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The Star Wars universe, despite originally depicting a very Manichean struggle between good and evil, has become in the decades since the original movie a very morally nuanced place. I’ve mentioned before that if I look at the current status of the franchise, I’m tempted to consider Star Wars to be more of an anti-war story than a war one, but that’s a debate that we’ve had on this website very recently. Personally, I feel that although the original trilogy no doubt romanticized armed insurgency, George Lucas’s point of view on war and violence had evolved and become considerably more pacifist by the time the prequels and The Clone Wars rolled in.
Behind the curtain of space fantasy, George Lucas told the audience about things like false flag operations, the military-industrial complex, and factionalism in insurgencies. The heroes of the story, the Jedi, lose because they get involved in war. War itself is bad. If we look at the totality of the material that Lucas himself produced under the banner of Star Wars, behind all of the heroics and the swashbuckling, it sure appears to tell us that war sucks. But is there a way to add a bit more nuance to this message without negating it?
Enter Saw Gerrera: the only Rogue One character appearing on the big screen for the first time while remaining an original Lucas creation, having been originally developed for the never-filmed Star Wars: Underworld TV project and first seen in animated form in The Clone Wars, Saw Gerrera is played by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and is set to make a big splash in the galaxy. The Databank describes him as “a battered veteran of the Clone Wars as well as the ongoing rebellion against the Empire, [who] leads a band of Rebel extremists. Saw has lost much in his decades of combat, but occasional flashes of the charismatic and caring man he once was shine through his calloused exterior.” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly that Saw Gerrera is “on the fringe of the Rebel Alliance. Even [they] are a little concerned about him. […] He’s off on his own” and Whitaker says that “he really believes that what he has done is right. He understands that […] worlds could be destroyed if he doesn’t succeed. And he’s one of the only people who will do everything to make sure the Imperial forces don’t.” Saw Gerrera is set to have been of the original architects of the Rebel Alliance, but one who is not in good terms with Mothma, Organa, and the rest. He has his own faction of extremists (called “partisans” in Bloodline) and he appears to be fighting his own fight against the Empire. And that is something that history tells us has happened over and over.