A fantastic retelling of the movie that both expands upon everything in the movie.
First off, I want to give an update to my Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel Review. I did end up watching Rogue One the movie shortly after finishing Catalyst and immediately before beginning the novelization of the movie and I must say that Catalyst improved my viewing experience of the movie. At least for the beginning sections, I felt more invested in the characters than I ever felt upon initial viewing. So, yeah, I guess Catalyst did have an impactful effect on the movie, despite not being an overly fantastic book.
Now onto the review of the novelization of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is the sequel to Catalyst I think. Well at least Catalyst came out first. But since the Rogue One book was based on some movie called Rogue One I guess it would be more fair to state that Catalyst was the prequel to Rogue One. Or we can just refer to it as How we get that Big Ball of Death in the Original Star Wars Movie – Part 2.
Anyway, the story is the novelization of the movie Rogue One, and if you are reading this post then I’m assuming you have at least seen the movie. It’s about a big ball in the sky that likes to blow things up and a young girl named Jyn who is conscripted (forced?) to find a way to defeat it. Oh, and the guy who developed the big ball in the sky’s super laser? That would be Jyn’s dad. Well they recover the plans for the battle station, which you knew if you saw the original Star Wars 40 years ago, and are able to give it to a CGI Princess Leia who leaps off into hyperspace as everyone we know and love in the movie is killed. Oh…wait…spoiler warning.
But we are here to talk about the book, not the movie. Many people have talked about the movie. Not as many have read or talked about the book. The novelization was written by Alexander Freed, his second novel in the new canon. His first novel was Battlefront: Twilight Company, which I really, really liked, so I was generally in good spirits when it came to reading this book. Now typically, the novelizations of the Star Wars movies have almost always came off as a chore for me to read. Not many have been memorable save Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. The Clone Wars novelization was memorable mainly because I loved Karen Traviss as a Star Wars author. But besides that, I have generally disliked to loathed most of the movie novelizations. Well, now we come to the ninth movie novelization and the second to be embraced fully into the Canon Universe (you see, all previous novelizations, except The Force Awakens, were granted canon status as long as they aligned with the movies, meaning that anything not on screen couldn’t be considered canon, making all the great parts about the Revenge of the Sith novelization mostly moot).
So how does this novelization hold up? Well like I said, I am very hesitant to read the movie novelizations mostly because I hate them. There is rarely anything worth reading in them I couldn’t get from the screen. It’s like being blind and having someone describe all of the movies to me. In general, I could live without them. But being a Star Wars story completionist, I have to read them all. And since Catalyst was rumored to lead right into Rogue One, I waited for a time that I could read them back to back (You can read “>my review of Catalyst at your leisure). I have since writing that review rewatched Rogue One before delving into this novel and have come out the other side. I do love the movie. I find it witty and insightful and just generally a good movie, which made wading into this novel slightly less nerve wracked than I typically am.
The biggest thing about the Star Wars novelizations that people look for are the scenes not shown in the movie. What do you mean Unkar Plutt followed Rey to Takodona? It’s in the novelization? Does that even count then? And so on…. But what I found in the novelization of Rogue One was that every scene felt expanded upon. The writing was so rich that it expanded all the interactions and scenes just slightly enough that I had a hard time placing the scene at first. Then as I read on I could feel the scene shift into focus. The book isn’t a glorified expansion of the movie script (which most novelizations end up becoming). It is its own living document, breathing fresh life into the story on its own. I found out motivations for some characters that I didn’t realize I was missing when I watched the movie. I discovered short bridging scenes I didn’t realize were needed to explain continuity throughout the movie. I even found interactions that were sorely lacking in the movie be expanded upon and livened up.
One item of note that I noticed as I was reading the novel was — remember that little girl that Jyn randomly saves in the middle of Jedha? Well, Freed gives us an upclose view of her death scene when the Death Star blasts the city. Oh what fun that was. Overall, I found the novel to be a lot more depressing than even the movie was. I felt a closer connection to the characters than I did in the movie and since they are mostly all killed off by the end, their deaths were a lot more impactful for me.
The one thing I missed though was the humor from the movie. The movie has fantastic humor, mostly in the presence of K-2SO, as played by Alan Tudyk. The humor as presented in the movie is replicated on the pages but it loses something in the translation. It’s as if Tudyk’s mannerisms and dialogue, while they have the ability to be portrayed on the page, really don’t come across all that well. Tudyk’s performance is a physical as well an emotional performance, most of which is lost in the novel. I laugh when I read it, but not because it’s funny in the book, but because it was funny in the movie.
But that’s it. Besides the loss of the humor, this novelization is amazingly awesome. The storyline of the Death Star is carried through these two novels and while Catalyst felt rather rote at times, Rogue One has the benefit of being polished over by many writers before being transformed into a major blockbuster movie and THEN being converted into a novel. The story has had a lot of hands on it, and it shows. Not in how muddled it is, which it isn’t, but by how polished it feels. The novelization is able to convey all of the aspects of the story that the movie wasn’t, or couldn’t, portray and Freed does it remarkably well.