Alexander Freed wrote the best Star Wars novel to date and his style fits perfectly what we hope Rogue One will be.
Reshoots have fans worried.
Every movie schedules reshoots, but scuttlebutt is that Rogue One’s getting more than most, and that they’re happening because Disney wants more humor. That they want a “lighter” story and jokier dialog. Disney’s denied this, but studios always deny fans’ fears, right?
So are we facing a needlessly “family friendly” movie? Will Rogue One suffer the senseless humor of the prequels? To date, I haven’t been much concerned. Now, with the announcement of Alexander Freed as the author of the movie’s novel tie-in, I’m even less so.
Freed’s not an established name in Star Wars books. He’s a video game and comics guy. But his one novel, Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company, is the best in the new Star Wars cannon. (It’s the only tie-in novel to make BuzzFeed’s list of the “24 Best Science Fiction Books of 2015.”) In fact, Twilight Company is quite likely the best written novel to bear the Star Wars name, and certainly the one that makes the best case for being just a good novel, even if you filed off all the Star Wars bits.
It’s also the most distinctive in tone — and that tone is what bodes well for Rogue One the movie. Disney had a ton of choices for the novelization. They could’ve turned to one of their regulars, like Alan Dean Foster. They could’ve chosen someone of bland competence, like Troy Denning. But they went with a guy who has only a single novel under his belt.
The thing that sents Twilight Company apart isn’t just the quality of its prose and dialog, though both are excellent. What sets it apart is its grown-up psychology, in contrast to most Star Wars novels, which tend to go for a style of what I’ll call “adolescent” psychology.
It’s important to note that this distinction isn’t about the presence of violence or “grittiness.” You could tell a psychologically adult light adventure story and a psychologically adolescent war story. Twilight Company is, of course, about war, but that’s not what makes it so good.
The common feature of the adolescent style is that characters act without feeling the weight of their situations. They fret, yes, and get angsty, but they maintain a sort of archetypal detachment. Han is always wisecracking Han, no matter what’s happening. The young lovers in Star Wars: Lost Stars swoon for each other because that’s what young lovers are supposed to do, even when their world is falling apart. And all of it happens in a way that meets the expectations of how children and tweens and teenagers believe adults act and think instead of the way adults actually act and think.
Bloodline tells Leia’s story, as she slouches through a dull political career suddenly made livelier by uncovered secrets, unexpected betrayal, and a fall from grace. But the whole thing has a typically juvenile feel, like this is how an unworldly teenager thinks politics works or spying missions play out or adults talk to each other. There’s a lack of psychological plausibility, a lack of realistic emotional expression, and a lack of meaningful danger.
This tone pervades most Star Wars novels. They rarely feel real — and in a way that has nothing to do with aliens and spaceships and the Force.
Twilight Company feels real. It feels like actual people with psychological depth, facing situations that make them uncomfortable or put them in difficult positions, and then responding as adults genuinely would. Their motives make sense, their reactions to events and to each other make sense. The characters of Twilight Company are, dare I say it, deep.
What does this mean for Rogue One? Like I said above, Lucasfilm didn’t have to choose Freed to write the novel. He wasn’t an obvious pick. So that decision, coupled with how much Twilight Company (again, his only published novel to date) stands out from the rest, makes me think that his announced tie to Rogue One is because Rogue One will match Alexander Freed.
If that’s the case, then we’ll get a movie that also stands out, and for all the right reasons.