Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (Sean Williams)

The primary plotline in the Force Unleashed 2 is the relationship between Juno and Starkiller. Much of the novel consists of Starkiller attempting to track down and re unite with Juno. This leads Vader to kidnap Juno, and what follows is a mostly boring chase across the galaxy trying to get her back. The biggest problem here, besides the lack of connection with the hollow romance, is that nothing is presented as being able to stop Starkiller. Boba Fett, Vader, clones of Starkiller, a gorog, and the forces of the Empire are simply no match for Starkiller. He might be one of the most unreasonably overpowered protagonists in all of Star Wars, and his uncanny abilities suck all tension out of the action scenes. Along the same vein, the ending is blasphemous and extremely contrived. It's so unbelievably bad and contradictory to canon, that I simply cannot recommend this book based on it alone.

The other big plotline here is the question of Starkiller's identity. Throughout the novel, he questions whether he is the original man, or a clone of him. This question comes up quite frequently throughout the novel, and nothing ever changes or develops with it. The question keeps being asked, but nothing ever changes the answer, and ultimately this is left open.

A secondary story involving Juno's ongoing efforts with the Rebel Alliance is actually quite good. It primarily deals with Juno's role in uniting the people of Dac against the Empire. This is probably the best plot in the book, it gives Juno something important to do, and actually presents a conflict instead of another obstacle for our heroes to demolish.

The plot here is rubbish, the villains have no sense of menace, relying solely on name power/size, and the ending is one of the worst finales ever in the Star Wars universe.

A big part of the characterization here is the relationship between Juno and Starkiller. Unfortunately, it never develops, and wasn't particularly convincing to begin with. These two characters, the only two PoVs in the entire novel, almost exclusively think about their love for one another. Starkiller's clone dilemma also crops up constantly, and seems completely pointless in terms of story, and adds nothing to the character. Juno has some promise initially, with the potential to deal more extensively with her role in the Alliance and command role. This ends when she is captured by Fett roughly halfway through the novel, and is relegated to a damsel in distress for the rest of the novel.

Secondary characters like Kota, Bail Organa, Proxy, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia are barely developed in order to make room for Starkiller to question his sanity. Vader and Leia are, in fact, characterized very oddly. Vader's obsession with bringing Starkiller back from the dead/keeping him around goes unexplained and doesn't seem to have much of a purpose, and Leia's admiration of Juno feels unfounded. Cameos by Wedge Antilles, Yoda, and Boba Fett are largely for name value, with only Fett adding something meaningful to the story.

Ultimately, focusing exclusively on Juno and Starkiller backfires. Two uninteresting characters, and their contrived relationship isn't worth losing the other perspectives (notably Vader's) that may have shed some light on the shaky plot.

Prose here is mostly adequate, but the overuse of flashbacks, and lack of detail in both the fights and locations severely hinders the enjoyability of the work. Flashbacks to the events of Force Unleashed I are especially tedious. Throughout the novel, Starkiller reflects on his life, training with Vader, and falling in love with Juno. Chapter Nine, in the caves of Dagobah, is very heavy with flashbacks, lazily quoting word for word from the original novel. This doesn't comprise the entire chapter, however, so it pales in comparison to Chapter Twenty Six, which actually is just one big flashback. As Juno sits unconscious on the roof of the cloning center, the author takes us into her head as she recalls (again, word for word from the original, and earlier in this novel) the events of her life. These flashbacks don't add anything because we've already seen the events in question, and they don't lead the characters to develop in any meaningful way.

Dialogue is mostly good, and in fact the only bad use of dialogue I can recall is the decision to have Ackbar mutter the infamous line "It's a trap" on page 79. Descriptions are often barely existent, relying on readers being familiar with the video game in order to form an idea of the environments. Fights are often very brisk and devoid of tension. There is a sense of inevitability in all of Starkiller's encounters that drains the tension more easily than even the lack of developed villains does. In particular, the duel against the cloned versions of Starkiller is quick and painless, with only the slightest hint of description, and absolutely no excitement.

Inferior to the original in both story and characterization, Force Unleashed II is a needless sequel that adds precious little to the Star Wars universe, and further distorts canon.

Final Score

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