When The Phantom Menace hit theaters, plenty of Star Wars fans were less than impressed by George Lucas' attempts to breathe more science into the classic sci-fi series.
The notion of midichlorians and a logical, scientific explanation for Force Sensitivity in particular rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, not least because it stood out incongruously with the lore of the original series (for example, if Han Solo doesn't believe in the Force, does that make him an antivaxxer?).
For those who felt particularly offended by the abandonment of the Force as a religious concept, Rogue One looks to redress some of the balance. A movie set at a time when the Jedi are all but extinct and the Dark Side rules, this side-story sequel looks to expand the Star Wars universe to better explore how religion plays out for those who aren't Jedi.
Specifically, the film's director, Gareth Edwards, has been talking publicly about a crucial planet which appears in Rogue One—Jedha (no prizes for coming up with that name)—is apparently a planet that many believers travel to in times of crisis for pilgrimage. It's a shame, then, that it's in the hands of the Empire.
"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." Via Entertainment Weekly
It really is good to see a little of the mysticism return to the Star Wars universe. In the original trilogy, the phrase "May the Force be with you" almost feels like a prayer or a blessing, and it seems like those who express a belief in the Force gain an extra air of wisdom for doing so—Admiral Ackbar sounds as noble as a fish monster ever could when he wishes the blessings of the Force on his troops, and it's a far more eloquent expression than his most famous line.
At the same time, though, there's a danger of exposing too much of what it means to be a Force believer—this was a problem that the Prequels suffered from, as up-close exposure to the noble order of Jedi revealed that half the time they were just guessing, making stuff up, or tripping over their own robes.
Hopefully learning more about the horribly named Jedha and its totally-not-Jedi inhabitants won't burst the bubble of mysticism that Gareth Edwards' Star Wars movie is trying to re-inflate.