There was a lot of excitement, but perhaps just as much uncertainty heading into this weekend with the release of Star Wars: Rogue One. For one, it was the first live-action Star Wars standalone movie (if you don't count the two Ewok TV movies) and it also underwent extensive reshoots several months prior to the release. Even with those reshoots, it looks like the ending of the movie never actually changed.
Warning, this article will contain major spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story from here on out. Lucasfilm creative executive Pablo Hidalgo is one of the people tasked with making sure the continuity of Star Wars stays consistent between the novels, comics, TV shows and movies, so he is definitely on the inside track. Over the weekend, a fan asked him if he would ever reveal the original ending for Rogue One. He responded on Twitter, saying simply that "the ending never changed."
As for what "the ending" refers to specifically, that isn't totally clear. Pablo Hidalgo could be talking about the very last shot or he could be talking about the majority of the ending, but either way apparently that never changed. Those who have seen the movie know that pretty much all of the Rebels who were tasked with stealing the Death Star plans on the surface of Scariff died. Not ambiguously, because they died at the hands of Grand Moff Tarkin and the Death Star's unrelenting power. It seems like based on these comments that was always the plan. However, it has been made very clear that a lot of the third act in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was changed during the reshoots, it just isn't clear exactly how much at this point.
There are quite a few shots in the trailers for Rogue One that didn't make it into the final cut of the and some of those shots winding up on the cutting room floor were clearly because of the reshoots. One very notable shot saw Felicity Jones' character Jyn Erso running with the Death Star plans in her hand while facing down a group of AT-ACT walkers on the surface of Scariff. In the movie, that never happened. The Rebels ended up having to transmit the plans to the Rebel fleet above the planet so the physical plans never made it off the Imperial base. So clearly, a lot was changed but apparently the endpoint wound up being the same in both versions of the movie.
We may never know exactly how much or exactly what changed in Star Wars: Rogue One. When news of the reshoots surfaced, some claimed the first cut of the movie was a total mess, while Disney and Lucasfilm made it seem as though everything was under control. Ultimately, critics and fans seem to be very happy for the most part with the end result, so the reshoots seemed to be worthwhile. Considering that the movie has already made nearly $300 million in a single weekend, it would be hard to say they made the wrong call.
@CadTheBane the ending never changed.— See Ya Next Year! (@pablohidalgo) December 15, 2016