Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi (James Kahn)



Plot

The novelization of Return of the Jedi is very similar in structure to the previous two original trilogy novelizations, though there is a greater effort placed in expanding scenes. There are only a handful of minor scenes detailing the Imperial perspective that could truly be considered "new"; Moff Jerjerrod is given an expanded role and characterization though it amounts to little in the end, and the Rebels face a situation concerning the Death Star that is extremely similar to the threat of destruction seen in Episode IV.

The scenes that are more expanded upon are the scenes where our heroes first encounter the Ewoks. Here we see the group's efforts to sway the Ewoks to their side, including incredibly sappy speeches by Han and Luke. There is also a bit of groan inducing physical comedy here, and people who hated the Ewok story line will not appreciate these additions that manage to give them even more face time.

Perhaps of greater interest is a slightly expanded space battle that gives more screentime to the Rebel pilots. Though the prose is not the best for the action in these scenes, they are nevertheless infinitely more interesting than the Ewoks.

The parts of the book that mirror or nearly mirror the events of the movies are competently written, so the enjoyment of these scenes is dependent upon how much the reader enjoyed the events as depicted in the movie. The throne room scene is still a fantastic finale to the Star Wars saga, though little is done to fix the disappointment that was Endor. On the whole, the plot is competent, but little more. If you've read the novelizations of Empire Strikes Back or A New Hope, you know what to expect here.

Characterization

The characterization is again limited, but the brief snapshots provided here are more effective than those in the other novelizations.

Luke's encounter with Vader on the Death Star is poignant and well written. It gets inside Luke's head in a way that the movie couldn't quite manage, and the result is one of the best scenes of the novelization. Leia is also given some good scenes with Han, but on the whole these two aren't explored as much.
Lando is another character that is depicted quite a bit in this book. The author constantly makes allusions to his gambler lifestyle, detailing how he thinks of things as if they were a high stakes card game or pure chance. The characterization is limited and somewhat cliche, but it is more intriguing than most in this book.

The remaining characters are not really expanded upon in this book. Vader has a nice scene or two, but nothing special, while Palpatine is a largely unexplored character. Chewbacca has more face time leading the ewoks into battle, but there are no significant revelations about the character.

Prose

The prose is effective, and in some cases excellent, but marred by extremely unfitting dialogue.

The dialogue, when it isn't just taken from the movie, is a bit overformalized, especially for Star Wars. Han and Luke's speeches to the Ewok tribesmen aren't just corny, they are worded like a high brow literary work. Nothing in these speeches resembles the characters, and the result is an embarrassingly painful scene.

The action scenes tend to be a bit bland. The massive space battle is unfortunately told almost exclusively through dialogue, with very little description of the action. If you tried to decipher these scenes without the prior knowledge of the movie, you would be left with a bunch of pilots talking to each other, then some of them blow up. Not every action sequence is this bad, and some, like the duel between Vader and Luke, are quite good. On the whole though, there is nothing outstanding about any of the action scenes. It is the same play by play description  that was utilized in the previous two novelizations.

There is some fantastic imagery and phrasing to be found here though. Luke's thoughts prior to meeting Vader are well written, and the book is sprinkled with great descriptive and expository passages. The book is by no means an exemplary example of Star Wars writing, even among the novelizations, though it is certainly above average.

Conclusion

Return of the Jedi is the most competently written of the original trilogy novelizations, but the lack of any real characterization and only a handful of "expanded" scenes keeps it from being a great adaptation.

Final Score

66/100

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