I’m a really a casual Star Wars fan, at best, but there’s something I’ve really noticed the last couple of years, in both official “canon” and semi-canon materials: Imperial Star Destroyers operating within planetary atmospheres.
Particularly odd as these are rather massive vessels, the kind of which one would normally fully expect to operate solely in space. But, like I’ve said, in the last couple of years, this seems to have been expanded. A crashed one features prominently in The Force Awakens, which had seemed odd to me at the time, if it were a fallen starship, which I would’ve expected to be in far poorer shape considering the masses and velocities involved—but in the Star Wars Battlefronts game and now in the trailer for Rogue One, we seem to have Star Destroyers hovering without difficulty in the atmosphere, operating like big Helicarriers.
Now, I know some “Star Destroyers” (earlier, smaller ones) were shown landed on a planet in Attack of the Clones, and there are a lot of classes of Star Destroyers in over thirty-odd years of story material, both canon and EU, only a fraction of which I’m at all familiar with.
But, still, I’m curious to know if there’s existing precedent to this kind of thing in SW lore, or if this is a J.J. Abrams-era stylistic introduction. (The man had the rebooted Enterprise built on the ground, and flying around in the clouds, after all. And underwater.)
So, I’m asking…is this something new, or am I just hopelessly out of touch?
According to Wookieepedia, Star Destroyers need to keep moving to stay aloft in the atmosphere, but you’re right that seems to be contradicted in the trailer for Rogue One.
But as you say, this scene in Attack of the Clones says canonically that it’s possible, even if they are scaled a bit smaller.
However, unlike shows like Star Trek with hundreds of episodes, there haven’t been enough Star Wars movies to make anything truly definitive. We’ve really only seen most aspects of its lore from limited points of view, and just because we haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
Some of these things are seriously large - miles long - and our atmosphere isn’t very thick. And our eyes are good at focusing in on detail. How big would something say 5 miles long seem if at an altitude of 50 miles?
Ten movies - plus thousands of comics, novels, TV shows, and video games. Setting aside the question of what is and is not canon, there’s no end of material to answer the question, “How long have they been showing Star Destroyers in atmosphere?”
Earliest I can remember off the top of my head was this scene from the Force Unleashed video game, from 2008, but I’m sure there’s something earlier out there.
A Super Star Destroyer is 19 KM long (per wiki). Thats almost exactly a third of the way to space; if its hovering just outside the discernible atmosphere on an Earth like planet; what would it appear like on the ground.
Yeah, it makes no sense to build these things on the ground. But it gave Kirk something to look at while he thought about joining Starfleet. In any case, the Enterprise was shown in atmosphere in one of the old time travel episodes; ‘Tomorrow is Yesterday’, I think.
And they got out of the atmosphere as quickly as possible. Why they were moving so slowly after getting sent back in time is another problem. I suspect they were pretty high up - John Christopher thought it was close to him because he probably underestimated its size. I know they tried to keep him away with a tractor beam, but they also had no idea of the ceiling of a 20th century fighter, and so thought the plane could approach them closer than it did.
Three of those ten movies imply they can, four if you count the big crash of a comparably-sized ship at the start of ROTS, and scenes like this have appeared a couple of times in Star Wars Rebels. The comic and novels, though not canon anymore, are so frequently contradictory they probably shouldn’t factor into the answer.