Star Wars Rogue One Trailer Looks Like a Steve Perry Novel

Thursday, April 7, 2016

I was really pleased with Star Wars Episode VII. I think J.J. Abrams did a wonderful job of bringing back the Star Wars universe so many fans thought was lost after the nightmare that was the prequel trilogy. Today, we saw the first glimpse of Rogue One, a film that takes place between Episodes III and IV. It certainly seems a bit darker in tone that the standard Star Wars film and it has an outstanding cast to boot, but it reminded me of a certain expanded universe novel which is, sadly, no longer considered canon.

Steve Perry wrote what many have said is the best Star Wars novel ever written.  The jury is out in my opinion, I'm a huge fan of the Bounty Hunter Wars, but Steve Perry's Shadows of the Empire fleshed out a critical moment in the Star Wars universe. His novel explained much of what happened in the year between episodes V and VI. It introduced a number of new characters and fills in a number of gaps in the film characters development between episodes. 

Rogue One has a similar goal, though it deals with the events leading up to Episode IV. Felicity Jones is our protagonist, Jyn Erso. She is tasked with acquiring the plans to the Death Star. Little is known about the plot save that brief statement, but it would appear that there is some serious subterfuge going on to get her into the right position to get her hands on the plans. 

I'm so excited to revisit the classic Star Wars time period. As much as I love what they've done with The Force Awakens, there is something about seeing the iconic ships, vehicles and aesthetic of the original trilogy. The trailer shows us a number of familiar locations, including the rebel base on Yavin IV, where a much younger Mon Mothma proposes the mission to Jyn.

I'm excited to see Diego Luna in the cast as well as Forrest Whitaker. Both are fantastic actors that will bring a lot to their roles. Also shown in the trailer is Donnie Yen, who you should know from (at the very least) the Ip Man films. He appears briefly, fighting a number of stormtroopers with what appears to be a quarterstaff. We haven't seen Alan Tudyk's character in full yet, though I suspect that the droid that appears in the fringes of the frame a couple times is the droid we are looking for.

With so much of the plot for Rogue One under wraps, it is difficult to tell what sort of movie it will turn out to be. From what the trailer has shown us, it seems to lean heavily on the gritty subterfuge element, so I hope that it is a little more cerebral than action-oriented. The goal of the film should be more than just filling in the gaps. With the extended universe no longer considered canon, the Star Wars universe is in desperate need of depth. 

Shadows of The Empire worked so well because it took the lofty, mythical atmosphere of Star Wars down a notch. After The Empire Strikes Back, Vader seems near god-like in his power. With Shadows introduction of Prince Xizor, the leader of a powerful crime syndicate, we finally had a villain that could show that Vader too was vulnerable. What worked best about the character was that he didn't directly confront Vader in the manner that Luke did. Rather, he thought like Vader or the Emperor would and targeted Luke (by placing an enormous hit on him), thereby potentially ruining all of Vader's plans for his son and indeed the future of the Empire. 

Xizor's plans put a seemingly impervious character in fear. Up until that point, Vader had always been written as a monolithic visage of evil. By bringing that depth to the character, Steve Perry did more to humanize Vader than the prequels could undo. 

I hope that Rogue One is able to do something similar for the franchise. I know we likely won't be seeing any of the established characters (except in cameo appearances, perhaps), but if this film can succeed in bringing a darker tone and adding some depth to the universe, I'll be happy.