Friday, June 24, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Sean Williams)

Force Unleashed's plot has a very significant (if somewhat illogical) impact on the Original Trilogy, in the form of the origins of the Rebellion, and Starkiller's inner conflict provides a modicum of depth to an otherwise shallow ordeal. The plot is made shallow by several logical fallacies, and a predictable and video game type pacing for many of its chapters. The average chapter goes something like this; "Starkiller gets a mission from Darth Vader/ Rahm Kota, Starkiller fights his way through some stormtroopers/common thugs, Starkiller kills a Jedi/dismantles a super weapon, Starkiller talks with Juno." Though this isn't necessarily a horrible structure to base an entire book off of (many of the clone wars novels are written in this way) it doesn't work when it is used so many times in the same novel. The logical fallacies are also extremely apparent in the plot; not only does much of it revolve around a renegade Jedi, blinded by Starkiller when he was working for Vader, aiding him and introducing him to key Alliance figures, but it also features an extremely contrived romance between Starkiller and his pilot, Juno. There isn't much reason for these two to love each other, Starkiller rarely says anything that isn't mission oriented, and he doesn't have much of a personality, seeing as he has done nothing other than serve under Vader for almost his entire life. Juno seems to like him simply because he is "mysterious" and "tortured", and this unrealistic, forced relationship taints the plot for me.

The aforementioned formation of the Rebellion, while a neat tie in, doesn't make much sense to me. This novel takes place roughly 2-3 years before the events of the New Hope, yet the Rebellion is not yet formed. In Revenge of the Sith, (the novelization and deleted scenes from the movie) it is implied that Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, and others were already plotting the formation of a coalition to contest Palpatine's ruler ship. I find it hard to believe that they sat around and waited for all those years while Palpatine continued to grow in power.

The plot does have several excellent features however. Starkiller's conflict of interest after his escape from the medical frigate is executed very well, and the dynamic between Darth Vader and the apprentice was interesting, but unfortunately left somewhat in the shadows. The book would've benefited from more interaction between these two and less generic Jedi hunting.

Characterization is a serious flaw for this novel. Everyone except Juno and Starkiller is barely developed, and even they aren't given much depth. Starkiller is portrayed as basically a force sensitive killing machine, especially in the first half of the novel. He gets a bit more depth when he escapes the frigate and most choose his side in the upcoming conflict, and another layer is added after a revelation on Kashyyyk concerning how he came into Vader's custody, but overall he isn't much of a character. Juno is, besides Starkiller's love interest, a pilot for the Empire partially responsible for the bombing of a world called Callos IV. This is mentioned numerous times throughout the novel, but it doesn't seem to have much of an effect on her character. Not that she does much anyways, besides inexplicably fall for Starkiller and fly the ship. Vader isn't used much, but when he is he is effective as ever and consistent with canon. Kota is pretty much a generic mentor archetype. Most interesting of all of the new characters is probably PROXY, an assassin droid with the ability to shape shift into other people, acquiring their traits and skills in the process. This is used multiple times throughout the novel, and to good effect, making him the highlight of the novel in terms of characters.

The author's writing style is above average, battles are well written, though the conflicts with Jedi Masters that occur through the first half of the book come to somewhat of an abrupt conclusion. The writing suits the over the top, bombastic use of the Force seen in the video game, and as such is more than adequate on that front. The final battle between Vader and Starkiller, and the fight between PROXY (using a Darth Maul persona) and Starkiller are the two highlights in terms of duels, but some of the battles between Starkiller and lesser combatants are also well done. Dialogue is decent considering the lack of characterization. Descriptions are short and sparse, the author seems to rely on the reading having either played the game or read the graphic novel before trying out the novelization. This isn't a problem if you HAVE done either of those things, but if you haven't certain settings will feel somewhat confusing.

Though many of the faults of this novelization aren't to be put on the author, The Force Unleashed is one to avoid due to its horrible characterization, and (at times) illogical plot.

Final Score

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