Jedi, Jedha and Spiritual Warriors in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

There were many interesting tidbits revealed today at Star Wars Celebration Europe’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story panel.  We already covered the panel as a whole earlier today and if you haven’t read up on that already, I highly recommend catching up on the details!  Potential plot spoilers below!!!

I have been eagerly anticipating information on Chirrut Imwe (played by Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (played by Jiang Wen) ever since they were cast.  As such, what really caught my eye during today’s panel was the revelation that Imwe and Malbus reside on the planet Jedha and are pulled into the conflict when the Rebel heroes travel to that Empire occupied location.

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When encouraged to talk about Imwe and Malbus as well as their home planet, director Gareth Edwards had some very interesting comments:

Our film takes place in a time where there are ‘allegedly no Jedi remaining.’*  But people still believe in the Force and they still have that spirituality, and essentially Jedha is like…I guess like the Mecca of Star Wars in that people go on pilgrimages and the problem is that right now, when the story begins, it’s an occupied territory by the Empire…

  • Edwards literally used air quotes here.

This was a huge revelation to me.  A story that takes place on a planet that acts as the Mecca?  The planet’s name is extremely interesting.  The city of Jeddah is an actual port city in Saudi Arabia.  It’s described by Wikipedia as a “city on the Red Sea, is a modern commercial hub and gateway for pilgrimages to the Islamic holy cities Mecca and Medina….Jeddah is the principal gateway to Mecca, Islam‘s holiest city, which able-bodied Muslims are required to visit at least once in their lifetime. It is also a gateway to Medina, the second holiest place in Islam.”

Rogue One takes place in what’s popularly known as the “Dark Times.”  As Edwards noted, it is a time when the Jedi are largely extinct.  So what are the implications that this story, which ignites the events of A New Hope, seems to culminate on a planet which is essentially the Jedi holy city?  Just as importantly, this revelation begs the question – what makes Jedha so special and “holy” for the light side of the Force?

Described by the always amazing Gwendoline Christie as “two of the most important characters … that become crucial to the team,” Imwe and Malbus seem to represent the closest links to the Jedi and the Force we might see in this film (at least the light side of the Force).  Confirming that Imwe was blind, Yen described his character as follows:

I play a blind warrior who lives in the planet Jedha.  I can’t see, but I can feel with my heart, and believe in the spiritual of the Force.  Obviously me and Jiang Wen are the baddest fighters from Jedha, and me and Jiang, his character Baze, we are very good friends.

To this point I’ve speculated that Imwe might have some connection to the Force.  Donnie Yen’s spectacular martial arts talents are well known (and about to be even more well known once Rogue One releases in December), and to me it made sense that a character that has Yen’s abilities, while being blind, must have some supernatural inclination.  Both Edwards’ and Yen’s comments seem to confirm that suspicion.

Then Jian Wen spoke, and despite the fact that he was not confident in his English (and possibly because of that fact), Wen dropped a potentially huge plot bomb:

[Baze] and Imwe were partners, and he believes of course in the Force, but my character doesn’t believe in the Force at that time.  But, I pretend…to do a very, very big mission…I cannot say that…and when this guy (referring to Yen) dead, I do something better.  Maybe I believe by my action…he is thinker, I am doer so…

It’s at that point that Christie interjected “I think you’ve got to leave it there!”

Alan Tudyk’s reaction to Wen’s revelation speaks volumes:

Wen seems to make clear that 1) Yen’s character Imwe dies in the film; 2) Wen’s character Malbus outlives Imwe, and 3) Imwe’s death serves as a catalyst of some kind that changes or possibly awakens Malbus.

Also interesting is that Wen, who I actually thought comported himself quite well, is not confident or comfortable with his English speaking abilities.  That caused me to wonder about his character in the film.  Given the frequently reiterated statements that Malbus and Imwe are close, and considering that Imwe is blind, I believe that Baze Malbus is mute and thus the two characters are complements of each other.  The question is what change does Imwe’s death bring about in Malbus and what does that mean for the Rebels and the Empire in Rogue One?  I’m dying to find out more!

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