One of my first thoughts on watching the trailer for Rogue One last year was ‘oooh who is the badass Imperial in the majestic cape’? No I’m not talking about Darth Vader – I’m talking about the ever charismatic and mind-blowingly ambitious Orson Callen Krennic who bears the snappy title of Director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Galactic Empire.
Taking a few paces back from the events of Rogue One, Krennic first comes sauntering into the fray in James Luceno’s novel Catalyst – a Rogue One prequel. On reading Catalyst we are introduced to the back story of Orson Krennic together with Galen and Lyra Erso. We learn that Krennic and Galen were on the Republic’s Futures Programme together. Whilst Krennic wasn’t a scientific genius like Galen, he already showed signs that he was natural leader with a ruthless sense of ambition. He’s a schemer for sure, and an expert at reading people which makes him able to manipulate people with ease. Yet, interestingly, he was also fiercely protective over his friend Galen, helping him out of many scraps and brawls in seedy bars. Galen Erso, it seems, has a friend in Orson Krennic.
It’s this trait that makes me most interested in Krennic as a character. We know of course that he is capable of truly heinous acts, all in the name of his own personal glory. He will stop at nothing to gain the recognition he feels he deserves for the building of the Death Star’s awesome super weapon. And yet, his reaction when he discovers that Galen has been betraying the Empire all along (which really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to him, given what a pacifist Galen is known to be – even from his early days) is reasonably restrained. Granted, Krennic mows down the other Imperial scientists without a second thought, but he never does more to Galen then a crisp back hand across the face.
Krennic could easily have killed Galen that moment, either himself or ordering his sinister death troopers to do it for him. Even when Galen is lying on the floor mortally wounded, Krennic doesn’t go over and finish him off. I think that he genuinely couldn’t ever bring himself to actually harm Galen. Whilst Lyra had always been a source of genuine irritation
and frustration for Krennic, I think that Galen is possibly the only friend he has ever had.
Now I’m not saying that his makes Krennic a good guy! Not at all. He is deliciously evil (‘oh…it’s beautiful’ – not really Director – it’s a city being blasted to smithereens!), and ruthlessly ambitious, he’s not really even deterred by Vader to an extent. He would risk Vader’s wrath if it means he gets the proper recognition from the Emperor. Yet I do think
that all along he always thought fondly of Galen. He put his career on the line for Galen and staked everything on him. He had utmost faith in his old friend that he would be capable and able to harness the power of the khyber crystals.
I think in a way, this makes Krennic strangely compelling. He’s actually quite a multi dimensional villain in comparison to, say, Grand Moff Tarkin. Tarkin is cold and utterly devoid of emotion whereas Krennic is charismatic and passionate. He’s also relatable on a more human level then, say, Vader as a villain and a baddie well worth his salt in the Star Wars universe. Although there is a bittersweet irony in Krennic’s death at the hands of the weapon he sacrificed everything to create, I had the surprising reaction of actually feeling a little bit sorry for him. And a villain who you can hate and yet still feel a sliver of empathy for…well that’s got to be,for me, the reason why he could very well be the best baddie to date! If you disagree with me, then I will at least round things off by saying his cape is truly magnificent – Director Krennic said I had to!