the first scene of Rogue One—a flashback to the day Jyn’s father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), was taken captive by the Empire—there are some who have remained resolute in their belief. With Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and his squad of Death Troopers fast approaching, Jyn’s mother, Lyra (Valene Kane), gives Jyn a necklace with a Kyber crystal—the Force-attuned material used to power both lightsabers and the Death Star’s superlaser— to keep her safe. In times of trouble, Jyn often grabs hold of the necklace, seemingly indicating that she is Force-sensitive.
Later, Jyn and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) travel to the desert moon Jedha, a Jedi holy land that has become a warzone due to its large reserves of Kyber crystals. “It’s a place where people who believe in the Force would go on a pilgrimage,” director Gareth Edwards told Entertainment Weekly. “It was essentially taken over by the Empire. It’s an occupied territory.”
While searching for a lead on the whereabouts of Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whitaker) on Jedha, Jyn and Cassian encounter blind warrior-monk Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), a strong believer in the Force who has many Jedi-like abilities. His frequently repeated mantra—”I am with the Force, the Force is with me”—embodies the Jedi belief that the Force is ever-present and all-powerful. “I fear nothing,” he says. “All is as the Force wills it.”
The strong faith of Chirrut—who joins Jyn’s crew along with his protector Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen)—comes to be crucial to the success of the Death Star mission, as it enables him to walk fearlessly through a barrage of enemy fire and flip the switch that makes it possible for Jyn’s transmission of the Death Star plans to reach the Rebel fleet above.
This moment not only embodies the movie’s overall message of hope, but is a perfect segue into A New Hope, as it demonstrates why the galaxy’s loss and subsequent resurgence of faith in the Force is so significant.
“There must be loads of people who just believe in the Jedi and believe in the Force and have been affected by [the Empire’s reign],” Edwards said. “If it’s a really ancient religion, as Obi-Wan Kenobi said, it’s got to exist in thousands or millions of people in the galaxy.”