There are three specifications every coffee-table movie-making book must adhere to survive placement atop our decorative living room lumber. First, it should be contemporary. Few visitors desire to read about years-old movies concerning genetically-modified apes or terrestrial robots in disguise. Second, it should make for an elegant centerpiece. Paperbacks and bathroom readers need not apply. Finally, it should engage couch-potatoes with gorgeous artwork and easy quick reading. Pablo Hidalgo’s Star Wars Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide is a superlative example of this criteria.
Illustrated by Kemp Remillard, this visual guide is an educational handbook expertly crafted and organized for-and-by Star Wars aficionados. From timelines and maps, to structural details and vehicle specifications, the book is as pedagogic as it is a joy to behold. Hidalgo has arranged this quasi-encyclopedia into six chapters mimicking acts in the film.
The book opens with a foreword from Executive Producer and Visual Effects Supervisor, John Knoll. He talks about the forward progress of science fiction film and the high-quality design ushered in by the Star Wars saga. He mentions the importance of making Rogue One not for nostalgia’s sake, but to seamlessly connect with A New Hope using some familiarity and the introduction of entire new worlds, characters and vehicles. Following the foreword is an introduction to the film, followed by renderings of the galactic map and planets visited in the film.
The first chapter details the Erso family’s struggle to remain hidden from Orson Krennic and the Imperial Army. There’s much reading to get excited about here but pay close attention to the fantastic spread of Jyn’s collection of toys. From the conspicuous stormtrooper figure to carvings and stuffed figures we didn’t get to enjoy in the film. These are beautiful props deserving of our attention. The final pages of the opening chapter offer a cross-sectional view of Krennic’s shuttle and an intriguing look at the ominous bodyguard Death Troopers.
The next few chapters outline Jyn’s transition from refugee orphan to covert rebel operative. She is introduced to resistance leaders and figureheads, each with full-page character analysis and allegiances. Looking for technical specifications of an X-wing star fighter or U-wing gunship? This is where you’ll find your answer. Jyn’s adventure finds her in the holy city of Jedha where she’ll eventually saddle up a posse of extremists, mercs and pilot. Readers will certainly consume the background history on these warriors but they’ll also gawk in the glory that is the Empire’s Combat Assault Tank, the TX-225 Occupier. At this point my head is hurting trying to wrap my head around the many man-hours Star Wars creatives must have contributed to this expansive universe over the years.
The Empire commands chapters four and five, but it will soon find itself under attack. The book lulls for a moment, not offering much in terms of any exclusive data, but there is a brief update on Orson Krennic for those as fascinated with actor Ben Mendelsohn’s portrayal as I was. His obsession with completing the Death Star has him eying operational command of the “planet-killing superweapon,” but Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin have other plans. Meanwhile, Jyn launches an against-all-odds attempt to infiltrate the Scarif Data Vault and steal the Death Star plans. The plans for the Death Star are, funny enough, pretty well detailed on the pages of this book as they apparently were when Leia got her hands on them. Skip ahead to page 150 for this beautifully simple sketch. Not to be outdone by the Imperial Army, the rebels get treated to one of my favorite spreads in the entire book. It’s a visual diagram of every Rebel pilot’s helmet and it’s just gorgeous.
Chapter six covers actual production of the film from storyboarding and screen tests to some of the unconventional shooting methods employed by director Gareth Edwards. If I had to nitpick, I’d say this final chapter leaves the most to be desired, but Star Wars is notoriously secretive behind-the-scenes so not much of a surprise there. The final image is of stormtrooper extras capturing a moment of rest beneath the popular Canary Wharf symbol where shooting of the Scarif Citadel took place. It’s a fitting end to an exciting, albeit exhaustive reading experience.
Star Wars Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide is written by Pablo Hidalgo and illustrated by Kemp Remillard. It is published by DK Books and available at local retailers and online at PenguinRandomHouse.com