If there was such a thing as making a ‘risky’ Star Wars movie, then Rogue One was definitely it. It not only introduced many new characters, it did something with them that not many would have ever expected from a Disney movie.
While the best elements of the Rogue One film are all present and correct in Alexander Freed’s novelisation, it’s a bit of a shame to see just how safely the book plays it. Of course, this is a novelisation so it is strictly based on the film and its script, but it’s difficult not to feel that when adapting the film into a novel, Freed could have taken a few more risks.
The story is exactly that of the movie; Jyn Erso, daughter of Death Star designer Galen Erso, is lured into a Rebel Alliance plot to steal the plans to the planet killing weapon. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t know the rest, what are you still reading this for? Go see it. Or read this book.
For those who criticised Rogue One for bland characters or a lack of character depth, you might find more to like in Freed’s novelisation. He does an excellent job in balancing multiple character viewpoints, offering a little more insight into many of the characters’ decisions and mind states. Ben Mendelsohn’s villain Orson Krennic is best served, with his character being an endless source of fascination throughout the book.
We also get more details about Jyn’s backstory with Saw Gerrera which had to be dealt with far too quickly in the film. Most of the book treads very literally on the toes of the film, but there are a few extended or new scenes that Freed includes with mixed results. These new parts, including more of Galen and Orson in the prologue, and more of Jyn in a cell at the labour camp that she is rescued from at the beginning of the film, add little, but are not jarring with their presence.
The ‘supplemental data’ scattered through the book between chapters is a little jarring however. Who wants to stop the flow of the story to read what amounts to a series of emails between Imperial managerial types?
When the story finally lands on Scarif, the last 100 pages of the book fly by. Freed does an excellent job of lending the events emotional weight, but doesn’t stand a chance in matching the final scenes of the film for the visual thrill of seeing the man in black back in action. Still, if you didn’t feel that Rogue One gave you long enough to spend with its characters, this novelisation is an excellent chance to soak up a bit more time with them.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY / AUTHOR: ALEXANDER FREED / PUBLISHER: CENTURY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW