I’ve written quite a bit about Jyn Erso from Rogue One (in my Monday Musings and Friday Focus), but in truth, Cassian Andor is my favorite character from Rogue One. I could listen to Diego Luna talk all day.
(Spy Featurette from Rogue One blue-ray courtesy of mranderson00001.)
I just finished reading the Rogue One novelization by Alexander Freed, and I have to say, though I enjoyed it, I’m not sure if “book Jyn” is the same person as “movie Jyn.”
Here’s what I mean. The same events happen to her as in the movie, the same origins, and the same end. Everything’s the same on the outside. On the inside of Jyn’s mind and heart, however, I saw a different person than I saw onscreen.
In the movie, Jyn is an emotionally distant criminal with no allegiances. She’s hurt and bewildered by her mother’s death and her father’s and Saw’s abandonment. It makes her bitter and hardened, distrustful.
In the book, Jyn is not merely bitter–she’s a raging inferno of hate. She hates everyone and everything, but especially her father, Galen Erso. Seriously, if Jyn was a Force user, she’d have turned to the Dark Side almost immediately. She spits anger and hatred and distrust almost constantly, a tensed animal ready to spring into violence.
I was a little unsettled by this version of Jyn. While I perfectly understood it, it was at odds with the Jyn I saw portrayed by Felicity Jones onscreen. Maybe it’s Jones’ lovely face that made me feel there was more hurt and loneliness behind her heart than hatred. A silly tendency, maybe; but Jones is a wonderful actress, and I seriously doubt she misunderstood the character.
That means the author decided to go deep into Jyn’s psyche to tell the story, and what he apparently found there caused him to create a character that constantly wanted to blow things up. Kind of like an unhinged, female Poe Dameron.
Someone who compartmentalizes her pain to survive, and stuffs all her emotions into a “dark cave” that she rarely explores. It’s the cave she hid inside as a child, waiting for someone to find her. Over the course of the book, that cave keeps opening up to her little by little, a bit of light here and there to illuminate everything she’s trying to deny or forget. When she sees the holographic message from her father, it puts her into a tailspin; she doesn’t know what to think of her father anymore:
My father is alive. My father is a traitor. My father is building a weapon to destroy worlds. My father is a hero. My father is a coward. My father is a bastard. Galen Erso is not my father. Galen Erso didn’t raise me…
The girl’s a tad messed up. Who can blame her? However, over the course of the book, that dark cave of emotions keeps getting pried open more and more, until, at the end of the story, when she and Cassian and the Rogue One crew are on their way to get the Death Star plans come hell or high water, it’s wide open and illuminated. She’s accepted everything that’s in there, is at peace with it, and herself–she’s now a woman with a purpose, doing what she’s meant to do. When the end comes,
…The world grew brighter, emerald at first and then a clean, purifying white. In Jyn’s mind, the cave below the broken hatch was illuminated with the strength of a sun, and then the walls turned to dust and there was no longer a cave but only her spirit and heart and everything she had ever been: the daughter of Galen and Lyra and Saw, the angry fighter and the shattered prisoner and the champion and the friend.
Soon all those things, too, burned away, and Jyn Erso–finally at peace–became one with the Force.
At the end, book Jyn and movie Jyn are the same, and the differences don’t seem to matter too much.
I always enjoy reading the novelizations of the movies, because it gives us a chance to see into a character’s mind a little bit more than a movie can do. This one was more uncomfortable than most, but still worth a read.
Check out my Women of Star Wars post on Jyn Ersohere.
Did you read the Rogue One novelization? What did you think? Comment below and we’ll talk about it!
Here’s the latest installment of my Women of Star Wars series.
Jyn Erso from Rogue One is an interesting character to analyze, because she doesn’t initially align herself with either the Empire or the Alliance. Who is she and what does she want?
At the beginning of the film, I assumed that after witnessing the death of her mother at the hands of an Imperial, an Imperial who also took her father away, she’d naturally drift toward the Alliance. But no. When we first see her as an adult, she’s a criminal who is busted out of imprisonment by the Alliance for their own reasons.
My assumption was based on adult thinking; I forgot that as an 8-year old, Jyn might have understood things differently. All she knew was that she lost her parents to the Empire; and she was left in the hands of Saw Gerrera, an extremist formerly linked with the Alliance, who taught her how to survive, surely, but who also “abandoned” her. She trusts no one, and just lives day to day to survive.
I’ve read the Rogue One novelization, and it gets deeper into the character of Jyn. The book presents her as not just distrustful, but deeply damaged by these perceived abandonments; not only that, she spends many years hating her father. I’m going to delve deeper into the novelization in another post, but for now I’ll focus on Jyn as seen in the film.
We don’t necessarily see that hate for Galen Erso in the film; what we see is a person who has endured many losses, who has had to fight to survive, and who has become bitter with that life. When her father says when she’s a child, “Whatever I do, I do because I love you. Say you understand,” and she replies, “Yes, Papa,” we know that an 8 year old can’t possibly understand what’s happening and why. The loss of her father is painful and bewildering, and she’s angry without understanding why.
When Saw Gerrera leaves her behind because she’s a liability for his group, he left her able to take care of herself. We, the audience, may understand it intellectually, but as a 15-year old, Jyn just sees it as another abandonment. Is it any wonder she has no particular allegiances?
When she agrees to help the Alliance, it’s because she has no choice, really, but we get the feeling that she needs to find her father, if only to get answers. This is a personal quest for Jyn; she’s not there because she hates the Empire, or has any sympathy for the Alliance. She probably hates them both, along with everyone else in the galaxy.
Things start to change for her once she sees her father’s hologram message. She understands a little more about him, what he’s done, and why. It brings up painful, almost paralyzing emotions, and Cassian must pull her away to escape the destruction of Jedha’s Holy City.
On Eadu, Galen Erso dies in her arms (from Alliance bombs, no less). His last words to her are “It has to be destroyed.” At this point, Jyn becomes determined to do just that–not for the Alliance, but to give her father’s death meaning. It’s still personal. Her father built the damn thing himself so he could secretly put a weakness inside it. This cost him his family, and caused Jyn to live the painful life she’d lived. It has to all mean something. She must finish the job, if she’s to have any kind of personal resolution.
But it’s also not just personal anymore, either. Her confrontation with Cassian after Eadu moves her closer to this. She’s understandably upset when she learns he meant to kill her father all along. This perceived betrayal cuts deep, considering her trust issues. Cassian argues that he decided–on his own, against orders–not to pull the trigger. It’s not enough for Jyn, and she continues to harass him. He counters with, “You’re not the only one who’s lost everything.” Like her, he’s been suffering since he was a child. But, he says, “Some of us decided to do something about it.” Ouch.
She still grumbles, but it’s here that she’s beginning to come out of her own personal, painful bubble. Her faith in Cassian is restored when he gathers the Rogue One team after the Alliance Council decides against attack. The last third of the film shows Jyn being who she was meant to be: a woman with a purpose. She needs to destroy that Death Star not only to avenge her father and give his death meaning; not only to take back some power for herself after a life of powerlessness; but because it’s the right thing to do.
Jyn’s not looking to be a hero, but her sacrifice makes her one, along with the rest of the team. As she and Cassian watch their death approach, there’s sadness in her, certainly some fear, but no regret. She’s done what she’s meant to do.
How do you feel about Jyn’s character? Did she ring true for you? Comment below and we’ll talk about it!
For some reason, I’ve just watched Rogue One for the first time. I’m not sure why I resisted watching it until now, but I’m kicking myself, because it’s absolutely amazing! I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll just list a few (there’s so much!) of the things I loved about this film:
It has nothing to do with the Skywalker storyline. Let me rephrase that: it doesn’t directly have anything to do with the Skywalkers. It does quite literally tie in with A New Hope, and a Skywalker appears in the form of Darth Vader, but it’s not about that family. And don’t get me wrong; I love the Skywalker saga. Star Wars is the Skywalker saga. But it’s so refreshing to see this world from a different perspective. None of the characters are “special” in any way, they don’t have grand bloodlines. They’re just ordinary people, fighting for what they believe in. Jyn Erso, as the daughter of an important Imperial engineer, is the only one with any prominent name, but even she starts out as a criminal. There’s no Star Wars royalty here; it’s just about The People.
It’s refreshing, but still has all the familiar Star Wars elements. I love seeing the whole “New Hope” look again. The ships, the uniforms, the technology, the Rebel base on Yavin 4–everything just screams Episode 4, but obviously the special effects are even better. It’s New Hope next level. There are plenty of familiar faces, too: bringing Grand Moff Tarkin back is amazing, but I have to admit, he’s a little creepy. Darth Vader is electrifying in his brief scenes–and seeing him in that bacta tank reminds us that even though he nearly burned to death 20 years ago, he’s probably still in constant pain. Yikes. Seeing Gold Leader in his X-Wing, as well as Porkins, and was that Biggs Darklighter, Luke’s buddy from Tattoine? Cool. Two aliens, whose names escape me, from the Mos Eisley Cantina that Cassian and Jyn run into on Jedha (and are cranky as ever). Leia, played by an actress who looks remarkably like Carrie Fisher (or was that CGI too?). Bail Organa, Mon Mothma. It was fantastic seeing all these original characters.
It’s a story I never knew I needed to know. Way back when, I just took it for granted that the Rebels “somehow” got the Death Star plans, and the story began there. Turns out, it was waaaay more complicated than that. In fact, it’s one hell of a story, one full of anguish, pain, excitement, tragedy, and hope. It forces me to look at A New Hope in a different light: good people died to get this information–not just faceless unknowns, but characters we’ve come to care about. You damn well better blow up that thing! It also explains why the Death Star had such a vulnerability–it wasn’t just a random mistake, it was purposely put there. It’s more believable.
It’s edge-of-your-seat exciting. The entire third act had me biting my nails anxiously, every muscle tensed, even though I knew they would succeed in their mission. It didn’t matter; I was in an agony of suspense. How would they accomplish this impossible task? Who would live, who would die? My eyes often glaze over during long action sequences, but not this time. Every moment counted.
I’ve finally found the droid I’ve been looking for. K2SO is quite possibly the first droid I’ve ever loved in Star Wars. Sure, R2D2, BB8, and DO are adorable, but they don’t speak our language, and it’s hard to relate to them as more than just cute pets. And don’t get me started on C3P0–he’s mostly just annoyed me for the past 40 years. But this guy (as well as Solo’s L3) is a droid character I actually came to care for. I laughed at almost every sentence that came out of his, well, mouth. He’s funny and likable, sarcastic, while still having that touch of droid innocence. And those long, skinny legs! Loved, loved, loved him. I truly grieved when he unquestioningly gave his life for the cause.
Not everyone in the Empire is evil. Finn from the sequel trilogy is the first character we see that defects from the “bad guys”. It’s always interesting to see a more balanced view of both the “good” guys (who are not always perfect) and the “bad” guys (who are often just human beings like the rest of us). Galen Erso is a man with a conscience–as an Imperial engineer, he recognizes that the weapon he’s working on is truly monstrous and must not be allowed to exist. He risks his family (and ultimately loses them) and commits treason to make sure this is so. There’s also Bodhi Rook, the Imperial cargo pilot who defects and brings Galen’s message to Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera. In the earlier trilogies, the galaxy seemed to be made up of black and white; the sequel trilogy and the stand alone films explore the fact the there’s quite a large area of gray in life.
The main character is a woman. It may seem unnecessary to point this out, but I don’t think so. It’s still kind of a big deal for me. Along with Rey, she’s the heir to Princess Leia, who was a strong female character who nevertheless wasn’t the main hero of the films–Luke was. Padme was just as strong in her own way, but again, it wasn’t her hero’s journey–it was Anakin’s. In Rey, we finally get a proper female protagonist; and Jyn is her complement in Rogue One. There may be others in the canon, like Ahsoka Tano in The Clone Wars, but I’m not familiar with that story. If so, that’s fantastic. I’m planning on writing more on Jyn Erso in my Women of Star Wars series, so stay tuned.
I absolutely loved all the members of Rogue One. This group of people really lodged themselves in my heart–Jyn Erso, the prodigal daughter who is determined to give meaning to her father’s death; Cassian, the tough, crafty Rebel intelligence officer with a heart; Bodhi Rook, the erstwhile Imperial pilot whose stutterings are charming and endearing; Chirrut Imwe, the Force-sensitive Guardian of the Whills, blind and amazingly deadly with a staff; his loyal companion, Baze Malbus, who carries a big gun and an even bigger love for his friend; and of course, the irrepressible K2SO. Thrown together by circumstances, they make a great team and get the job done. I adored every one of them.
The ending crushed me–and then filled me with hope all over again. As the characters began to die off, I knew it was inevitable. Someone has to die. But all of them?! As Jyn and Cassian stumbled down to the beach and watched their doom approach, my throat closed. Does it have to be this way? my heart wailed. And the answer is, yes, of course it does. They went into this knowing they may not come back. They were willing to sacrifice their lives for it, and they did. Do I like this? No. Did it give the film more emotional heft, and make the events of A New Hope more poignant? Yes.
I haven’t even mentioned Orson Krennic, the main antagonist, or said much about Saw Gerrera, or discussed the less-than-flattering light of the Alliance in this movie, but I’ve gushed for too long here, an you get the picture. Perhaps another blog post is in order?
These are some of the reasons I loved Rogue One, a just about perfect Star Wars movie. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch it again.
Did you love Rogue One? Comment below and we’ll talk about it!