One of the defining features of the first Star Wars anthology film, Rogue One has no Jedi. But that wasn’t always the case. In early drafts of the story, Jyn’s mother was going to be a Jedi in hiding. Screenwriter Christ Weitz said, “But we thought that it would be more interesting to have a story without Force power – without lightsabers. We could explore a period of broken faith, a galaxy without hope. There’s despair because the Jedi are gone – and with them, for many, even the memory of the Force (p.97).” In these early drafts, Jyn was going to have a younger brother, but her father was always going to be instrumental in the development of the Death Star. This is just one of the many nuggets of background information found in Abrams Books recent release of The Art of Rogue One.
Title: The Art of Rogue One
Author: Josh Kushins
Cost: $40 (but on Amazon at the time I wrote this it was only $24!)
Age: 16 and up (any Star Wars fan)
Genre: Star Wars, non-fiction, art
I have to admit to being personally fascinated by “The Art of…” books in general. I love delving into the development process, discovering what might have been, watching the evolution of a character and/or a story. But it started with my very first “The Art of…” book – The Art of Star Wars. Apparently, I’m not the only one. Doug Chiang, Lucasfilm VP creative director and co-production designer on Rogue One, wrote in the foreword for The Art of Rogue One that original book inspired him. “Like many young aspiring artists, my career path was cemented from that moment. I knew then that I wanted to create artwork like that (p.10).” Even director Gareth Edwards was influenced by those early works. And in this book you can see the love and detail poured into each illustration as they attempt to capture the essence of what would eventually become what you see on the screen.
When people ask me what I thought of Rogue One, I’ve been describing it as Force 10 from Navarone in space. It was heartening to read nearly those exact words from concept artist Christian Alzmann. “If we go all the way back, it (Rogue One) was very much like Force 10 from Navarone – a ragtag commando team, which would allow us to play with a bunch of different character types and scales (p.23).” Originally, the team would be comprised of protocol droid (not military) K-2SO, Jyn Erso, Senna, Lunak, Dray Nevis, rebel pilot Ria Talla, and Jerris Kestal. If you’re wondering what happened to the other characters, they dropped out or morphed as the focus of the film shifted to Jyn and her own story. I love the original idea of Senna and Lunak who kind of remind of Rocket Raccoon and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact one is huge and the other looks – well like a raccoon. Or fox.
Overall, this book is filled with visual treats and interesting tidbits of information. Why were certain choices made? How were the locations decided upon? How did the look of a character get influenced by the story and the story by the art? One of the neatest stories in the book was about the use of color and setting. Doug Chiang shared, “It parallels what’s going on in her mind at the time. As she progresses and her purpose becomes clearer, the settings themselves become brighter – until the very end is staged in another idyllic environment, because her mind is clear (p.39).” The idea that the environment itself would be a mirror into Jyn’s mind was something that hadn’t occurred to me. I loved the duality of the beautiful landscape of Scarif as a battlefield, but thought it was simply the contrast of the function and the setting that was important. But seeing it as a reflection of Jyn’s character seems like a brilliant use of setting.
There are tons of other bits to read about like the character of Willix who disappeared in the script development. About the evolution of Stormtroopers. About the imagery of Jedha being similar to occupied Paris in WWII. Just so much to look at and read about. So if you love Star Wars, if you’re a fan of those “The Art of…” books, or if you’re just looking for a great gift for that favorite Star Wars fan in your life, this is a great read!
- Abrams also did The Art of The Force Awakens