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Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Force Is Strong with Rogue One

Written by Jon Williams

Last week, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story rolled into theaters, thrilling fans eagerly anticipating the franchise’s first standalone movie. It has dominated the box office since then, earning more than $350 million worldwide with another big weekend coming up. While the movie won’t be available on DVD and Blu-ray for a while, fans can relive the excitement with the novelization (also available for younger listeners). With such popularity, patrons are sure to be interested in exploring not just the story surrounding the movie, but other movies from the new cast as well.

The first place to start is with James Luceno’s novel Catalyst, which ties directly into Rogue One. It tells the story of brilliant scientist Galen Erso and how he is pulled into the Death Star project by Director Orson Krennic. In 2014, Luceno also wrote the novel Tarkin, detailing the early career of another character who figures prominently in Rogue One, as well as the original Star Wars movie, 1977’s Episode IV: A New Hope.

One “new” character introduced in Rogue One is Saw Gerrera, the leader of a Rebel extremist group. “New” is in quotation marks, of course, because the character isn’t actually new at all. He first appeared four years ago in the fifth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated series that bridged the gap between Episodes II and III, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. At that time, he was a young militant being trained by the likes of Anakin Skywalker; his older, more experienced self will soon be joining this season of Star Wars: Rebels, voiced by acclaimed actor Forest Whitaker, who portrays him in Rogue One.

Gerrera’s function in the movie is to bring together the band of rebels who will attempt to steal the Death Star plans. He can serve this function because he was once a mentor to young Jyn Erso, daughter of the aforementioned Galen Erso, who helped design the Death Star’s weapons system. Jyn is played by Felicity Jones, who won an Academy Award for her performance in 2014’s The Theory of Everything and has also appeared in such films as Inferno and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Bringing Jyn into the Rebellion and leading the mission to help her find her father is Captain Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna. Acting from a young age, Luna is an acting staple to Mexican audiences. He was in the acclaimed film Y Tu Mama Tambien as well as the sci-fi film Elysium, among others. Andor in the film is accompanied by a droid sidekick, K-2SO, played in a motion-capture performance by Alan Tudyk. This was not his first robot portrayal, as he also played Sonny in I, Robot. A prolific comic actor, Tudyk starred as one of the title pair in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, and also as Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball.

Throwing in on the mission as well are the one-two punch of Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus. Îmwe is a blind devotee of the Force who nonetheless is a valuable fighter. He’s played by Donnie Yen, a martial arts master who has starred in such films as Hero and the Ip Man trilogy. Malbus is his gun-toting companion who serves as his protector on the rare occasions when he needs one. Jiang Wen is an acclaimed Chinese actor and filmmaker; Rogue One is his first film produced primarily for an English-speaking audience.

The last member of the team, getting them from place to place, is the defected Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook, played by Riz Ahmed. Ahmed was seen most recently in the hit HBO series The Night Of, and he also starred opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. He also features as a rapper (under the name Riz MC) on the Hamilton Mixtape. Needless to say, the past couple of weeks have been phenomenal for his career.

Opposing the Rebels in their efforts is Imperial officer Orson Krennic, overseer of the Death Star construction project. He’s played by Ben Mendelsohn, an Australian actor who has won an Emmy Award for his performance in Netflix’s Bloodline. He also appeared in The Dark Knight Rises, and will star as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the upcoming Robin Hood. And of course, a Star Wars movie dealing with the Rebellion against the Empire will be haunted by the specter of Darth Vader. The Dark Lord of the Sith does appear briefly in Rogue One, with his familiar forbidding voice being provided once again by James Earl Jones.

Fans who loved Rogue One will have all this to explore, and there’s always plenty to enjoy from the ever-expanding galaxy far, far away. SmartBrowse Star Wars on our website to find all the movies and TV series, not to mention soundtracks and audiobooks. In addition, patrons can head over to hoopla digital for a collection of eBooks and comics that they can enjoy right away on their smartphones or tablets.

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