Returning to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Now that I’ve settled in a bit, I’m back to do some writing, and since it’s been over a month since The Force Awakens was shown in theatres, I think I can openly talk about the film and, in this case, the novel.

Before I begin: SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t want anything from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens ruined for you, do not read any further than the image!

I was lucky last month to catch The Force Awakens at a local theatre two days after I moved, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Being both a fan of Star Wars Novels and a Librarian, I knew I had to get my hands on the book and see if there were some hidden details and character thoughts to make the experience even better.

Now that my copy has finally arrived and I had some spare time, I can get a review to you.


==The Pitch==

It’s not rocket science: this is a novelization of the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In a way, it is Star Wars novels returning to their roots, as Alan Dean Foster wrote the first Expanded Universe Star Wars novel: Splinter of the Minds Eye.

==What You Get==

The novel is a nearly 300-page blow-by-blow of the entire film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with a few minor extras tossed in to fluff out the characters a bit (and possibly make the novel longer).

==The Details==

I was a bit wary picking this up, as I wasn’t a big fan of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. Sure, I’ll give it respect for being the first Expanded Universe novel, but it wasn’t exactly great literature. I was hoping that, after all these years, we’d see some improvement in Foster’s writing.

Not so much.

The writing starts off slow, with short sentences and vague details, but it thankfully beings to pick up in pace and style as the book goes on. If you get through the first 60 or so pages, you’ll begin to notice a difference in writing style (or you’ll just be used to it). The details don’t get much better and many scenes leave a lot to be desired, but after seeing the movie, they make sense.

If you saw the movie first, you’ll realize that the book is almost pulled from the script of the finished film with a few additions, but perhaps not enough to warrant getting it AND the film.


==The Good==

Some of the additional scenes did help flesh out the characters and explain what is going on. We get an inside-look of the minds of a few of the characters, namely Poe and Rey, and understand what they are thinking and, in the case of Rey, what drives her to want to return to Jakku. Han laments his age after crashing onto the Starkiller Base, commenting that there was a time that the landing wouldn’t have been so rough. We see a bit more of the dynamic between Han and Leia, as well as acquire more details as to how the Resistance functions.

One of the biggest perks is discovering how Poe Dameron survives the crash onto Jakku. In the film, we only follow Finn, and some time later, Poe just appears out of nowhere with no explanation. Now, we see he regained consciousness, left his jacket behind as it was trapping him, and he began to wander looking for Finn. We see what makes him such a great pilot as well in these moments, which truly fills in a gap that we had in the film.

The extra scenes don’t stop there. We see Rey argue and try to deal with Unkar Plutt and troll him in the process. We witness Chewbacca finally ripping the arm from someone’s socket as Plutt tries to accost Rey at Maz’s place. Maz and her bar get fleshed out quite a bit, giving us plenty to work with.

Speaking of Maz, that room where she kept the lightsaber was explained slightly. While she claims she is no Jedi, she knows the Force. Every item in that room is/was important to a Force-user or Jedi at some point, making these items extremely valuable. It does raise the question if Maz can use the Force or not (a question that was answered by a supposedly deleted scene), but we will have to hope to see more in the future on the topic.

==The Bad==

Certain elements of these extra scenes did fall a bit flat. For example, trying to show how Rey begins to awaken to her attunement to the Force is shallow at best, and felt like straws being grasped to make it happen.

It isn’t much better from the perspective from Kylo Ren. The book tries to make him intimidating, but he also falls flat and doesn’t seem as frightening. Vague details of menace via height, a mask, and color choice does not make the particular figure very menacing, yet everyone in the novel fears him. Yes, we get some of his thoughts, but they aren’t enough to redeem the way the character appears here.

One of the parts that truly irked me was the overabundance of “last moments” that Han had. When he talks to Leia for the last time, it’s almost like he knows he’s going to die, and Foster makes that quite clear. When he and Chewie split up to plant explosives, they make it clear that it is for the last time. When Han is finally killed, it’s not nearly as dramatic, as we don’t see any faces or final thoughts, only the action of Han being killed and falling down the pit.

The novel also lacked some of the comedy that we see in the films. Sure, some of these things were gags in the film, but introducing them into the novel was a mixed bag. BB-8 giving Finn a “thumbs up” was still amusing, but the Stormtroopers that were leaving Kylo Ren to his tantrum weren’t as amusing, probably because they looked into the room first. Rey using a mind trick for the first time was great in the film, but was lacking in the novel as it worked almost on the first try (i.e. in the film, the trooper threatened her, but this time nothing happened).

To me, it felt as though all of the details that should have been added were omitted, and some of the best additions to the film were ignored.

==The Verdict==

Rating 2.5 Stars

I’m being generous, and giving this 2.5 buns, and that’s mostly because we’re talking about Star Wars, here.

Honestly, the book feels more like a companion piece to the movie, and not the other way around. The book gives all the necessary details for the plot, adds a few more discussions to get the hang of the backstory, some character devlopment bits (like Han’s comment that shows his age) that make it worthwhile, but otherwise the movie was better.

I never thought I’d EVER say that.

If you are a fan of Star Wars and want some extra scenes, pick this up and give it a read, preferably at your local library. If you enjoyed the film and are wary of the movie, save your cash and buy the Blu-Ray and hope for some deleted scenes that’ll make it worthwhile.


==Coming Up Next. . .==

I’m still working on catching up on a few things like my reading backlog, the current Star Wars RPG playtest, and training at work, but I’ll be doing my best to get some posts out here as soon as possible.

Next week will be a short review of the smaller Millennium Falcon drone/copter, and the week after will be a review of LEGO Marvel Avengers (as 24 hours just isn’t enough time to test the game and still go to work). There’s still a few blacksmithing tasks on the docket once the weather clears and I get the forge fired up, so stay tuned for the insanity that is yet to come!

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