There are two major factors that make Rogue One: A Star Wars Story unique in the Star Wars franchise; the first one being the missing opening crawl which has been a key component of every Star Wars movie so far. The second, far more important difference is, that Rogue One in no way revolved around the Skywalker saga. Sure, Darth Vader made two brief appearances, but those were of secondary importance and connected to the Death Star storyline, which brings us to the main point: Rogue One didn’t really feel like a Star Wars movie because there were no Jedi. There was barely any usage of the Force, no lightsaber fights and no struggle against the Dark Side.
Originally, though, Rogue One was supposed to feature at least one of the intergalactic knights.
“For a long time in the story, there were Jedi around, even if only in the background. Jyn’s mother was a Jedi,” screenwriter Chris Weitz revealed. “But we thought that it would be more interesting to have a story without Force powers, without lightsabers. We could explore a period of broken faith, a galaxy without hope.”
“There’s despair because the Jedi are gone – and with them, for many, even the memory of the Force. That meant our story could be about normal people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.”
Star Wars art designer, Doug Chiang, who has worked on the prequel trilogy, chimes in:
“The fact that there’s no Jedi is what makes ‘Rogue One’ so unique. There’s beauty in empowering people and in not relying on magic or superpowers. And yet, there’s the underlying mythology of the Force that’s still pervasive throughout our story. We needed to find those things that could root ‘Rogue One’ in the middle because spirituality is such a huge part of ‘Star Wars’.”
“Hope” is the keyword here. Had there been Jedi in Rogue One, the title A New Hope for the very first Star Wars film would not have made sense anymore. Moreover, a Jedi would have taken much of the spotlight away from Jyn and her team, even with a short appearance.