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Sunday, 15 January 2017

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'ROGUE ONE' - THE ULTIMATE VISUAL GUIDE

A period of civil war revealed in the new Visual Guide for ROGUE ONE, out now from DK BOOKS.

ROGUE ONE: THE ULTIMATE VISUAL GUIDE

Written and compiled by Pablo Hidalgo

Foreword by John Knoll

Published by DK BOOKS


Reviewed by Scott Weller


When it comes to the Expanded Universe of STAR WARS old and new, long-term fan and Lucasfilm guru Pablo Hidalgo remains one of its greatest authorities, returning to the world of DK BOOKS, writing text with the kind of informative and imaginative eye for detail that only a member of the company’s dedicated Story Group could bring, via the release of the latest “Ultimate Visual Guide” entry to a STAR WARS movie- this time chronicling the first of the new “Anthology’ series that will become so important to the enduring mythos. Now, at last, the story behind the incredible mission undertaken by Rebel spies to steal the Empire’s Death Star weapon plans, can be revealed - ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.

Carrying on the fine traditions of the earlier tomes, the gorgeous and easy on the eye layouts of past Visual Guides are there, this time strikingly accompanied by lots of great previously unpublished and very atmospheric on set and posed photographic material from the film-its gritty cinematography and production design maximum displayed, as well as important and totally detailed cross section illustrations from Kemp Remillard, but this darker edged adventure - a proper bridge between Prequel and Classic Trilogies that EPISODE III never quite truly became - makes this an essential stand out in DK’s entire STAR WARS publishing run so far.

New bad guys favourites Imperial Death Troopers are revealed.

Opening with a crucial timeline of the events comprising the Prequel period- from the birth and rise of the Empire on core center world Coruscant (nice to see it making an important flash back cameo in the film, the Visual Guide also giving it a notable spread), to the decisive Battle of Scarif and the emergence of the Rebel Alliance as a dangerous threat to their totalitarian rule, the book opens properly at the far-off world of the Lah’mu system, where a neutral scientist, Galen Erso, having perfected and harnessed the scientific skills in harnessing power to destroy on a planetary scale, has gone into hiding from an Empire of which he wants no part, living with his wife and young daughter in a humble farmstead not too dissimilar to the Lars property on Tatooine, the details of its underground interiors barely seen in the film’s beginning but strikingly presented here, including a look at numerous important props, like young Jyn’s toys- including handmade carvings of classic ships, and of a few familiar creatures that animated series fans will certainly recognize.

As the Erso family is tragically fractured and young Jyn becomes a resistance fighter and criminal in later years, we then look at the building in numbers Rebel Alliance she is drafted into with the search for her father, and how it operates effectively inside an hierarchical system- more revealed on the soon archetypal leader Mon Mothma, and newbies like the tense, combat strategy experienced General Draven, and fighter pilot General Merrick, of which the book clearly reveals tense scenes between the strong willed leaders that never made the final cut, part of so much other conceived and filmed background details of people and personnel that would never make the film’s final cut.

Alongside the troubled but determined Jyn, all the main heroes following her in this special, singular adventure get the background details and fleshing out we want to know- starting off with the hardened Rebel spy Cassian Andor, his clever and adaptable reconditioned Imperial droid, K-2SO, and more to come…

Two of the many intriguing new weapons showcased.

Then onto the mysteries of the enigmatic Jedha city, a planet linked to the Force going back to a time long ago, perhaps even longer - its citadel and planetary features mined by the Empire for their unique and power expansive Kyber crystals in a disruptive way that soon engenders the wrath of its occupied people. Discover more about blind but fully sighted in the Force warrior Chirrut Imwe and his fellow Guardian of the Whills companion, friend and battle comrade Baze Malbus, joining our core rebel trio, in their evolving struggle- and their impressive, unique-to-themselves weapon arsenal. Around them all, take a look at the various pilgrims, fighting mercenaries and Imperial hardware patrolling Jedha’s streets, including AT-ST’s and the slow moving, vulnerable yet destruction inducing Imperial Tank. And then there’s Saw Gerrera, the extremist Rebel leader and risk-taking soldier vital to Jyn and Cassian’s already tense now even more perilous mission, of which an important Imperial pilot defector, the flaky Bodhi Rook, has joined their group. The book shows us some of Saw’s scenes in his bald look persona that were never used in the film, primarily his constant medical check ups by a 2-1B droid and moments clearly set outside of his secret cavern. Saw’s long-term beliefs, mostly ignored by his Rebel comrades, about the Empire’s secret construction project are now being given form with their relocation to the plotlines of STAR WARS REBELS Seasons Three.

One of Saw’s most notorious enemies, the slimy, ambitious and dangerous Special Weapons Director Orson Krennic leads the Imperial charge with their impressive section of the book, and his plans to win the Emperor’s favour with the immense and all powerful Death Star, now a terror reality, after nearly twenty years of prior delays, thanks to its unique superweapon, all realized with the ultimately unwilling help of Orson’s manipulated friend Galen Erso- the two intrinsically linked to each other in Armageddon-making as the mighty vessel of intimidation and world killing is revealed in all its glory, including  some great schematics showing the primary weapon and its placing within the sphere’s superstructure. Krennic’s hated rival for control of the Death Star in the Grand Moff Tarkin is mentioned but not seen, however-the book not wanting to spoil the CGI surprises. The Emperor’s true right hand man in terror, Darth Vader, making critical appearances in the film, gets his own satisfying book spread, though his plot involvement is barely and deliberately not touched upon, in its place comes a potted history of how he came to being from the once Jedi Anakin Skywalker- watch out for only a brief mention of his equally intimidating homeworld castle on an also unmentioned Mustafar. Rounding out the section, there’s a look at the original ground solders of the Empire in the Stormtroopers, which, for ROGUE ONE, received a mild design makeover from their originally conceived form, and some of the other old/new variants– the classic Star Destroyers and the many Imperial officers seen in power positions given names and specific duties, plus a detailed cross-section examination of Krennic’s old but starkly efficient and representative Delta T-3C shuttle.

Jyn’s attempted rescue of her father on the secret research world of Eadu is barely outlined (again for plot secrecy reasons), though the facility and its technicians (including pictured DR WHO veteran actor Richard Franklin and stuntman Paul Weston) are adequately represented. Then follows the decisive Battle of Scarif, and the way the conflict on the tropical world will be played out as a diversionary tactic, outlined with more on the scattered band of loyal Rebel soldiers involved, what they’re up to on its beaches, and the might of the Imperial arsenal eventually meeting them in close-quarters battle across the shorelines and jungles – obviously, from Hidalgo’s point of view, this was the section that had to be focused on events that hadn’t changed so much from the original ending adapted via reshoots from last Summer- the film’s last third literally evolving as the book was being written and produced- Jyn and Cassian’s nervous journey into the Imperial Citadel’s heart, to the main vault containing the Death Star plans, are mentioned but not fully touched upon.

As the outside diversionary battle begins, the action remains sketchily described, though there are full details on the vital Rebel Pathfinder soldiers involved, the Rebel fighter squadron pilots who join the battle from Yavin IV (many of whom shown here are barely glimpsed in the final cut) and a look at the all-new, more easy to take down AT-ACT cargo walkers trundling out of the jungle forest to bring their weapons and mighty feet down on the rebels they pursue. Additionally not so easy for the Rebel Alliance responding fighters to take down are the newly developed TIE Sky Fighters, specifically designed for atmospheric combat and speedy pursuit, notably giving Merrick’s Blue Squadron a lethal time.

The book closes with the all-important perusal of the first of the Mon Calamari cruisers joining this epic space battle against the Empire- the Profundity, commanded by the Mon Calamarian equivalent of World War II statesman Winston Churchill in Admiral Raddus, his striking and immense vessel spirited away from their watery homeworld with the rest of their rebel cell once the Empire’s invasion of their homes intensified.

Beyond the story, there’s a nice closing look at the making of the film, with some nice image exclusives provided from the Lucasfilm Production office. The section starts with some glorious conceptual and production art, then a towards the pre production development of the film- the ways its storytelling and visual feel will merge in with the original STAR WARS of 1977, and a look at the outside filming on the Pinewood Studios backlot and on location in memorable climes like the Maldives.

AFICIONADO RATING: With an interesting new tougher, edgier feel about it-perhaps because of the film it represents bears such a unique one-off narrative, paired with a more distinctive visual style, interesting raw characters and story details, Hidalgo’s universe and time building for the film and its place in STAR WARS history works well, his specially written all-new background material at fine synch. Despite the obvious need to keep surprises back, ROGUE ONE – THE VISUAL GUIDE may well be one of DK’s finest and essential STAR WARS offerings yet. 4.5 out of 5


Great new ROGUE ONE titles, out now from DK BOOKS.

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