Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Book Review

When writing a review for a film novelisation, I look for things that may not have featured in the film, or scenes that have been expanded on to further enhance the story; Alexander Freed’s second book in Star Wars Canon “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” was full of extra moments that have complemented my views on the film.

Readers will find out the motivations behind some of the characters actions, connective scenes that are useful with regards to continuity, as well as interactions from the movie that are expanded upon. Freed emotionally dives into the minds of some of the key characters throughout, and provides further insight into some of their actions and the resonance behind them. Jyn’s internal struggle about feeling abandoned by both her father Galen Erso and Saw Gerrera, Cassian’s conflict as he contemplates his orders from General Draven to kill Galen Erso, and also Mon Mothma’s feelings about the path the Rebellion is currently on.

The book allows readers to spend more time with some of the characters that only featured briefly in the film, take Lyra Erso for example. During the first few scenes in Rogue One we see Lyra stand up to a group of Death Troopers whilst aiming her gun at Orson Krennic, despite knowing she could have run away with her daughter Jyn. It turns out that she had misjudged Krennic, expecting him to surrender in fear. With regards to the Empire, readers get more of an insight into how Tarkin took over the Death Star and Krennic’s thoughts as he discovers how easily he was played by Tarkin.

As mentioned above, readers get to delve deeper inside the head of Jyn Erso, understanding her coping mechanisms with feeling rejected from Galen and Saw, and also how she came to trust and love the Rebel Alliance despite her rough introduction to the cause. There are also more conversations between Jyn and Mon Mothma that would have been great additions to the film.

A lot of the new canon book feature several interludes and Rogue One is no different. One of the interludes reveals how Galen’s revenge on Krennic and the Empire is nearly discovered. Supplementary information like this is always good for a story and it adds another layer to everything viewers see when they sit down and watch Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Movie novelisation’s are usually good for looking at scenes that weren’t featured in the movie, Freed provides and intimate look at Jedha as a whole, moments before the Death Star Strikes as well as an up close view of Pendra Siliu’s death when Jedha is destroyed (Pendra was the little girl Jyn saves when Saw’s Partisans attack an Imperial fleet).

To conclude, Rogue One is a book that enhances the story rather than just giving readers a like for like printed account of the film. I would consider this book required reading as it provides a clearer and more insightful look into the events of the film, as well as showing the moments that weren’t actually captured on screen. For an even better experience with the book, read “Tarkin” and “Catalyst” both written by James Luceno that give background to Tarkin’s rise in the Empire ,as well as the beginning of Galen Erso and Orson Krennic’s relationship and how that lead to Galen joining Krennic on his project.

Star Wars: Aftermath Life Debt – Book Review

Aftermath saw Temmin “Snap” Wexley, his droid companion Bones, and his pilot mother Norra Wexley make their names in what was the first story in the Aftermath Trilogy. Life Debt sees Norra and her group of rebels set on a mission to locate rebel hero Han Solo, who is on his way to Kashyyyk to help liberate the planet from under the ruling of the Empire.

Han’s first attempt didn’t go as planned, resulting with Chewbacca being captured and the Imperial council finding itself under the leadership of Gallius Rax, a mastermind with links to the planet of Jakku. One of Rax’s first actions is to appoint Grand Admiral Rae Sloane as the face of the Empire.

There is a deep underlying theme within the Imperial side of the story surrounding Rax and Sloane. Sloane finds herself feeling like an errand girl delivering Rax’s orders to the Empire, even when she doesn’t agree with them. What Rae Sloane wants for the Empire and what Rax wants are two completely different things which lead to Sloane taking matters into her own hands.

The book is essentially broken down into three main stories, the search for Han Solo, the liberation of Kashyyyk, and the birth of the First Order courtesy of Gallius Rax. Despite being a great start to the trilogy, the plot for Life Debt is leaps and bounds above Aftermath’s packed full with humour, heartbreak, violence, romance and mystery; things that readers expect from a Star Wars story.

With regards to the original characters from Aftermath, Chuck Wendig doesn’t waste any time giving readers a clear picture of where Norra Wexley and her group of ragtag Rebels are after the conclusion of Aftermath. The group find themselves on a crusade hunting down Imperial war criminals and bringing them to justice for their crimes before being tasked with the search of Han Solo.

The introduction of characters from the Original Trilogy added another robust layer to the story with Han and Leia anchoring the story for the heroes whilst Rax and Sloane do the same for the Empire. In parts Leia seems vulnerable; her husband is missing, the New Republic is immovable and she is connecting to her unborn child with the force. She also sees her personality clashing with Mon Mothma because of her idealist approach to the world and believes in doing good for every inhabitant of the galaxy, whereas Mothma has a realist approach to her methods.

We argue, about whether it is the time to build up military or to dampen its effect. And all the while we forget that we have the privilege of arguing from comfortable chairs many parsecs away. We argue about what’s prudent or what’s practical while people suffer. Do you know what people want to see from the New Republic? Do you, truly? They want us to be heroes. – Princess Leia’s argument against Mon Mothma.

Han solo’s relationship with Chewbacca is captured beautifully in Life Debt. In one of the interludes from Aftermath, the pair is preparing to travel to Kashyyyk with intentions of liberating Chewie’s home planet from under the clasp of the Empire, leading to the Wookiee being captured. Han’s loyalty to Chewbacca is evident as he decides to leave his wife and unborn child as well as resigning his commission with the New Republic in order to locate his friend.

Similarly to Aftermath, Life Debt features interludes that give a wider perception of the galaxy. It seems as if the Empire has been dragged down immensely after its defeat during the Battle of Endor, offshoots of the empire are resorting to suicidal tactics against the New Republic, an Imperial Super Star Destroyer finds itself being hijacked by pirates and the entire fleet abandons its post on Ryloth. Maz Kanata features in an interlude where she is enforcing laws in her Takodano castle, and law and order has returned to Tatooine after the demise of crime lord Jabba the Hutt and his criminal organisation.

Wendig’s second entry to the Aftermath Trilogy promised higher intensity leading up to the events of The Force Awakens and it certainly delivered with an engaging plot, a strong, developing chemistry between Aftermath’s original characters as well as the additions from the original trilogy. There are also a lot of details provided to help fill the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

Attila Vajda Interview – Sagwa

Sagwa was a Wookiee from the inland tree city of Rwookrrorro on the planet Kashyyyk. During the Imperial Era he attempted to defend his fellow Wookiees from Imperial patrols, but was imprisoned and forced to work in the spice mines of Kessel as a slave. He wore an electro-charged slaving collar and had his shaggy arms bound by heavy shackles. Years of toil took their toll on his body, leaving his brown fur balding due to illness, though he continued to selflessly spare weaker slaves from the most brutal mining duties.

Sagwa was among the slaves who participated in the uprising instigated by L3-37, and was freed by Chewbacca after the Wookiee attacked Sagwa’s guards. The two Wookiees fought alongside each other, and Sagwa helped Chewbacca and Han Solo escape the mines with a stash of unrefined coaxium. Once outside, Sagwa fought off Pyke sentinels and helped Chewbacca load the coaxium into smuggling compartments aboard the Millennium Falcon. He bid farewell to Chewbacca before following Tak and other escaped prisoners.

How did you get the role of Sagwa in Solo: A Star Wars Story? 

I signed up with Uni-Versal Extras and two weeks later I got invited for an audition. I had a few auditions like movement, body screening and measurements afterwards. I was auditioned by Paul Kasey, a highly skilled analyst and performer of creature behaviour. Three months later I got the call to confirm my role for Sagwa.

What was the costume fitting process like?   

The fitting started shortly after the call. I was called in regularly for costume fitting to get the desired shape.  I’m glad I had the experience of going through the process of creating a Wookiee costume.  Seeing other creatures come to life was inspiring. It was fascinating to watch them build the creatures we see in Star Wars it is something to admire.

How would you describe your time working on the mining planet of Kessel?

 It was an extremely realistic experience. So many details, many talented people gathered together, creatures around, the props, the mines, the pressure during the raid felt just like a real escape because the explosions and the wave of so many people running, fighting and screaming. I actually felt like I was on a different planet in a real war. I feel blessed to of had the opportunity to experience a Star Wars movie from both sides of the camera. I understand why Star Wars is one of the most appreciated franchises in the movie industry.

What was it like filming in the Wookiee costume?

At first, I didn’t know what to expect because it was my first experience in a creature costume. I relied on the fact that I have my sports background and that helped me regarding physical condition. I learned quickly that a Wookiee costume is a pretty tough one.  Thanks to a great team, especially to Fiona Barnes, Natalie Hapeshis the make-up lady and Alan Murphy did a great job looking after me.

You’ve made appearances at several comic conventions since the film’s release, how would you describe those experiences?

Everything was new for me regarding comic conventions and I tried to connect with the fans as much as possible.  I had not previously followed Star Wars so that was lot for me to learn. I’ve learned that fans are the ones who matter. They know so many details about this franchise and I respect their passion for Star Wars. I was pleased to have the chance to meet them.

How was it working alongside fellow Wookiee Joonas Suotamo?

First time arriving on set for shootings, I remember saying to myself,” that’s the famous Chewbacca played by Joonas” I never thought I will have this opportunity. Joonas is a great guy, he is always smiling, and he is friendly, he is Chewbacca. I didn’t have the chance to spend a lot of time with him, but he emanates a warm and approachable personality. Overall, I think he is a great guy.

How does your experience in Star Wars compare to other projects you have worked on in the past?

I had never worked on any movie project before. This was my first acting experience.

What are some of your fondest memories from your time working on the film?

To be part of such a fantastic project with such amazing people around me. I’ve made a few new friends.  I enjoyed the time spent with the other three Wookiees’. It was great to be part of the famous Millennium Falcon experience.   I always wished to be in movies, but I never thought I would have the opportunity of this magnitude so quickly, and on top of that to be partly directed by Ron Howard as well.

For me, meeting Woody Harrelson was something special, because I used his character from “White men can’t jump” during my basketball career, as motivation while working on my jumping skills. I love this movie because of him. Overall everything was just beautiful, and I would like to thank the production for entrusting me with the role of Sagwa. It was such a wonderful experience.

Has Star Wars always been a part of your life, if so, what are some of your favourite things about the franchise?

I never followed Star Wars as a fan, but I always admired the creativity of the diverse worlds, creatures and characters from Star Wars movies.  It was so different compared to any other movies I’ve seen. I’m proud to say that I have been involved in a Star Wars project and it is now part of my life.

Do you have any favourite characters from the movies, if so, who are they and why?

I remember I saw A New Hope for the first time when I was around 14, and Darth Vader was the character I liked because of his powerful voice and appearance.  I also like Han Solo because of his sarcasm, but also because Harrison Ford is among my favourite actors.

When you were given the role of Sagwa, were you given any info to accommodate this?

Yes, I had some training with the stunt, VFX and creature teams over a period of time.