The first Star Wars standalone film — Rogue One — centers around the Empire finishing the Death Star after years of struggling to make it operational. The Death Star might be the center of the story, but it arguably wouldn’t exist without the most important planet of the film: Scarif.
Scarif is a brand new world in the Star Wars franchise, having never been featured or even mentioned in previous films. It’s described as a beautiful tropical paradise full of islands, palm trees, beaches and pristine water. It’s also been converted into the main construction site for the Imperial war machine. There are stormtroopers and shoretroopers guarding the planet’s facilities, and they’re the best of the best in their field. That’s because Scarif is where the Empire is working on finishing the Death Star, and they’ve equipped it to block out any and all enemy forces. In addition to the troopers, the entire planet is wrapped in an impenetrable deflector shield, whose only passage through is a single gate. That’s where the Rebels attack to break into the planet for the Death Star plans.
Scarif is located in the Outer Rims of the Galaxy, near the Corellian Run and a planet with a weird history: Geonosis. As seen in Attack of the Clones, Geonosis was the planet that previously acquired the Death Star plans from Count Dooku during the Clone Wars. Geonosis provided a bunch of borderline slave workers to the Republic when it started the Death Star constructions, before the Republic became the Empire in Revenge of the Sith.
Scarif is also right next to Tatooine, which is where both Anakin and Luke Skywalker started out before becoming Jedi. No word whether Tatooine will be involved in Rogue One, but given how close the planets are to each other, it wouldn’t be surprising if Tatooine came into the picture somehow. As shown in the map above, the Death Star is also very far away from Alderaan, the first planet the Death Star destroys in A New Hope, showing that the Death Star can attack just about any planet in the galaxy from a comfortable distance.
One of the most unique things about the planet is the tropical location, which we haven’t really seen in any kind of major Star Wars film before. Rogue One director Gareth Edwards said he decided to make Scarif a tropical planet as a representation of the Pacific Front, since George Lucas often used WWII imagery when crafting his battles for the original Star Wars films.
Most of the Scarif scenes were shot on Laamu Atoll, a chain of islands in the Republic of Maldives. The Maldives is a republic of over 1,200 islands off the coast of India, near Sri Lanka. They were formerly Buddhist until the residents converted to Islam in the 12th century, but several Buddhist ruins still exist on the islands (some of which are rumored to be featured in Rogue One). Edwards described the islands of Laamu Atoll as “paradise,” which explains why most of the area’s economy comes from tourism. Some Maldivian soldiers even starred as stormtroopers during some of the battle scenes — although, it turns out Star Wars isn’t exactly super popular over there. Most of the residents didn’t even know it existed.
“As we’re filming it, we go up to them and ask them if theyre excited they got to play stormtroopers,” Edwards said. “They’re like, ‘No.’ So we asked them, ‘Do you know about Star Wars?’ and they said, ‘No.’ So we asked them if they felt like idiots and they said, ‘Yes.’”
While there aren’t a lot of opportunities to get a good look at Scarif before Rogue One comes out on December 16, there is one way to get a sneak peek. The island planet is the latest DLC addition to Star Wars: Battlefront, which lets players dive deeper into the planet’s tropical geography and the Empire’s giant facilities. From the looks of things, it seems like the stormtroopers and shoretroopers stationed there got a pretty good deal. Imagine getting off work at the end of the day and immediately going out to frolic in the water. Oh, who are we kidding? Stormtroopers don’t frolic.