Who is the staff-wielding blind man played by martial arts expert Donnie Yen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?
Donnie Yen’s character in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story proved himself to be awesome with his expertise in staff-wielding. The only other thing we know about the man, aside from a lack of love for the Empire, is he’s blind.
Or at least, that’s the popular theory based off the cast photo released at Star Wars Celebration last year. In the photo, Yen’s character appears to have bluish-white eyes, like you might see on a blind person in real life. If he is sightless, it’s incredible and cool that he’s able to take out stormtroopers so efficiently. It’s almost as if he’s using the Force as a guide. We know from an interview panel with Rogue One director Gareth Edwards at Celebration 2015 that the Jedi are to have little to no part to play in the film, so it’s almost certain that Yen’s character is not a Jedi. But that doesn’t mean he’s not Force sensitive.
Whether or not the Emperor and Darth Vader approve, Force sensitive individuals are still going to be around after Order 66. Donnie Yen’s character doesn’t have to be a former Jedi, though; he could be someone who grew up without being noticed by the Jedi or the Sith and only uses his powers to help himself “see.”
Alternatively, he doesn’t have to be Force sensitive to fight while blind. A lot of people who are deprived of one of their senses become ultra-keen in the other four. He probably hears, smells, and feels (vibrations through his feet, for example) better than most humans. There’s also the possibility that he isn’t blind; his eye discoloration may be the product of near-human genetics or a birth defect unrelated to a lack of sight.
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Blind or not, he’s amazing with that stick. While he could be using a brand new technique presently unknown to us, there is at least one canon form of martial arts utilized by non-Force users that might fit this situation: Echani. In Legends, the goal of Echani was to make the body become a weapon, and technological weapons, armor, and the Force were not traditionally used (via Wookieepedia). However, in the Legends comic series Crimson Empire, a red Imperial guard combined Echani with a vibrostaff to great effect. Echani was canonized in Aftermath by Chuck Wendig as a form practiced by Imperial soldiers, so Donnie Yen’s character could well be using it in Rogue One. If that’s the case, we can expect he’ll be a very dangerous opponent for the Empire.
Personally, I think his martial arts skill combined with a largely untapped connection to the Force would result in a compelling character art. Donnie Yen’s character would be awesome with the staff, but restrained with the Force, perhaps because he doesn’t know how to use it. As the film goes on, he could discover his potential in that mystical energy field by a run-in with an Inquisitor or Darth Vader. While Edwards and Hidalgo implied Jedi would have no part to play in Rogue One, they didn’t say anything about Force sensitives being involved. Donnie Yen’s character, instead of not realizing what powers he could wield, could even reject the use of the Force except as a tool to help him function past his blindness. He’d be an in-between figure in the Force, sort of like Ahsoka Tano except much less active.
But, as we said earlier, he could be someone who’s just learned to use his other senses to supplement his lack of sight. That’s more impressive than using the Force, because he’s not getting any outside help.
Do you think the staff wielder is Force sensitive? Do you have any ideas on what culture he’s from, and what his motivations might be in Rogue One? Let us know in the comments.