Dear Listeners of The Nerd Party,
I don't know if I want to read Rogue One Catalyst before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is released.
It's not that I've tapped out on Star Wars expanded universe works. There have been some real gems released; some stinkers, sure, but on the whole it's been a good ride so far.
It's that I want to be able to judge Rogue One on its own merits as a film. I do not want them to cheat me into liking it because I read a handy guidebook designed to make me adhere to a slavishly narrow interpretation of themes and events.
I'm frankly nervous that they think it needs it. I'm hoping they didn't do this because of the dull roar of nerds who howled they didn't release enough “world building” materials before The Force Awakens. In my view, films are supposed to be the world building; if you can't enjoy it completely without extensive back story spelled out for you across multimedia, the film is a failure on some level.
To be fair, this trepidation is rooted in past experience. During the prequels, they released novels tied in to Episodes II and III that acted as world-builders for the forthcoming films. It was a kind of cheat, as both used discarded script concepts and references to set the stage for what I was going to watch.
In retrospect, it's entirely possible that I enjoy Attack of the Clones more than the average person because I'd gotten some additional development from The Approaching Storm that others felt should have been in the actual film. I let Revenge of the Sith off the hook in this example simply because it's an incredible work of art that's virtually perfect, and by the end of it I didn't even remember Labyrinth of Evil.
I simply don't know if I'm inclined to let franchises get away with it anymore. Star Wars isn't the only one doing it, but it's the one most in focus for me. As cohost of Aggressive Negotiations and Great Shot, Kid I spend a lot of time studying the different aspects of the franchise.
Maybe I've grown tired of having to read a book or watch a show to "get the full experience" of a film. Film is visual literature and it should be able to speak for itself. When I watched The Godfather, which is based on a book in the first place, reading it was a nice supplement to the film itself, not necessary to its enjoyment. Even 2001: A Space Odyssey, a book was written by Arthur C. Clarke specifically to act as a companion piece to the film, is not necessary to enjoy it.
The only things that should be required from me are money from my wallet and my butt in the seat. An active brain is optional depending on what I'm watching. (A bag of Peanut M&Ms or Twizzlers are also necessary, but that's more a matter between my inner child and me.)
Finally, I think that the flip side is also in play here. While reading Rogue One Catalyst may make me prejudicially favorable to the film, it could also make me not want to see it, as strange as that sounds. If what they reveal doesn't excite me in the right way, it could actually drive down my own excitement for the experience.
It will be even worse if they're just engaging in pedantic fan service for the sake of it. I can easily see them delving deeply into the ephemera that exists only to tickle the die-hards in the special places. That is precisely what I do not want. I want a story that leaves the impression it had to be told, regardless of the film.
In the end, I'm sure I'll read it, I just don't know when. I turn to you, gentle reader. Should I read the book before I see Gareth Edwards' tale of rebellion, or should I wait until after?
My fate is in your hands.