The film released around this time last year ended the Skywalker Saga on a rather divisive note. Plenty of thoughts were shared over how it handled the return of Palpatine, along with the story in general. Again, the novelisation released a few months after the film, taking on the expanded edition name and setting out to fix what issues it could raised by critics and fans alike.
For me, I felt the film had a lot to like even with the rushed pacing and the lacking ending. The only things I’d wanted to see with the novelisation were the fixing of these two things. However, it did take me an age to get to reading it, despite buying it when it first released. 2020 has been a trainwreck of a year, and so I’ve been finding more comfort in games than any other medium. However, I’ve been doing a complete novelisation marathon throughout the year, so it was inevitable I would get to this final one.
Straight from the off, the book lands us at Ajan Kloss, with Leia teaching Rey and reminiscing on her own training. And again later on, there’s a naturalness to the conversations which couldn’t ever have happened in the film with how they overcame the loss of Carrie Fisher. The book gives the feeling that Rey is truly being trained, with the course through the forest being just one part of it.
The middle of the trilogy. The film that explored a few things we had yet to see in Star Wars. But it was also let down by one particular area. The part that should have had the most impact felt rushed and unfocused. It was still an enjoyable film, but the payoff where it was needed – for more than one area – just wasn’t there to make the story as impactful as it could otherwise have been.
The novelisation had been delayed to get some reworked done to it. After three months, it was expected to fix the story and everything fans felt was wrong with the film. While I might have also gone into the realm of unrealistic expectations (don’t forget, the Revenge of the Sith novelisation has given very high ones), I also had tempered those expectations by the time it released.
Oh, I still expected changes to be made to make the story work better, but I was no longer going into it expecting to see entire scenes changed to better fit the narrative that was being constructed. What was presented did fix the major problem I had with the story, along with giving other characters a bit more time in the spotlight. However, was the book better than the film?
Things were wild for Star Wars in 2012, what with the Disney takeover and the restructuring of LucasFilm, the game licence going to EA with the shuttering of LucasArts as a developer. And the announcement that a new trilogy of films was set to be released. The first teaser for that trilogy wouldn’t arrive until two years later, with the film arriving at the end of 2015. A few days later, the novelisation arrived.
I’d been wowed by the film, and even to this day I still regard it as the best of the trilogy. The novelisation was equally as good, with it extending some scenes and cutting a bit of clutter. Ultimately, though, the novelisation doesn’t add too much to the story, and in some parts also loses a bit of something.
One thing it does do, however, is bring a bit of new meaning to Kylo Ren’s line of “I’ll finish what you started.” The two sides of Resistance and First Order are hunting for Skywalker within the film, but that hunt within the book – the hunt for the piece of the map – feels like it takes on a new importance here. There’s a scene between Kylo Ren and Snoke where they talk of the failing of Vader and why it’s so important to find Skywalker.
Even the destruction of the Hosnian system, and the plan to eliminate the Resistance base, is all centred on stopping the Resistance from their own hunt for Skywalker. There’re even small scenes within the Resistance base with Leia to show her feelings and hopes for wanting Luke back in the fight. Of course, though, the main viewpoints for the Resistance side are Poe, Rey, and Finn.
For Star Wars Month of 2018, when I gave my thoughts upon the Star Wars prequels, I said that the novelisation of Revenge of the Sith had spoiled the film for me. Oh, there’s still greatness within it and it is a great film. But whenever I watch it, I’m always feeling that scenes feel flat, or fail to be executed to their fullest extent.
As stated in that article, it is something that the novelisations of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones haven’t managed to do. I can still watch those two and not be thinking back to the novels. Sure, there’s a few additions that I somehow expect to see in each upon a rewatch, but I can watch them and not feel like they fail to execute scenes to their fullest.
Sure, they might not execute scenes to their fullest, but at least those two novels don’t go beyond to recreate the scenes and shame the thing they’re based on. There’s a few additions to make things flow better, or a few extra scenes that would have been nice to see in the films, but nothing stands out as particularly powerful. Nothing that makes the scenes of the film pale in comparison.