Tag Archives: Star Wars Beyond the Films

Star Wars: Beware the Power of the Dark Side! – A Beyond the Films Review

With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


newrotjadaptation

Beware the Power of the Dark Side! by Tom Angleberger (hardback, 2015)

Preface (Found on My Reviews for All Three of the New Novelizations)

Novelizations for Star Wars have been a mixed bag over the years, an oddity in Star Wars publishing. In 1976, 1980, and 1983, the novelizations of the Original Trilogy were released. They did not expand upon the films they adapted to any large degree, and they were plagued by being based on scripts with stories and characters yet unseen, leading to plenty of inconsistencies between the films and the novelizations.

The same inconsistencies could be found in the Prequel Trilogy novelizations in 1999, 2002, and 2005, but as time went on, writers became bolder in adding to the films they were adapting. Attack of the Clones provided a look into Shmi Skywalker’s activities and capture prior to the film, while inadvertently (or on the sly?) giving the Legends continuity a hint as to Anakin’s birthdate within his birth year. Later, Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization went so deeply into character motivations (especially those of Anakin Skywalker in relation to why not being a Jedi Master when on the Jedi Council was more than just an insult but a barrier to saving his wife) that it prompted me to eventually coin the “Stover Effect” – when an adaptation of a story provides so much more detail on that story that the overall qualiity of the story is raised. (For years, I have considered Revenge of the Sith one of my two favorite Star Wars films, less for what Lucas put on film and more for how the story is so much deeper with the background and intricate details that Stover added to its context.)

As the years (then decades) have gone by, there have been frequent calls to release new, updated novelizations of the films in order to make them more true to the films and help them adhere to new context provided by other works, such as The Clone Wars or simply the other films themselves. That has never taken place for the adult novelizations, but we have seen very young reader books from Scholastic that tried to be more accurate to the films than their adult counterparts.

Now, in 2015, shortly after Force Fiday, a new trio of Original Trilogy novelizations has joined the Story Group’s Canon, and they are offbeat to say the least.

The three new novelizations are The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy (for A New Hope), So You Want to Be a Jedi? (for The Empire Strikes Back), and Beware the Power of the Dark Side! (for Return of the Jedi). Each is geared toward somewhat younger readers (big print and all), wrtitten by an established author for younger readers, and includes illustrations by Ian McCaig. These new novelizations each take an unusual approach in an attept to retell the stories of these films in a fresh way.

That being said, let’s take a look at the specific book in this series for this review . . .

Beware the Power of the Dark Side!

The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy gave readers an odd take on A New Hope that split perspectives for three acts between Leia Organa, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker. So You Want to Be a Jedi? broke all the rules for an adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back and left readers thinking, “What the heck was that?” After those two novelizations, one could be forgiven for being rather wary of Tom Angleberger’s adaptation of Return of the Jedi, entitled Beware the Power of the Dark Side! (Again with the friggin’ punctuation marks at the end of titles! What is this, Marvel Comics, circa 1977?)

As it turns out, Angleberger’s version of ROTJ is the tamest of the three new adaptations and, for me at least, the most enjoyable. Beware the Power of the Dark Side! follows ROTJ in a third person, unlimited, present tense format. The narrator describes events “as they happen” with knowledge beyond that of the characters focused on at any given moment. Angleberger makes his way through the film in the most faithful recreation of scenes and dialogue (right down to Huttese and Ewokese) of the films that we have seen in quite a while.

The book is not without a few tweaks to dialogue, and it does make the odd choice of moving Vader’s arrival at the Death Star from the beginning to after the heroes leave Tatooine, while also managing to call the Executor the Eclipse. However, these flaws pale in comparison to the accuracy of the majority of the book.

Generally, though, an accurate novelization is a boring novelization. We already know the film’s story and can often recite its dialogue, so why bother reading a mostly-accurate adaptation?

Angleberger’s take on ROTJ does not offer many extra scenes to create a “Stover Effect” (my term for when an adaptation adds new depth to the source material through new scenes, facts, etc.). The only truly notable extra scene involves Leia and Mon Mothma discussing whether Leia, like Mon Mothma, should sit out the Battle of Endor in safety as a leader of the Rebellion. Otherwise, few new additions exist.

However, the narration manages to add more to the context of the film than its lack of new scenes would suggest. For instance, we learn that Jabba never intended to pay “Boussh” after agreeing to 25,000 as the bounty on Chewbacca. We get an extra couple lines of dialogue to allow Luke to ask the spirit of Obi-Wan about his mother. We learn that Asha (from the Ewoks cartoon series, which is not Canon under the Story Group at this point) is indeed a big part of the Battle of Endor from the Ewok perspective. Small additions like these are welcome touches.

(The narrator also uses frequent footnotes to add odd asides that are sometimes amusing but often superfluous.)

Perhaps the books best moments come in its portrayal of Luke’s last moments with his father and the sacrifice that Anakin made in relation to his role in the prophecy to bring balance to the Force. If nothing else, a curious reader should check out Chapter 70  to see those moments in a new light.

After hearing that this was the weakest of the three new adaptations, I found Beware the Power of the Dark Side! the most refreshing. It was a welcome surprise.

The Verdict

Beware the Power of the Dark Side! may not add a great deal to Return of the Jedi, but what it adds is interesting and provided in the most true-to-screen adaptation of this “oddball” novelization trilogy. It is a welcome addition to this fan’s library.

Recommended for: Those who prefer adaptations to be film-accurate, and fans who like little details to add to the films, rather than many new scenes.

Not recommended for: Those seeking many new scenes to “enhance” their Return of the Jedi viewing.

No review copy was provided for this publication. It was a standard retail purchase.

Star Wars: So You Want to Be a Jedi? – A Beyond the Films Review

With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


newesbadaptation

So You Want to Be a Jedi? by Adam Gidwitz (hardback, 2015)

Preface (Found on My Reviews for All Three of the New Novelizations)

Novelizations for Star Wars have been a mixed bag over the years, an oddity in Star Wars publishing. In 1976, 1980, and 1983, the novelizations of the Original Trilogy were released. They did not expand upon the films they adapted to any large degree, and they were plagued by being based on scripts with stories and characters yet unseen, leading to plenty of inconsistencies between the films and the novelizations.

The same inconsistencies could be found in the Prequel Trilogy novelizations in 1999, 2002, and 2005, but as time went on, writers became bolder in adding to the films they were adapting. Attack of the Clones provided a look into Shmi Skywalker’s activities and capture prior to the film, while inadvertently (or on the sly?) giving the Legends continuity a hint as to Anakin’s birthdate within his birth year. Later, Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization went so deeply into character motivations (especially those of Anakin Skywalker in relation to why not being a Jedi Master when on the Jedi Council was more than just an insult but a barrier to saving his wife) that it prompted me to eventually coin the “Stover Effect” – when an adaptation of a story provides so much more detail on that story that the overall qualiity of the story is raised. (For years, I have considered Revenge of the Sith one of my two favorite Star Wars films, less for what Lucas put on film and more for how the story is so much deeper with the background and intricate details that Stover added to its context.)

As the years (then decades) have gone by, there have been frequent calls to release new, updated novelizations of the films in order to make them more true to the films and help them adhere to new context provided by other works, such as The Clone Wars or simply the other films themselves. That has never taken place for the adult novelizations, but we have seen very young reader books from Scholastic that tried to be more accurate to the films than their adult counterparts.

Now, in 2015, shortly after Force Fiday, a new trio of Original Trilogy novelizations has joined the Story Group’s Canon, and they are offbeat to say the least.

The three new novelizations are The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy (for A New Hope), So You Want to Be a Jedi? (for The Empire Strikes Back), and Beware the Power of the Dark Side! (for Return of the Jedi). Each is geared toward somewhat younger readers (big print and all), wrtitten by an established author for younger readers, and includes illustrations by Ian McCaig. These new novelizations each take an unusual approach in an attept to retell the stories of these films in a fresh way.

That being said, let’s take a look at the specific book in this series for this review . . .

So You Want to Be a Jedi?

If Alexandra Bracken’s take on A New Hope took an offbeat approach by simply shifting perspectives, Adam Gidwitz’s take on The Empire Strikes Back, entitled So You Want to Be a Jedi? defies the term “offbeat” and ventures into “What the heck am I reading?” territory.

Gidwitz is best known for his take on fairy tales and, as such, it is little surprise that the has applied a similar approach to how he has reimagined classic fairy tales for modern audiences to ESB. That will either be a welcome oddity for Star Wars fans or outright blasphemy, possibly in equal measure.

The book is written from the perspective of our modern day, telling the story of ESB as if it really happened “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” rather than as fiction. The narrator speaks mostly in second person (i.e. you do this, you do that, etc.) and present tense, casting the reader in the role of Luke Skywalker. When Luke acts in the film, it is “you” acting in the book. (When dealing with non-Luke scenes, the story is somewhat in third person present tense).

The narrator is attempting to teach the modern day “you” lessons in how to become a Jedi (philosophically at least) by telling the story of how the Luke Skywalker “you” dealt with the challenges of ESB. Along the way, the story is broken up by short activities for the reader to complete, such as lessons in meditation, seeing things from others’ perspectives, etc.

The approach is an unusual one, and it takes some getting used to, but putting the reader into Luke’s mindset provides some interesting insights (though somewhat few and far between) into Luke’s character, which Gidwitz asserts was not developed much on-screen in the films due to being the hero of a modern fairy tale, into which we are to pour ourselves as an audience.

The short lessons are also interesting in that they can actually be carried out by the audience, making it something that can more actively engage a young reader than simple prose fiction.

However, those looking for what amounts to an adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back that adds characters and scenes to the Story Group’s Canon will likely be disappointed. The book cannot be taken seriously as canonical due to both its perspective from modern day and the fact that the narrator relates the story in a way that constantly changes dialogue, ignores parts of the film (especially the “mushy” stuff that the narrator announces that he will be skipping for lack of relevance to Jedi training), and sometimes just mangles film scenes. For instance, Leia and Han’s “I’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee” scene cuts their banter almost entirely and is then merged with Han learning that Luke has not returned in a bizarre scene that feels unnecessarily combined and untrue to the film. This does not happen often, but it happens enough to be jarring, and the dialogue and scene specifics overall stray quite a bit farther from the source film than in most other Star Wars adaptations.

The narrator’s tone is quirky and often amusing, but it will not be something everyone will enjoy. Some will find it jarring. For me, I found it strange until I pictured the current Doctor (of Doctor Who), Peter Capaldi, as the narrator, reading it as if the Doctor was telling the story. That made the quirkiness work, though I still had to imagine that the Doctor had seen ESB years ago and only vaguely remembered the story but was telling it to someone who had never seen ESB, so he figured “hey, even if I get it wrong, they’ll never know the difference.”

Yeah . . . definitely not for everyone.

That said, if you can get over the extreme ideosyncracies of the book and just enjoy it as “some wackjob’s take on ESB” (or perhaps ESB as told by George Carlin’s Hippy-Dippy Weatherman, “live with the hippy-dippy weather, man”), then it can be an enjoyable read.

Every so often there will even be a glimmer of something that sparks your imagination, as happened to me when Gidwitz describes Vader’s reaction to losing the Falcon (and Luke) at the end of the film as not frustration, disappointment, or defeat, but in terms of sadness at his son having rejected him and fleeing from him. I had never looked at it that way in all of the decades I had been watching the film.

The Verdict

So You Want to Be a Jedi? is The Empire Strikes Back on drugs. It is weird enough to be enjoyable if we can accept it for what it is trying to do, but fans looking for a “true” adaptation or something that can readily be considered part of the saga must look elsewhere.

Recommended for: Those who can picture the 12th Doctor telling the story of Luke in ESB after having seen the film years ago to someone who has never seen it and thus cannot tell when details are way off.

Not recommended for: Those seeking what one might call an “accurate” adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back.

No review copy was provided for this publication. It was a standard retail purchase.

Feedback: The Will of the Force – SWBTF #187

Can you use the Dark Side for good? Why do people bash the Prequels? And why didn’t Chewie get a medal at Yavin? All this and so much more! All on the next Star Wars Beyond the Films. YOUR Star Wars discussion podcast! YOUR Podcast of Legends! YOUR ticket to that Galaxy far, far away! Beyond the Films lies your Fandom!


This week true believers, Beyonders, Fanboys, Fangirls, respected aliens around the galaxy, The Champion of the Multiverse; Mark Hurliman, and your Count of Continuities; Nathan P. Butler sit down to discuss your feedback! So strap in and tighten your crash webbing Fandom, Star Wars Beyond the Films is setting off on another rapid-fire trip into the galaxy far, far away!

This episode your hosts discuss topics from the following Beyonders: Continue reading

Star Wars: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy – A Beyond the Films Review

With recent events leading to a backlog of recorded episodes and episodes to record very soonStar Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler will be posting short, non-spoiler reviews for new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will follow in the weeks thereafter on the podcast. (In the case of minor releases, that discussion may be kept for a Year in Review series of episodes.)


2015anh

The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken (hardback, 2015)

Preface (Found on My Reviews for All Three of the New Novelizations)

Novelizations for Star Wars have been a mixed bag over the years, an oddity in Star Wars publishing. In 1976, 1980, and 1983, the novelizations of the Original Trilogy were released. They did not expand upon the films they adapted to any large degree, and they were plagued by being based on scripts with stories and characters yet unseen, leading to plenty of inconsistencies between the films and the novelizations.

The same inconsistencies could be found in the Prequel Trilogy novelizations in 1999, 2002, and 2005, but as time went on, writers became bolder in adding to the films they were adapting. Attack of the Clones provided a look into Shmi Skywalker’s activities and capture prior to the film, while inadvertently (or on the sly?) giving the Legends continuity a hint as to Anakin’s birthdate within his birth year. Later, Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization went so deeply into character motivations (especially those of Anakin Skywalker in relation to why not being a Jedi Master when on the Jedi Council was more than just an insult but a barrier to saving his wife) that it prompted me to eventually coin the “Stover Effect” – when an adaptation of a story provides so much more detail on that story that the overall qualiity of the story is raised. (For years, I have considered Revenge of the Sith one of my two favorite Star Wars films, less for what Lucas put on film and more for how the story is so much deeper with the background and intricate details that Stover added to its context.)

As the years (then decades) have gone by, there have been frequent calls to release new, updated novelizations of the films in order to make them more true to the films and help them adhere to new context provided by other works, such as The Clone Wars or simply the other films themselves. That has never taken place for the adult novelizations, but we have seen very young reader books from Scholastic that tried to be more accurate to the films than their adult counterparts.

Now, in 2015, shortly after Force Fiday, a new trio of Original Trilogy novelizations have joined the Story Group’s Canon, and they are offbeat to say the least.

The three new novelizations are The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy (for A New Hope), So You Want to Be a Jedi? (for The Empire Strikes Back), and Beware the Power of the Dark Side! (for Return of the Jedi). Each is geared toward somewhat younger readers (big print and all), wrtitten by an established author for younger readers, and includes illustrations by Ian McCaig. These new novelizations each take an unusual approach in an attept to retell the stories of these films in a fresh way.

That being said, let’s take a look at the specific book in this series for this review . . .

The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy

Alexandra Bracken’s take on A New Hope takes the approach of telling the first third or so of the film from the perspective of Leia Organa (the “Princess”). Upon reaching the destruction of Alderaan, the novel changes to the perspective of Han Solo (the “Scoundrel”), carrying on until the moments after the Millennium Falcon escapes the Death Star. The rest of the book takes place from the perspective of Luke Skywalker (the “Farm Boy”). These are sections told in third person limited, not first person.

The result of this is a combination of (a) needing to sometimes circle around within the narration to mention or explain events that Han or Luke experienced but a given section’s perspective character did not experience and (b) a chance to provide new scenes and insight that flesh out a given character’s activities during the film.

It is in (b) that the novel’s strength lies. By shifting focus so deliberately, Bracken has a chance to show us canonical scenes that provide a minor “Stover Effect” (so to speak) to ANH. If you have ever wondered whether Leia tried to escape the Imperials after being caught aboard the Tantive IV, what was going through Han’s mind during ANH (including in his brief interaction with “Jenny” from the deleted scenes of ANH), or perhaps why it was that Luke was able to quickly join the Alliance’s starfighter pilots with seemingly no training or testing, then this book has answers to those questions and more. It is not quite the Stover Effect impact that we saw with the Revenge of the Sith novelization, but this is not an adult novelization. For its age group and approach, I was happily surprised to see new scenes that added to ANH.

That said, I have to note that one major frustration that many find with adaptations raises its ugly head here in ways that seemingly defy rational explanation. Given that A New Hope has been around (in one film form or another) for nearly 40 years, one would expect that it would be relatively easy to make certain that the dialogue used in an adaptation actually matches the spoken dialogue in the source film. This was something that could be easily forgiven for Alan Dean Foster in 1976 or Matthew Stover in 2005. They and their fellow film adapters in between were using scripts that were still in production to create their dialgoue.

That is not the case with Bracken and ANH. Getting dialogue “right” should be as easy as popping any of a number of copiess of ANH into a preferred player and watching the film. Bracken seems to have done this in many cases with meticulous detail, right down to adding “ahs” and breaks in dialogue to fit with pauses in how the actors delivered their lines on film. She seems to have a good eye for that kind of detail.

In other parts of the book, though, the consistency goes off the rails. Sometimes, is is for legitimate reasons, such as adding in new lines to expand a conversation. That can be controversial, but it is no more invasive than the adult novelizations or radio dramas doing so for the films. Other times, though, dialogue changes from film accuracy for no apparent reason. One example that stands out is Han’s bragging about the Falcon‘s speed, wherein Bracken’s Han says that the ship will “make point five beyond the speed of light,” rather than “make point five past lightspeed.” Those type of changes that do nothing to add or clarify the dialiogue ring wrongly in the mental ears of readers and seem incongruous with Brakcen’s meticulous attention to detail in dialogue elsewhere in the book. It makes for a frustrating read, at times, for those who could probably recite the films in their sleep.

The Verdict

As frustrating as the minor pitfalls of The Princess, the Scondrel, and the Farm Boy can be, I find it a welcome new addition to the Star Wars library and a mostly faithful adaptation of A New Hope that gives us just enough of a “Stover Effect” to make me smile when certain scenes appear on screen, as I know what just happened off-screen and can better imagine the characters’ thoughts in key moments.

Sure, it’s a “kid’s book,” but it is a kid’s book that may be worthwhile for adults as well.

Recommended for: Those looking for a more modern adaptation of A New Hope that can provide just enough new content to provide a slight “Stover Effect” to the film.

Not recommended for: Those bothered by seemingly random dialogue alterations from a film that has had (mostly) unchanged dialogue for decades.

No review copy was provided for this publication. It was a standard retail purchase.

Feedback From A Long Time Ago – SWBTF #186

Feedback, hot topics and more. All this and so much more! All on the next Star Wars Beyond the Films. YOUR Star Wars discussion podcast! YOUR Podcast of Legends! YOUR ticket to that Galaxy far, far away! Beyond the Films lies your Fandom!


This week true believers, Beyonders, Fanboys, Fangirls, respected aliens around the galaxy, The Champion of the Multiverse; Mark Hurliman, and your Count of Continuities; Nathan P. Butler sit down to discuss your feedback! So strap in and tighten your crash webbing Fandom, Star Wars Beyond the Films is setting off on another rapid-fire trip into the galaxy far, far away!

This episode your hosts discuss topics from the following Beyonders: Continue reading