Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus are the new odd couple of the Star Wars universe. Pivotal players in Rogue One, they are two lost wanderers who share a common cause but have very different beliefs about how to best serve it. It’s a dynamic we’ve seen in the saga before, but repurposed in a way that seems fresh for the ever-expanding series.
That’s thanks in part to actors Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, who play Chirrut and Baze respectively. Their addition to the cinematic universe offer some much-needed diversity to the galaxy far, far away. But their race does not really play into Rogue One; they exist to fight an existential battle that has nothing to do with ethnicity. Lucasfilm Story Group SVP Kiri Hart said one question drives them: “People are coming to the Rebellion because something has happened that has galvanized or politicized them. The question just becomes: What are those triggers for different people in different places?”
Here’s what you should know about Chirrut and Baze heading into Rogue One.
The Force is Still Strong in the Galaxy Because of One of Them
Rogue One takes place in during an era in the broader Star Wars timeline in which the Jedi have all but been strategically wiped out by the Empire (minus Obi-Wan, who is hanging out on Tatooine). There are, however, folks in the galaxy who still believe in the power of the Force. One of those Force-sensitive mystics is Chirrut, Donnie Yen’s blind monk-like character. His life is swayed by wherever the Force guides him and in the film, it conveniently brings him across the path of the Rebellion to help Jyn Erso steal the plans to the Death Star. Chirrut’s raison d’etre can be found in his ubiquitous line from all of the trailers: “All is as the Force wills it.”
Just because he can’t make things levitate with his mind or pull a Jedi mind trick doesn’t mean that the energy that binds the galaxy together can’t help him out. Think of him as more Jedi Lite than Jedi Knight.
They Both Believe in the Power of Firepower
Chirrut prefers doing battle with his quarterstaff, a tactical weapon rarely seen in a saga that favors small blaster pistols and laser swords. Maybe he took some cues from Daisy Ridley’s character Rey from The Force Awakens who knocked enemies on their asses with her own oversized staff weapon. Whereas Rey’s big victory came against a pair of First Order stormtroopers, Chirrut’s introduction sees him ice an entire platoon of Imperial stooges using nothing but his relatively simple stick.
Baze, meanwhile, is usually never without his trusty handheld repeater cannon, or as actor Jiang Wen said at the Star Wars Celebration: “[He] has a gun, he has a huge gun, he has a weapon, the weapon’s very huge.” Chirrut also uses a crossbow blaster that resembles an original trilogy favorite: Chewbacca’s iconic bowcaster. The warrior monk also uses his trust of the Force to stay on target.
They’re Like the Han and Obi-Wan of Rogue One
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has said the dynamic between Chirrut and Baze comes from what inspired George in The Hidden Fortress, referring to the great Akira Kurosawa movie. “You could even say to some extent its, you know, R2 and C-3PO, a little bit of that.”
Certain literary types will be quick to notice the similarities between Chirrut and Baze to the mad friendship of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, but if we’re squarely sticking to the realm of Star Wars, another good place to start with the differences between the Rogue One characters would be Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo.
In A New Hope, when Obi-wan introduces Luke to the Force, he says, “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” And that might as well be Chirrut’s mantra. Similarly, Han’s skeptical reaction to Luke’s wide-eyed enthusiasm would fit perfectly with Baze: “I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field controls my destiny! It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.” But just because Baze doesnt necessarily believe in the power of the Force doesn’t mean he won’t have his buddy’s back at a moment’s notice.
They’re From the Newest, Most Important Planet in the Star Wars Universe
As far as Star Wars planets go, Rogue One features greatest hits like like Tatooine, Hoth, Endor, Jakku, and even Yavin 4. It’s also got a new locale: Chirrut and Baze’s homeworld of Jedha.
According to the official Star Wars Databank, Jedha was “at one time a world important to the Jedi Order,” but now “serves as a holy site for pilgrims from across the galaxy who seek spiritual guidance.” Chirrut and Baze find a kind of kinship on their planet, which is now occupied by the Empire for the same reason it was so important for the Jedi: its rich in kyber crystals. This mystical natural resource was what powered a Jedi’s lightsaber, and is also the main for the Death Star’s planet-destroying laser.
In a way, Chirrut and Baze represent both eras of their planet: one is a spiritually resonant soul while the other is a gritty pessimist hardened by a new harsh reality. They also represent a new reality for Disney: From a cynical business angle, the two will open up Star Wars to an even bigger audience. Yen is a massive movie star in his home country of China, and despite the fact that he’s appeared in Hollywood fare before in films like Blade II and Shanghai Knights, Rogue One will definitely introduce him to a brand new fanbase. The same goes for Jiang, who is an established star and filmmaker in his own right, though the standalone Star Wars movie marks his big Hollywood debut.