The first standalone movie in the Star Wars saga, Rogue One, is supposed to do exactly that: stand alone. And yet, Gareth Edwards’s movie, which takes place right before the 1977 film that launched the franchise, still manages to embed fan service in many clever ways. Playing to nostalgia and working in relevant references is, in fact, one of the movie’s main strengths, as it pulls off the nods to George Lucas’s original series in ways that fans will absolutely adore.
Here are all the Star Wars easter eggs in Rogue One. Spoilers ahead.
In the film’s flashback prologue, the Erso family has to scramble from their safe haven on the remote planet of Lah’mu when the sinister Director Orson Krennic shows up to strong-arm Galen Erso into helping him with figuring out how to make the Death Star work. Galen, his wife Lyra, and Rogue One protagonist Jyn Erso run around their hovel to grab on-the-lam essentials, and when Lyra makes a quick pit stop in the kitchen, the camera stays a few conspicuous seconds on a fan favorite beverage: blue milk!
This touch was one put in by Edwards himself, original screenwriter Gary Whitta told Inverse via Twitter.
Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba
You just watch yourself, Evazan and Ponda Baba are wanted men, and they have the death sentence on 12 systems! The disgruntled and disreputable pair of guys that Jyn and Cassian run into in the Jedha marketplace while searching for Saw Gerrera are the same hooligans that tried to start some shit with Luke in the Mos Eisley cantina from A New Hope.
They remained unscathed in their interaction with Jyn and Cassian as cooler heads prevailed due to the Rogue One protagonists’ very important mission. They were lucky to get off Jedha, but Evazan and Ponda’s bad attitudes cost the latter his right arm in A New Hope, courtesy of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber.
Saw Gerrera is a mysterious yet powerful militant leader with a cult of personality that bends to his every wish. It recalls the same mesmerizing pull that actor Marlon Brando’s deadly Colonel Kurtz had in filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola’s surreal 1979 Vietnam War classic, Apocalypse Now. The film’s relationship is slightly tangential to Star Wars mythos, but it’s invariably tied to A New Hope.
In the mid-70s, original Star Wars mastermind George Lucas was looking to develop his next film after the success of American Graffiti, and settled on making Apocalypse Now as a low-budget, black and white pseudo-documentary. He and collaborator Coppola couldn’t get funding, so Lucas dropped out to develop another script he wrote: Star Wars.
The Death Star Superlaser Procedure
In A New Hope, when Tarkin decided to test the full firepower of the Death Star on Alderaan, the Imperial cronies with the goofy helmets go through a particularly memorable procedure to destroy Princess Leia’s home world. The whole elaborate protocol, which involves pushing a bunch of blinking lights and pulling a few levers, is repeated in a nearly identical way in Rogue One, first when Krennic tests a single-reactor firing on Jedha, and then again on Scarif.
Eagle-eyed fans could even get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at another Star Wars movie while watching Rogue One. Episode VIII director Rian Johnson appears in the film as one of the Death Star operators.
The Bacta Tank
That big cylindrical structure filled with goo in which Darth Vader bathes before donning his iconic armor in Rogue One might be familiar to Star Wars fans as a bacta tank. The generative substance is a small, but important part of Star Wars lore, as it’s basically the goop you have to be in when you’re injured. The brief scene with Vader in Rogue One echoes a similar scene in The Empire Strikes Back, in which Luke is submerged in the cure-all healing fluid after getting attacked by a Wampa on Hoth.
R2-D2 and C-3PO
You didn’t think the saga’s biggest stars would go completely missing, did you? It’s a close call, but the droids make a millisecond-long appearance just as the Rebel fleet gears up to go attack Scarif.
Not only does the Threepio and Artoo cameo continue actor Anthony Daniels’s series-long run (he’s the only actor to be credited in all eight current films), but it also makes logistical sense. The droids are seen hanging out at the secluded Rebel base on Yavin 4, which means they eventually join up with Princess Leia in the space battle above Scarif on her ship, the Tantive IV, seen at the beginning of A New Hope.
Both of Leia’s dads get some face time in Rogue One. Whereas Vader is busy making sure Krennic doesn’t mess up the Death Star project, Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) just kind of hangs around the Rebel boardroom to make sure they don’t mess things up. Mon Mothma chats with good old Bail right before he high-tails it to his home planet of Alderaan (before eventually getting blown up by the Death Star), and they reference “that Jedi” as a contingency plan, which means the the Rebellion knew about the hermetic Obi-Wan hanging out on Tatooine the whole time.
Red Leader and Gold Leader
Besides bringing Tarkin back with a hefty helping of CG trickery, Rogue One also cleverly edits in footage of Garven Dreis and Jon “Dutch” Vander in the Scarif space battle. These background characters are the X-wing and Y-wing pilots previously, but also, eventually, seen dying in the Rebellion’s Death Star attack in A New Hope. The inclusion of these two character is the perfect kind of fan service.
“I have a bad feeling about this”
This well known running gag in the Star Wars saga was uttered by many main characters: Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, and Princess Leia. In Rogue One, the reprogrammed Imperial security droid K-2SO gets the honors… well, kind of. When Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor don some inconspicuous Imperial garb and ascend up the main communications tower at the military base on Scarif, Kaytoo begins to say the iconic line, but Cassian cuts him off before he can jinx the whole mission.
Like the sly Apocalypse Now reference in Rogue One, the standalone movie also manages to honor another non-Star Wars George Lucas project as well.
When Jyn and Cassian finally make it to the top secret data facility that holds the Death Star plans among many other classified Imperial projects, Cassian has to manually extract the data tape that houses the Death Star schematics. To do so, he uses a pair of clamps that are eerily similar to the same kind of clamps used by the titular protagonist in George Lucas’s debut feature film, THX 1138.
Princess Leia and the Tantive IV
Who knew this apolitical starship was in the thick of the Rebel battle above Scarif? Leia’s ship, seen at the very end of Rogue One, with the Death Star plans safely stowed away on board, is also the very first thing we see in the opening moments of A New Hope.