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Story Cousins: Comparing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Inglorious Bastards

By Marisa Dupras · April 11, 2017

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

A young girl hides for her life as an agent of tyranny arrives at her family’s homestead. Suspense builds – the villain plays along with the family’s charade, obviously aware that the girl is somewhere nearby, watching the horrific scene unfold from her vantage point. The situation bubbles, then boils over as the villain sets his henchman on the girl’s family. She escapes, but only just – setting her on a path that will eventually end in a bold, and self-sacrificial act of resistance. 

If your mind instantly went to Inglorious Bastards, then congratulations, you’re dead-on. And yet you’d also be forgiven for answering Rogue One! In fact, believe it or not, Inglorious Bastards and the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise share a lot in common with each other, both structurally and in terms of plot, despite the fact that each film feels very different on a superficial level. To better demonstrate just how alike and effective each film is at telling a similar story in a different way, lets try to break them down into their five basic plot points.

INCITING INCIDENT:

Rogue One: Imperial Officer Orson Krennic, a representative of Darth Vader, arrives at our protagonist’s farm. He appears friendly at first, and though we don’t know quite what he’s capable of just yet, there’s a sense that something isn’t quite right. Suspense mounts as Galen Erso attempts to mentally out-maneuver Krennin, giving his family a chance to hide. The sequence comes to a head when Galen’s wife is shot and his daughter, Jyn, is forced to flee.

Inglorious Bastards: A Nazi Colonel named Hans Landa arrives at a farm belonging to our protagonist’s father in the French countryside. He appears friendly at first, and though we don’t know quite what he’s capable of just yet, there’s a sense that something isn’t quite right. Suspense looms, as the family hides. And eventually, our hero, Shosanna, is forced to flee as her family is shot.

LOCK IN:

Rogue One: Jyn is broken out of prison by Cassian and taken to speak with the Rebel Alliance about her father’s role in the development of the Empire’s secret new weapon: the death star. Jyn initially turns from the cause, but is eventually lured by the promise of finding her father. They leave in search of an imperial turncoat pilot named Rook, along with the smuggled holographic message from Galen detailing the death star plans. He gives her the location of these plans.

Inglorious Bastards: Shosanna is strong-armed into offering her theater for the premier of a Nazi propaganda film depicting a battle in which Fredrick Zoller’s killed over 250 people singlehandedly. She panics until she and her boyfriend, Marcel, hatch a plan to take out the Nazi high command while they’re seated in her theater. Meanwhile Lieutenant Aldo Raine and his “inglorious bastards” learn about the theater event and form their own plan to kill Hitler at that location.

3. FIRST CULMINATION:

Rogue One: Jyn tries in vain to convince the rebel alliance to steal the death star plans from the base on Scarif, but the Rebel leaders can’t reach an agreement. Left with no options, Jyn, Cassian, K-2SO, Rook, Chirrut, and Malbus take a shuttle anyway to steal the death star plans by themselves. Jyn’s father, Galen, is killed in the ensuing confrontation.

Inglorious Bastards: Double agent Bridget Von Hammersmark fails to deceive German soldiers at a French tavern and is injured in the resulting shootout. Raine and his men capture her and take her for medical treatment. There they argue over plans to kill Hitler at the theater event. They cannot seem to reach an agreement on a plan they are confident in, but continue anyway.

MAIN CULMINATION:

Rogue One: The villains begin to turn against each other for their own political advancement. Tarkin tries to undermine Krennic at every turn, while Darth Vader refuses to give Krennic any recognition except for his mistakes. Krennic grows increasingly desperate as a result. On Scariff, Chirrut is killed after establishing communications with the rebel fleet, sending Malbus into a killing rage. Rook is killed by a grenade after ordering the rebel fleet to take down the planet’s shield to allow the Death Star plans to transmit. K-2SO sacrifices himself so that Jyn and Cassian can retrieve the plans. Krennic shoots Cassian and chases Jyn on the roof of the base. Cornered, Jyn must somehow find a way transmit the plans to the rebel fleet.

Inglorious Bastards: The villains, although on the same side, begin to turn against each other. Landa defects and offers Raine his own plan to kill Hitler with a bomb in his viewing box in exchange for his freedom and a new life America. He is desperate for the war to end. Meanwhile, Raine, Bridget, and a few of the bastards attempt to infiltrate the theater. Landa sees through Bridget and kills her. Marcel waits for his cue to ignite the theater, while Shosanna watches her imminent revenge from the projection booth. Moments before the plan unfolds, Frederick interrupts her in the form of an advance. She persuades him to lock the door and then shoots him.

THIRD ACT TWIST:

Rogue One: Still alive, Cassian reappears just in time to save Jyn from Krennic. Tarkin decides to use the death star to destroy the base on Scarif. With the death star plans now safely transmitted, Jyn and Cassian savor their last moments together before they are killed. Even though the heroes perish, their mission has been a success. The death star is now doomed.

Inglorious Bastards: Shosanna doesn’t realize that Fredrick is still alive. He shoots her in retaliation, depriving her of her revenge against the Nazis. Still, her plan is a posthumous success, and everyone in the theater is killed. Even though many of our heroes perish in the process, the mission is a success. The Nazi regime has effectively been beheaded in what will surely bring a swift end to the war.

In general, both films center on rag-tag groups of individuals banding together on a suicide mission. Then again, so do any number of films. What’s so interesting about these two films in particular is how different they feel in spite of the things they have in common. Inglorious Bastards blends Tarantino’s brutal violence and penchant for extended dialogue sequences, whereas Rogue One shares more in common with its space-opera siblings. It’s a fantastic demonstration of just how malleable quality storytelling can be, with similar ideas given new twists and fitted to all kinds of different contexts and genres, from Nazi-occupied France, to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.