At Star Wars Celebration Europe in London this weekend, the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story panel didn't offer up too much new information about the film, but it did give us the names of a couple of the planets we'll see along the journey of Jyn Erso and her band of rebels as they seek to find the means to destroying the Death Star. The planet Jedha (we see Jyn Erso taking down some troopers in the trailer there), it sounds, is where the team will band together - but it also has a much deeper meaning in the Star Wars universe.
Director Gareth Edwards spoke with select press, including Comicbook.com, after the panel, and explained that Jedha is a spiritual center for those that seek to remember and honor the Force and the Jedi way, even if those knights and masters are missing during the Rogue One time period.
“It came from the fact that the era our film is set in, in theory, doesn’t have any Jedi," Edwards explained. "The idea of having a Star Wars film that doesn’t talk about the Force or… if you look at what George [Lucas] was great at, although he had a story about one thing, he’s implying a million other things in the background, and obviously our film is abusing that, and telling a story within [those background things]." That of course references the fact that Rogue One spins out of the opening crawl to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, the first film. That movie also mentioned things like the Clone War that led to a six season TV series.
Digressing, Edwards continued to explain that the Jedi, while presumed extinct or virtually so, have only been gone for about 19 years at this point - hardly enough for a millennia-old religion to just disappear entirely. In the Story Reel released at Celebration, fans can spot characters in elaborate red and blue robes, who appear to be priests of the Force in some way. Donnie Yen's character Chirrut Imwe has been described as a "monk" as well, and a Force devotee, even if he can't tap into it.
"For me, if A New Hope is kind of like the story of Jesus, or something, there must be a whole religion beyond that. For a thousand generations the Jedi were these leaders of the spiritual belief system," he said, quoting the films' lore. "So there’s gotta be the equivalent of Mecca and Jerusalem in the Star Wars world.”
That world is Jedha. While he said that the full backstory of Jedha and how it became such a place won't be told in the film, he assured fans that it's something the Story Group at Lucasfilm certainly knows and has discussed. Summarizing, Edwards told Comicbook.com that "if you believe in the Jedi and you believe in the Force, it feels like Jedha is a place you should visit in your lifetime. It's a spiritual home of the Jedi."
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place just before the original Star Wars, telling the story of the Rebel Alliance's first major victory in the fight to take down the Empire. It's set for release December 16, 2016.
Correction: Initial story printed with the planet name printed "Jedah," which is the pronunciation, though it's not the spelling.