With the new Rogue One trailer landing during NBC's Rio Olympics telecast on Thursday, this Star Wars prequel is starting to take shape in the nerdier chambers of our hearts and minds. Now director Gareth Edwards is sharing a bonanza of new details about the pivotal planet of Jedha. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Godzilla director describes the importance of this spiritually charged world in a galaxy far, far away.
“The Force is basically in Star Wars like a religion, and they’re losing their faith in the period that we start the movie,” said Edwards regarding the prequel's timeline placement before 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope. “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. It got embodied in this place we called Jedha. It’s a place where people who believe in the Force would go on a pilgrimage. It was essentially taken over by the Empire. It’s an occupied territory… for reasons we probably can’t reveal. There’s something very important in Jedha that serves both the Jedi and the Empire. It felt very much like something we could relate to in the real world.”
“Within Jedha, even though there’s the oppressive foot of the Empire hanging over them, there’s a resistance that won’t give up and our characters have to go and meet people there to try and secure a person from this group,” explained Edwards. “In a wider level, there must be loads of people who just believe in the Jedi and believe in the Force and have been affected by it. 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.”
There's been much speculation that this "Mecca of the Star Wars Universe" is also home to the rare Force-attuned Kyber crystals. These mysterious crystals are vital for powering the elegant lightsabers of the Jedi and Sith Lords and an instrumental element in focusing those starship-melting superlaser weapons deployed by Star Destroyers, rebel battle cruisers and a certain armored space station.
Creating the planet Jedha was a way for Edwards to stamp the franchise with something of his own, outside the realm of the Lucas legacy. A huge set piece at the start of Rogue One depicts this spiritual center of the remaining Jedi faithful and stronghold of the resistance being taken over by the Empire, ramping up the conflict between these two warring factions.
Edwards reinforced many of these points at the Star Wars Celebration in London last month:
"If A New Hope is kind of like the story of Jesus, there must be a whole religion beyond that," he said. "We felt like, for 1,000 generations, the Jedi were kind of these leaders of the spiritual belief system. It's got to be like a Mecca or a Jerusalem, but in the Star Wars world. It felt very contemporary to have a situation where the Empire would impose themselves on what means a lot to the spiritual side of Star Wars for their own goals. Within that area, there's a Resistance that's building, and they're trying to fight back."
What are your thoughts on the holy planet of Jedha, and what do you think might be the prize there awaiting Imperial forces?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hijacks the yuletide movie season on Dec. 16 and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed and Forest Whitaker.