Reddit user HemperorPalpatine made an interesting observation on Revenge of the Sith, Rogue One, and A New Hope, dubbing them the “Death Star Trilogy”.
An interesting thing happens when you consider the Star Wars films in story order: Revenge of the Sith (2005) is followed by Rogue One (2016) and A New Hope (1977). This is the one place in the saga where a prequel, a Disney-era film and an original are all adjacent to one another in the story. They are three very distinct films made in different eras, yet they should all fit comfortably together sequentially. Do they?
I explored this question by watching what I call the “Death Star Trilogy,” which starts with the early stages of the Death Star’s construction at the end of Revenge of the Sith and ends with its destruction at the end of A New Hope.
Each of the three films are tonally very different—Revenge of the Sith is a massive sprawling epic in the style of a Greek tragedy, Rogue One is a dark war story, and A New Hope is a triumphant, adventurous romp. Yet they are intended to fit together. Both Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One were designed to lead directly into A New Hope at the time they were released.
And ultimately, this tie-in is what allows these three films to hang together as a trilogy: A New Hope works nicely as a conclusion because it ties together themes from both of the preceding films and also has a definitive ending. It feels natural that A New Hope would work as a trilogy closer.
So what themes emerge when you treat these films as a standalone trilogy?
The films become a bit more about the rise and fall of the Empire itself than the individual players in it. The Empire is born from the ashes of tragedy in Revenge of the Sith, and the fallout from the tragedy is explored throughout Rogue One. In A New Hope, the people of the galaxy redeem themselves by finally finding the means to strike back against the evil they themselves enabled. The mystical aspects of Revenge of the Sith—the Jedi, the Skywalkers—disappear in Rogue One, where the loss of this spiritual connection is juxtaposed with the creation of the Death Star. Only when these spiritual forces reappear in A New Hope can the Death Star be destroyed.
My favorite thing about the Death Star Trilogy is how it actually gets more intimate as it goes along—Revenge of the Sith is an absolutely massive epic, Rogue One has a smaller cast but retains some big picture military strategy and politics, and A New Hope ends the trilogy by following just a few characters as they pursue their personal convictions. Big systems are ripe for corruption, but individuals with conviction can be the trigger for change.
As an aside, Sophocles’ three Theban plays take a similar trajectory from epic to intimate, and were also released out of story order.
There are a few more interesting connection and themes in the Death Star Trilogy that I might discuss more in the comments. But you don’t need me to tell you to watch Star Wars! I recommend you check out this sequence of films for yourself. It’s a fun and thought-provoking ride. For me, it helps that this sequence includes my favorite movie from each era.
This was something I never thought about; the trilogies, while all Star Wars, were kept separate in my mind and the stand alone films are just little stories thrown in (a la the books and comics). When thinking of it as a bigger picture, this trilogy makes a lot of sense. As mentioned, you see things like the rise and the start of the fall of the Empire, the full story of the first Death Star, and a transitions of casts (with Vader as the constant).
Another aspect to consider is this is the Vader Trilogy; you see his creation in ROTS, his power in Rogue One, and his past coming to undo him in ANH. The Vader trilogy is much weaker as a concept because his ultimate downfall is over Empire and Jedi.
Are there other themes stretched across some odd the other movies? Let us know in the comments.