If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 on the Original Trilogy novels
Rogue One is an odd entry in the Star Wars franchise. Even at their darkest moments, the originals and even the prequels always had the bad guys losing, the good guys winning, and as soon as the John Williams score began to blare over the closing credits, you felt somewhat good about yourself.
In this film, it really shows the realities of war, the people left behind, the families torn apart. Instead of the shiny Tantive IV hallways and the dramatic chasms of the Death Star, we see the raw and the real. Chipping paint, dust and dirt, a more “lived in” universe.
One of the bigger changes for the book, however, was that they upped the tragedy hardcore. They wanted to bludgeon any reader unfortunate enough to think this might have a happy ending with the most unrelenting sorrow they could conjure.
When Jyn gets brought into Saw – her foster father’s – hideaway, she starts asking questions about friends and comrades she’d left behind, only to be told they were all dead.
The thing about Big Destruction in action movies is that you kind of don’t think about it. No one looks at a Michael Bay movie and thinks, “Wow, those poor people!”
So when the Death Star blows up Jedha, I thought “Wow, that’s sad. And a cool explosion. Look, it goes all the way down to the mantle of the planet! That’s kinda rad!” But Rogue One the novelization pulls no punches. Four pages are spent describing the people in the city, their daily lives, their wants and hopes and dreams and then exactly how painful and brutal their deaths were. This includes STORM TROOPERS that got left behind.
In the film, Jyn finally finds her father and ekes out a fragment of a conversation as he lays dying and he tells her he regrets everything, how he loved her, how there was so much he still wanted to do with her. It’s tragic, it’s sad, it’s brutal.
But the book makes it so much worse. His last words are:
“Someone has to destroy it”
This is a significant change. It means that even this was taken away from Jyn by the Empire, by the war. She’s already lost her freedom, her foster father, her everything and now she doesn’t even have one final memory of her dad to call her own.
So with all this death and tragedy, the audience should skew older, right?
FOR THE LITTLEST TINIEST BABIES THIS IS REAL.
Because, you know, it’s Star Wars! Pew-pew blasters, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Power of the Force, yay! And it’s PG-13, just like all the superhero movies, so it must be fine, right? RIGHT? This is certainly not the movie where our “hero” begins by shooting an innocent and unnarmed man in the back because he can’t deal with complications.
Even as I sit here writing this article, I haven’t cracked this book open out of fear of what I’ll find inside. Don’t say I that I don’t love you, readers.
The first thing I noticed is that the whole book is printed with this “gritty”, “grungy” pattern, which is kind of bizarre. Also, the font is weird and looks like it was chosen specifically to take up more page space.
They are fully okay with talking about death and dying but when major characters start dropping, they start dishing out some wacky euphemisms like “he was gone”, “they joined the Force”, and “his mind went black” or they gloss it over completely with heavy implications. “The last thing he heard was the grenade’s boom”.
It also dealt more in the physical side of what the characters go through, as opposed to the official novelization that goes DEEP into each and every character’s mindsets.
They also cut out the entire part where Darth Vader starts slicing some fools, which even the toughest critics said was the coolest part of the movie.
I just have to wonder, though, who was this written for? There’s too much violence for it to be a Middle-Grade novel (for ages 8-12), it’s kept firmly in the PG-13 range. But it glosses over and cuts out just enough that anyone older than that who was looking for an easy read would be disappointed and patronized. It’s a strange, strange in between and for a movie like this, probably shouldn’t exist.