*Rogue One and Catalyst Spoilers*
As I sit down to write this post I have had a good 24 hours to process Rogue One. In the month leading to the film’s release, the prequel novel, Catalyst, was released. As TumblingSaber fans know, Kyle and I have since started the 3rd TumblingSaber podcast, Journals of the Whilling, with Catalyst being our first piece of Star Wars literature to dissect for the show.
Without recapping too much, we discussed our thoughts going into the novel and then our expectations going into Rogue One having finished the story. One of my main concerns going into the novel at first was the idea that Catalyst would prove to be insignificant in scope. I thought; Was Catalyst actually going to be essential reading or would it brush over some facts that would inevitably be recapped in the film?
Needless to say Catalyst was everything I had hoped it would be. We were treated to a deep and complex character study of moral dilemma. Galen Erso was painted as a man, who while caring deeply for his family, was an individual also married to his life’s work. As Kyle noted on the show, the book explains that the study of Kyber Crystals called to him, it was to be his purpose. On the other hand, there was his wife Lyra, a firm believer in the force and fully reverent of its wonders, mysteries, and sanctity. She revered the Jedi and their ways. Lyra was Galen’s conscience. So, when Lyra began to suspect that the project that Orson Krennic had enlisted Galen in was nothing more than to advance the Empire’s merciless rule, she implored Galen to reconsider.
Additionally, Orson Krennic’s climb to power through manipulation and string pulling served as a perfect juxtaposition to Galen’s riotous duty to provide renewable energy for the galaxy. Even within the empire we saw a very different tug-of-war. Krennic and Tarkin, a man clawing for power vs. a man bred for military and order. (The culmination of this relationship in Rogue One ended perfectly).
Catalyst served as an integral prologue to Rogue One. But did it come at a cost? I felt fortunate enough going into the Rogue One knowing some these characters already, I knew their relationships, their hopes, dreams, and desires. It is safe to say, however, that the casual Star Wars fan did not go into Rogue One having read Catalyst and I believe this may have hurt the story.
Rogue One, picking up were Catalyst ends, brushes passed Lyra and Galen’s relationship and Lyra’s reverence for the Force. Yes, Lyra passed on her wisdom and reverence to Jyn but the film barely scratches the surface of what made Catalyst great. The mining of Kyber Crystals and destruction of Jedha played well for an action packed and visually stunning Star Wars film but failed to address the nuance of the ethical dilemma.
While at the time of writing this post I have only viewed the film once and perhaps after repeat viewings I may pick up on more subtext and explicit text I may have missed the first time around. With the film already clocking in at 2hrs and 13 mins; would it have been too much to have included some flashbacks of Galen, Lyra, and Krennic? (I would have also said Saw but the more I think about it, they did a pretty good job of catching the viewer up on his relationship to Jyn and the Ersos).
Now, I LOVED this film but it left me wondering… Did they put too much in Catalyst that would have also better served character development in Rogue One?