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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Expanded Edition’ (audio book review)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Expanded Edition
Written by Jason Fry
Narrated by Marc Thompson
Published by Random House Audio
Released 3/6/18 / $40.00
Running Time:  11 Hours

 

The Last Jedi is a film that left Star Wars fans divided like never before.

Some love the bold and unexpected direction of Rian Johnson’s story, while others loathe every fiber of the movie Disney delivered.

Enter the audio book, and we get the usual deep dive as to what the characters were thinking during critical moments. Rian Johnson’s input, however, allows for the novel to expand on the film that includes scenes from alternate versions of the script. This is a little bothersome to a Star Wars canon junkie.

While there are some nifty Easter eggs with new information, the book is not going to change anyone’s mind about the film.

The center of the audience backlash against The Last Jedi revolves around the portrayal of Luke Skywalker in the film.

The book opens with the weary Jedi dreaming of a simpler life; one where he never left Tatooine. He has a wife; kids and the Lars family is alive and well. This cements Luke’s movie path even more because it hammers home the buyer’s remorse taking the path of a Jedi. The cannon elements get a little wonky here because Luke is married to Camie, the girl in the deleted scene from A New Hope where Biggs and company look up in the sky at the Star Destroyer firing on the Tantive IV. Luke even dreams of that very scene, which is playing fast and loose with the rules of canon.

My advice is if something in the book contradicts what happens in the movie, the movie wins every time.

Jason Fry delivers a well-written script with considerable attention to detail. Marc Thompson is the master when it comes to Star Wars audio narration. However, this wasn’t his best outing.

The opening Luke Skywalker prologue was compelling to hear, but from there, it takes forty-five minutes for the book to get to the start of the movie. That time is filled with the Resistance evacuating D’Qar with time in between for Leia to say a final goodbye to a certain smuggler. The sentimentality of this moment comes off as a pit stop on the way towards salvation. It was a good idea with lackluster execution.

Thompson voices Luke Skywalker rather well and does a decent Kylo Ren but the majority of the characters, however, came off as hollow imitations. It’s easier for the listener’s imagination to accept the voice when it’s the only or first frame of reference for a character.

Plus, most Star Wars novels come out before the film, but this one came out two months after the film’s release to avoid spoilers. Perhaps, the voices of John Boyega and Daisy Ridley from the silver screen are still fresh, making it hard to accept Thompson’s interpretation this time around.

Another point of contention with the film is the purple haired Vice Admiral Holddo. “Why didn’t she tell Poe the plan?”

It’s a fair question that frustrated many fans. In the book, she’s even more steadfast in her secrecy and even throws a couple of little jabs towards a comatose Leia. This kind of ruins the “You taught me how” line that Holdo warmly expressed during the transport evacuation to Crait.

The Force Awakens novelization changed a lot of the lines that the characters uttered in the film, even though the same message was conveyed.

Here, we pretty much get a word for word transcript except when new information is presented to fill in some of the plot holes or unanswered questions such as why no one answered Leia’s distress call. It turns out the New Republic was not completely wiped out when Starkiller Base destroyed the Hosnian system. I’m not going to spoil the answer, but it made sense and would have served the film well, but perhaps the reveal is being saved for Episode XI.

Overall, The Last Jedi is a well-portioned appetizer for canon junkies but as an entrée it would have been flavorless. It’s impossible not to compare the book to the movie. ]]

While I enjoyed the film profoundly, the expanded edition audio book fails more than it succeeds. Reveals to previously unanswered questions would have been better left unsaid, Luke Skywalker’s yearning for a different life makes him an even more sympathetic character and Finn and Rose’s trek to Canto Bight is still a waste of time.

It’s by no means a dumpster fire but a rather soulless telling of controversial source material that goes to show that the book is not always better than the movie.

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