With Star Wars: The Last Jedi now out on blu-ray and easy for you to watch over and over again, you might think there's no point in picking up the film's novelization. You'd be wrong. More than a retelling of the film, the novel adds some impressive depth to the story and is well worth your time. Check out my full review to see why.
Star Wars has seen its share of ups and downs regarding their movie novelizations. Whereas The Force Awakens book was...okay, Rogue One's ended up being one of my favorite film novels (not just Star Wars) ever. As such, I was interested to see what Jason Fry would bring to the table. Thankfully he brought the goods in a number of ways.
I won't go over the finer details of the story here, as there's a good chance you already know them. The novel follows the same plot structure, and hits all the key story beats, as the movie. What makes it engaging, is the ability to get into the minds of the characters as they go through these events, providing interesting insight that makes certain moments all the more exciting.
Much has been made about the book being the "Expanded Edition" in that it includes scenes not found in the film, that are meant to still be canon and enhance certain aspects. While some of these can be found in the deleted scenes of The Last Jedi's blu-ray, there are a couple other scenes/moments that are only found in the book. I don't want to spoil these moments, as they're unique to the book, but more than adding to the story, they brought in a surprising amount of emotional depth.
There's one moment early on in the novel with Leia, that's nothing more than a couple extra paragraphs, but emotions behind it hit me hard. I wasn't expecting it, and I imagine it will re-contextualize other moments in both films from here on out. While there are entire scenes in the book that aren’t in the movie (including the opening), it’s these little additions that make the novel much more expansive and engaging.
Moreso, Fry does a fantastic job of translating the on-screen action/events into prose. From the opening battle to the showdown on Crait, the action in the book manages to reach the same level of tension that plays out on the big screen. What's MORE impressive, is it manages to do so without an abundance of exposition. Here, Jason shows his skill by keeping the book moving at a quick pace.
The novel isn't terribly long, despite the film being one of the franchise's longest, but sentence/line of dialog is specifically crafted to move the plot forward. This means there aren't any moments where the story drag or big chunks of blocky, explanatory text. Even so, the action manages to capture your attention, and the added insights make them even more memorable.
If you’re expecting HUGE lore revelations out of the expanded content, you’re going to be a tad disappointed. The books’ purpose isn’t to give backstory to a bunch of things, but what it gives us are some interesting bits of lore with broader implications.
One of my favorite things about the book is how it really utilizes information from the other canonical Star Wars books out there. It pulls from these in neat ways that serve as nods to those who’ve read them all, without feeling out of place for those who haven’t. It shows the amount of research and effort Jason put into crafting his version of the story, while showcasing the benefits of the more interconnected canon system.
Unlike most movie novelizations, The Last Jedi's book didn't arrive until a few months AFTER the film was in theaters. To be honest, I was kind of surprised and more than a little grumpy about it. Not everyone cares for novelizations, but I love diving into them and being able to get into the characters' heads on some of my favorite scenes. Not being able to do this with The Last Jedi (as I had with all the other Star Wars movie releases) felt a little weird.
Thankfully, Del Rey and Lucasfilm know what they're doing and I can tell that this book is definitely better for the delay in release. I fully believe this extra time is a big part of why this book works so well. It ensured that the author had the chance to get a look at the more complete film and be able to see how certain things played out on the screen.
When novelizations are tied into a film's launch, it means it has to be completed well before movie. The writers are working off of the original scripts and subsequent notes. A film can change from script to screen in some significant ways, or the interpretation of a scene is completely changed due to editing or reshoots. Regardless, it can lead to some minor (and major) differences between the movie and novelization.
With The Last Jedi novel planned to release months later, these problems never arise. Instead, we get a novel that not only deftly retells the events of the movie, but actually manages to enhance it in significant ways. It's an excellent companion to the movie and as I watched the film during my read-through I already found myself thinking back on the extra stuff in the book and how it made watching scenes even better/more emotional.