Disney’s Star Wars universe is filled with exciting new additions to the canon, coming to us in the form of comics, novels, and even a new animated TV series. The culmination of complementary material has made it so fans never have to go long without a new Star Wars story in between movie releases. In the case of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, there’s plenty to catch up on leading into your first viewing of the film. All the pre-Rogue One stories available out there are integral to understanding where the film fits in the greater context of the Star Wars universe, and while it’s not required reading, it’s still helpful all the same.
1. Star Wars: Lords of the Sith
Set in the years following Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader, Paul S. Kemp’s standalone novel follows the newly minted Sith Lord and his master, Emperor Palpatine, after they crash land on Ryloth in the middle of a local insurgency. In it, we get a chance to peek inside Vader’s helmet for some insight into his own mental state, his commitment to his new master, and his newfound ruthlessness. It’s a good chance to really understand the dynamic between him and Palpatine, all while reading about a version of Vader who’s only just entered into his villainous prime.
2. “The Onderon Arc,” from The Clone Wars animated series
Expecting anyone to catch up on all 121 episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars before seeing Rogue One is a tad unrealistic. That said, there is one important story arc to get familiar with, spanning Episodes 2-5 of the fifth season. Known as “The Onderon Arc,” it tells the story of a young insurgent named Saw Gerrera, who is fighting back Separatist invaders with the help of the Jedi and Republic forces. A much older Gerrera is set to be played by Forest Whitaker in Rogue One, who is now battling the Empire on Jedha, alongside his band of guerilla fighters.
The film also paints Gerrera as an old friend of the Erso family, making him a key player in Jyn’s own mission to rescue her father and retrieve the Death Star plans.
3. Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
Of all the pre-Rogue One material available out there, Catalyst carries the most relevant information. The novel deals specifically in the relationship between Galen Erso and Orson Krennic, as the latter tries to coerce the former into helping develop the destructive super-laser of the Death Star. Their history dates back decades, beginning as old friends, and later becoming heated enemies as Galen begins to question the nature of his work with Krennic. Having read the novel and seen the film ourselves, we can definitively say Catalyst enriches the entire Rogue One experience in a big way.
4. Star Wars Rebels
The follow-up series to The Clone Wars, Rebels is set in the early days of the Rebellion, before it became the more united front we see in Rogue One and A New Hope. Each season affords us a better understanding of just how the Rebel Alliance came to be, told to us through the eyes of Phoenix Squadron and the Ghost crew. Darth Vader, voiced by James Earl Jones himself, shows up in Season 2 as the primary villain, suggesting heavy ties to the version of the Sith Lord we’re about to see in Rogue One. One teaser for the film even suggests a decently strong tie-in to the Rebels series, making its three seasons a must-watch experience for fans.
5. Star Wars: Tarkin
Amidst rumors that Grand Moff Tarkin will make an appearance in Rogue One, it’s important that we get an understanding of who he is on a deeper level, past the one-off villain who perished after a single film. James Luceno’s Tarkin novel gives us just that, cutting between his younger days surviving in the wilderness of his home planet, to a present-day mission where he and Darth Vader gain a mutual respect for each other. It’s during that mission that Tarkin realizes Vader is in fact Anakin Skywalker, the heroic Jedi that rescued him from a Separatist prison during the Clone Wars (as seen in “The Citadel Arc,” spanning Episodes 18-20 of The Clone War‘s third season).
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