ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is the most important film to enter the STAR WARS canon to date. While the initial reaction and hype has this billed as one of the best films of the series; that’s a bit of a loaded statement. Yes, the film is fantastic, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen from the cinematic universe before, but after the shock and awe wears down; it will still be a top tier film, but somewhere behind EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and A NEW HOPE. ROGUE ONE is important for an array of reasons, but most importantly the films serves as a bridge between the film series as well as other mediums of the STAR WARS canon.
Jimmy Smits’ reprisal as Leia’s father and Rebel leader highlights a very important purpose. Smits authenticates the prequel trilogy for those diehard fans that have disdain and immediately dismissal of them. Smits as well as the reprisal of Genevieve O’Reilly as Republic Senator and successor to Bail, Mon Motha, legitimizes aspects of the prequels, as well as Disney further proving that they are not going to shy away from Lucas’ “controversial” trilogy. O’Reilly would have been easy to recast, most of her scenes were cut from REVENGE OF THE SITH, and she isn’t particularly a well-known actress to the populous outside of STAR WARS diehards. Both of these characters biggest roles can be found within the CLONE WARS series, were both parts are voiced by different actors.
Both these actors are great in their respective roles, and are given much more to do than any of us originally thought. Smits has his most lengthy role to date, as does O’Reilly; and they are both important aspect of Disney’s bigger picture of what they plan on doing moving forward beyond the safe haven of the saga films. Along with Vader and the CGI reconstructed Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, the most important job these actors had was anchoring the film within the universe that so many of us hold so dear.
Forest Whitaker’s turn as Saw Gerrera, the Colonel Kurtz esque defrocked Rebel, might be the boldest move yet by Disney. The origins of Gerrara lay within George Lucas’ concept for a live action STAR WARS show titled UNDERWORLD, an unproduced project that was originally announced in 2005. Gerrera then made his first appearance in a four episode arc of the fifth season of animated series CLONE WARS. Gerrera was a very grey shaded resistance fighter who used whatever methods possible to fight off the Separatists.
When it was first announced that Whitaker was playing a character we’ve already seen in the SW universe, rumors swirled of Captain Panaka from THE PHANTOM MENACE, Dash Rendar from the non-canonized novel SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE. Then it was quickly announced who he was playing, and many of us quickly booted up Netflix to rewatch the four episode arc. So, why did Disney do this?
By doing this, Disney opens the door to make cinematic crossovers. Bring characters to screen who we’ve seen before in novels, animated TV shows, or comics. It was heavily rumored that bounty hunter Cad Bane was going to make an appearance in ROGUE ONE. That ended up not being the case, but I imagine we’ll see him and other fan favorites (Ahsoka, Hondo, Thrawn) make cinematic appearances in the near future.
Lastly, the inclusion of Gerrera was a very nice and symbolic gesture to the creator, George Lucas. In reality, Gerrera is an inconsequential character in the SW universe. His part in the film could have just as easily had an original name with no prior connection, and it would not have lessened the impact of his character in the slightest. For as ridiculously controversial the creator, George Lucas, has become amongst SW diehards, Disney showing him direct tribute with the addition of Saw Gerrera was an incredibly gracious gesture. After all, without George Lucas, we wouldn’t have ROGUE ONE.