The trailer for 2016 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is one of the coolest pieces of Star Wars content that The Walt Disney Company has ever released. The movie itself is unfortunately a bit of a mixed bag. Although director Gareth Edwards wanted to make the Saving Private Ryan of the Star Wars universe, extensive reshoots and post-production work completely changed the direction of the film. Writer and director Tony Gilroy was brought in to save the film, saying that “they were in so much terrible, terrible trouble that you could only improve their position.”
although Rogue One turned out not to be a complete disgrace, the film does feel like a collection of mismatched scenes strung together at the last minute. One of the main criticisms of the film is that the characters are not given time to fully develop as individuals. There is no case where that is more true than with Saw Gerrera’s character. Portrayed by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker in one of the most mind-boggling appearances of his career, Saw is an extremist resistance leader who has broken away from the Rebel Alliance.
Saw’s role in the film is odd; he saves Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) as a child, but then disappears from the story. Finally, Saw meets his untimely demise during the Imperial attack on the planet Jedha. Theatergoers were left bewildered. On paper, Saw represents a fascinating type of character. He shows that just because someone hates the Galactic Empire does not automatically guarantee that they are a good person. Saw does have an interesting story to tell, though; it’s just not the one you saw in Rogue One. Star Wars animation helped flesh out a character that showed the universe wasn’t so black and white.
Prior to Whitaker’s appearance in the live-action spin-off film, Saw originated in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. In a season 5 arc that takes place on the planet Onderon, Saw (Andrew Kishino) and his sister, Steela (Dawn Lyen Gardner) start a rebel movement on their home planet. Onderon’s king, Ramsis Dendup (Barry Dennen), had tried to remain neutral during the war between the Galactic Republic and the Confederation of Independent Systems. Saw and his sister are loyal to the king’s position. It’s an understandable attitude; both sides represent different forms of fascism.
However, Saw and Steela begin to disagree when Dendup is overthrown by Sanjay Rash (Kirk Thornton), a hateful adversary who comes to power through a deal with the separatists. Saw wants the Separatists to be wiped out of Onderon as much as his sister, but he doesn’t want to use help from outside forces. This leads to an argument between siblings when Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), Obi Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), and Ashoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) come to Onderon.
Saw’s perspective helps diversify the way the Jedi order is perceived, giving credence to the idea that the Empire could attribute the entire war to them. Saw sees the Jedi as conquerors, not rescuers. Unfortunately, Saw’s independent streak comes to an end after he fails to save the former king. Saw eventually comes to the rescue of both his sister and the Jedi, but his allegiance has immediate consequences. Steela is killed during the struggle for Onderon’s freedom.
Rather than seeing his sister’s sacrifice as the ultimate price for freedom, Saw’s view of the galaxy only gets darker. He is ultimately dissatisfied with his role in the battle; again, Onderon is taken. Unfortunately, Saw’s opinion is proven correct. He is one of the first to start organizing rebels once the Galactic Empire takes over.
While the animated shows lend credence to Saw’s skepticism, he’s shown as someone who refuses to get involved each causes. His desire for complete independence from outside sources is borderline psychotic. Saw only trusts those he knows personally, but it’s clear that his small band of mercenaries can’t save an entire planet. Star Wars is always about the trust placed in people; Saw cannot accept that truth.
We also see that Saw is willing to use whatever means necessary to destroy his enemies. He is unlikely to hear anyone. In The Clone Wars spin-off series The Bad Party, Saw and his gang come into conflict with the titular specialized Clone Troopers (now Storm Troopers). The Bad Batch was sent by the Empire to eliminate Saw, and Saw has a “prisonerless” view of war. Both parties are at fault; neither is willing to hear the other out until the last minute, and they barely reach a peaceful resolution until they realize they’re on the same side.
Whitaker’s performance in Rogue One felt like it was just an odd acting choice, but throughout the series of animated shows, we see why Saw had become so separated from reality. He has conditioned himself to think absolutely everything; in star wars rebels, Saw nearly destroys a Geonosian egg to gain critical information. Saw knows that the Geonosians are associated with the creation of the droid army and sees every member of the species as the same.
One of the more mind-boggling scenes in Rogue One is a series in which Saw uses an octopus-like creature called a “Bor Gullet” to torture the Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed). Bodhi claims to have information about the dead star, and Saw doesn’t want to take any chances. It’s another case where his perspective is valid, but his tactics get too extreme. Saw is so cynical about everyone’s true nature that he nearly destroys the Rebel Alliance’s chance to dead star plan. While Bodhi is eventually rescued after Jyn arrives on Jedha, Saw’s suspicions doom him.
Out of context, this is a random scene. However, it makes more sense given the background about Saw that the animated shows have established. It’s not confusing why Saw ends up just staying on Jedha and being consumed by the blast. He clearly sees that the Rebel Alliance is the future of hope. He is addicted to the ‘dream’. He would rather die than admit his mistakes. “Save the rebellion,” he tells Jyn. “Save the dream.”
The story of Star Wars is one of forgiveness. Even the most evil characters in the galaxy have goodness in them, and few characters are beyond the point of redemption. Saw’s refusal to forgive anyone (including himself) shows that despite his hatred for the Empire, he is no hero. Rogue One gave Saw no chance to shake up the politics of the universe. Hopefully the role of Andor in the Disney + series Andoro will do justice to its history on the small screen.