The Last Jedi – Extended Edition Review

The Last Jedi: Extended Edition Review

by Franklin Taylor

Lost. Beaten. On the run. Not only from the tyrannical First Order, but the past, present, and future. Will the Resistance be the spark to awaken the galaxies to the atrocities of the First Order? Or will the Resistance smolder to ash as the past comes back to burn it all down? This is my review of The Last Jedi: Extended Edition novelization by Jason Fry from Del Rey Books.

Why is it Called Extended Edition?

When it comes to novelizations in Star Wars, they typically are adaptations of just the movie script. Where this novelization drifts away from the norm is that it is not so much just an adaptation of the movie script, but a book that builds off the story Rian Johnson created, for The Last Jedi. You not only get the story of The Last Jedi as seen on screen, but paths in the story that were left on the cutting room floor, earlier drafts, and added elements brought to the table through Jason Fry’s research and imagination. What Extended Edition boils down to is an adaptation that builds upon itself by the additional story elements not found in the film.

This novelization is a companion piece to the movie. Not all the adaptations can be labeled so. Not all adaptations need to be. Out of all the novelizations I have read, I would categorize Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover, The Rebellion Begins by Michael Kogge, Rogue One by Alexander Freed, and now The Last Jedi by Jason Fry as companion pieces. One is not needed without the other. You can enjoy just the movies or just the books. However, the synergy adds a delightful new point of view.

Going Into The Last Jedi Novelization

I mentioned in a previous post (The Last Jedi Unicorn) my excitement to Jason Fry writing this novelization. Long story short: I was ultimately excited! I have not read everything he has released from Legends and Canon. Of the stories I have read of Fry’s work in Star Wars the most impactful to me has been his Servants of the Empire four book middle grade series. Each book plays off a different theme (teamwork, loyalty, justice, courage) that crescendos into a very satisfying ending. I am still thinking about where Zare Leonis and Merei Spanjaf’s characters will go in future stories! Other stories to note are “The Levers of Power” (Rae Sloane short story), Weapon of a Jedi (Luke Skywalker middle grade novel), and co written story with Cecil Castellucci Moving Target (Leia Organa middle grade novel).

Delayed Novelization Release

In the past, Star Wars novelizations would either release some time before or on the day the movies released to the public. The Last Jedi novelization broke that mold. Prior to The Last Jedi, only the recent Marvel comic adaptations (starting with The Force Awakens) were released way after the movie released. Yet, not the book novelizations (as a tangent the author of Solo: A Star Wars Story novelization was not even revealed, when the movie debuted to the public). The simplest reason is in the past, books and comics were designed to promote to film. However, with the structure of social media and the creativity of the advertisement campaign it is no longer required to force the comic books and novelizations to release before or on release. In fact, the movies now are what promotes people to read the comics and books. What will be interesting is how the discord to the novelizations will go. Because outside jumping into the visual dictionary to get more out of the movies (which it is interesting we even get visual dictionaries), the focus of discussion is more focused on what was seen on screen.

Jumping Into the Novel

By the time I got to read The Last Jedi Extended Edition, I had seen the movie three times, finished watching the series finale of Star Wars Rebels, listened to the prologue of The Last Jedi on audible (what a great way to start a story!), read Last Shot by Daniel José Older, and was about the halfway through my revisit through the Aftermath trilogy. I could have listened to the audiobook the whole way through, but I had a gut feeling to wait to read the hardcover, when I could afford it. A decision I am so glad to have done! (I am not always the greatest active listener… and yet I listen to a lot of podcasts.)

What I found intriguing with Jason Fry’s approach to the novelization was how he structured the story. Most of the big reveals from the movie were designed to naturally reveal in a similar manner in the book. How Fry approached that was by shifting the point of view. We got from the perspective of how different characters could perceive through the Force. We got to see events unfold through the mind of artificial intelligences. Plus, we were shown the thoughts and reasons behind key actions of the story.

It fascinates me how each Star Wars adaptation will tackle the material. Star Wars movies are silent films (a term George Lucas had used to pitch his first Star Wars film, which I had found about from David W. Collins’ The Soundtrack Show). Since there were no way to play dialogue or sound effects, silent films were designed to tell a story surrounded by the music accompaniment (usually played to the audience watching the moving pictures). For some a lot of what resonates with people in Star Wars is the subconscious merging of visuals and music. Jason Fry in this story did a great job of pulling back the curtain of time to answer the why characters were feeling the emotions they did in a way that didn’t require past reading or viewing of the other movies.

Building Off the Past, Present, and Future

Aside from adding deleting scenes from Rian Johnson’s story, Jason Fry is in a unique situation. He not only has previous lore material to build the story from, but he has been collaborating in Star Wars a long time, including his work on visual dictionaries, atlas’, encyclopedias, stories, and more! This knowledge pool came in handy, because it set up Fry to seamlessly weave in so much world building exposition to the narrative. One example in particular is Jason Fry wrote Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections, which included facts about the Millenium Falcon (in the condition it was in going into The Force Awakens), and with his research he was able to incorporate little details from canon and legends about the ship in his story (like the fact there is three droid brains inside the ship, which I believe came from a legends comic, but now has a whole new meaning). Some of the deep cuts or nods to the book characters like Rae Sloane or Inferno Squad fit seamlessly in the story, and work best as a nod in the novels. Though, I do realize how tricky it is to sprinkle in these connective tissues. The sandbox of Star Wars is constantly growing, with stories set on all spectrums of the timeline, so if there is not enough wiggle room, a wonderful future story idea might end up on the cutting room floor. Or alternatively, like in the Revenge of the Sith novelization, all the Legends nods that stray from canon stories to come out later create a dissonance in the overall story. However, it isn’t hard to simply waive it off as each adaptation is a snapshot of what came out before or during the release of the story. This disconnect has been shrinking a bit, with the Lucasfilm Story Group doing a great job of setting up new stories to both simultaneously fit with past stories, but present, and future unreleased or even created stories.

Characterizations

For the most part, I was very pleased, with how each character was written. I enjoyed Fry’s approach to Snoke and Luke Skywalker. The incorporation of Leia Organa’s backstory from Claudia Gray’s novels was a nice touch. I liked that DJ did not have a forced stutter in his dialogue. Rose Tico I am on the fence about, because on the one hand I do like the extra material of her character, but on the other hand there were elements that created a dissonance, with her portrayal, and how I saw Kelly Marie Tran’s performance of the character. I can only imagine the difficulty it can be to write Rose Tico’s character, because there are so many elements that make her character special, and like anyone that tries to draw Mark Hamill’s face as Luke Skywalker, it is really tough to find that balance. However, Jason Fry’s approach to Ben Solo was well done. It reminded me of how Matthew Stover approached Anakin Skywalker in the Revenge of the Sith novelization, where it was not just him being bad or evil. But rather him coming to terms with his desire to seek the Dark Side of the Force, and forget his past. Whether, he will stay down that path in future installments is left to be seen. Speaking of the Dark Side of the Force, we are expanded on Rey’s journey to understand what is going on with the Skywalker bloodline, and how she must face her own temptations of the Dark Side by learning from their failures. The Expanded Edition doesn’t answer where she will go from here, but that was never the intent.

Now, of all the characterizations in The Last Jedi Expanded Edition, I do want to focus on one in particular- General Armitage Hux. Before The Force Awakens released in theaters, Jason Fry’s fourth Servants of the Empire middle grade novel released, and one of the characters was Commandant Hux (the story was set some years before A New Hope). The interesting thing about speculation and lack of information is I at one time thought that Armitage Hux was going to be revealed as the clone of Commandant Hux, because of the Commandant’s fascination with clones and Jedi training practices. Boy was I wrong (Commandant Hux was Armitage’s father)! With that aside, this novel builds off a lot of Hux’s backstory and intent. In the movie, he is played in some scenes for laughs as his arrogance and inexperience shows in the face of previous Imperial leaders being stuck in lower ranking positions. In the novel, we get more method to his madness, and it will be interesting to see where the story goes in the next installment.

Overall

The Expanded Edition of The Last Jedi gets a full recommendation from me! The balancing act of taking such a dense story, adding in new layers, and presenting the story in a refreshing way is not an easy task. I wouldn’t compare this novelization to the other ones in the franchise, because each novelization adds their own flavor or point of view to the narrative. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. I did find it was nice to chew on the story before jumping into the novelization. In a way that made me appreciate the material more. As with all of the Star Wars adaptations, there were some elements in this version that didn’t work for me. Yet, I was able to fully dive into this novel, and have a great time! I do plan to read this again, because there are a lot of details and connections packed into the story to discover and rediscover!

Before You Read The Last Jedi Expanded Edition

Now, it is not necessary to read or watch anything before jumping into the story, but I do have two recommendations. I am excluding the Journey to The Last Jedi media release, because most people will gravitate to those stories naturally.

Revenge of the Sith (novelization) by Matthew Stover:

What I like about this companion novel by Stover was his story approach was of a modern mythologically poetic direction. Not only does that make this companion piece to Revenge of the Sith an enjoyable read, but sets up Luke Skywalker’s comments about how the Jedi becoming romanticized after the fall of the Republic hit closer to home. This story was written before The Clone Wars and Rebels TV show even was a possibility, so there will be omissions of key characters and different backstories.

The Theatre of War: What Ancient Greek Tragedies Can Teach Us Today by Bryan Doerries:

The version I recommend is the audiobook version narrated by Adam Driver. This is not a Star Wars book recommendation, but it does play into the digesting Matthew Stover and Jason Fry’s companion novels. I first heard about this audiobook from Skytalker’s podcast. As a side note check out their Revenge of the Sith Novelization episode discussion, and their The Last Jedi Novelization episode discussion. I cannot stress enough how much this book played a factor in how I went into reading The Last Jedi Extended Edition. There is so much to think about, when going through The Theater of War, and it is fascinating to translate the modern mythology of Star Wars through the lens as a Greek tragedy.

What did you think of The Last Jedi Extended Edition? Let us know!