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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'THE LAST JEDI - EXPANDED EDITION'

A time for destiny and balance is at hand, for The Last Jedi.

SPOILER ALERT!

Despite the expansive entertainment world in which we live, a few of its notable and special realms have been brought to life by but just a small and exclusively select group of lucky people. Examples: only six people so far have officially portrayed James Bond, only thirteen people have been the TV Time Lord Doctor Who across fifty plus years. And, in the realms of adapting the cinematic adventures of the STAR WARS saga, long-time franchise author Jason Fry is now a very lucky man indeed, joining that very unique and elite club of talented scribes making their best seller publishing mark within a truly 'official' part of the saga's history and life blood, to deliver the all-important novelisation of writer/director Rian Johnson's unique entry into the new modern sequel saga - the ambitious and at times quite dark The Last Jedi, whose prose transformation is out now in UK hardback 'Expanded Edition', via CENTURY. Fry delivers a thoughtful novelisation as enjoyable and worthwhile to read on the page as viewing the story in its cinematic form, expanding its plot and characters further via all-new original material (which he makes a commendable mark with), as well as incorporating further official Lucasfilm/Johnson input.

The mystery of Luke on Ahch-To continues... Art by Brian Rood.

Clearly learnt and stealing (in the nicest of ways) from the best of the previous SW film adaptors, most notably the original trilogy scribes of Alan Dean Foster (yet to beaten in his film-to-book conversion skills), Donald F. Glut and James Kahn, Fry delivers well-structured storytelling and a zippy, straightforward prose. Though the film has some occasional pacing problems, The Last Jedi's novelisation has none of that baggage potentially weighing it down, of which the (perhaps) over-hyped new material enjoyably adds further depth and dimensions to the main characters (whilst also clearing up a few now noticeable plot holes) during the book's opening chapters, leading to the oncoming, officially out of the shadows threat of the First Order against the retreating and decimated-in-numbers Resistance at D'Qar, plus a chance for a grieving General Leia Organa to say goodbye to her murdered husband Han Solo, and the legacy he leaves behind to her, the son who ultimately killed him, and the future of the galaxy now seemingly without any kind of Jedi protectorate.

Down but not out- General Leia Organa.

Of Leia's Awol Jedi brother, there's an inspired prologue of a Luke Skywalker that could have been had he not gotten originally involved with the Rebels after seeing the brief hologram message/plea from Leia, of which Fry's description of the farmboy/man's alternate life on the desert world of Tatooine, alongside a well known deleted scene female, proves both fun and interesting to read, reminding me of those great, back-in-the-day Star Wars: Infinities tales, amidst a portent of change for the self-exiled Jedi Master on Ahch-To, whether he wants it or not.

The nature of the Force, and the building powers of it within Rey and Kylo Ren, is given further depth. 

Beyond Luke, Fry further excels with the remainder of the Classic Trilogy heroes, giving them some fine character nuances that feel right, and Fry should know all about these icons- having written for and about them for so long, whilst also successfully getting us into the mindsets of the all-new young and passing-the-torch sequel trilogy heroes with some broad canvas stroke detailing- Rey's brave spirit to win over Luke Skywalker, and, later, her mistaken belief that Kylo Ren could turn to the light and destroy the First Order (of which he has become such an important part), being well represented. Former Stormtrooper Finn also has much more to do here- great news as this reviewer thought that he was a little shortchanged in the story arcs since being separated from Rey, and after his injuries at the destroyed Starkiller Base. Meanwhile, space spitfire pilot Poe Dameron learns more about the cost of reckless leadership from both Leia and quirkily charismatic newcomer Admiral Holdo. Many of the film's deleted scenes (now released on Blu-ray) linked to these main character arcs developed by Fry are also worthily included in the book's 316 pages.

It's a race against time for BB-8, Finn and Rose as they head to Canto Bight.

Of further interest to the dedicated fanbase: more development of the seemingly inseparable-from-birth Tico sisters as they escape the First Order occupation of their world to join the Resistance, and the eventual tragedy that will on split them apart forever. Interestingly, Rose comes across much more spiky and bitter in novel form before the final third changes things- it's a testament to Kelly Marie Tran for making the character much more likeable on screen. In the reverse of that, the hit-or-miss scenes linked to Rose, Finn and BB-8 on the casino world of Canto Bight work better on the printed page than they did on screen- a case of fun intentions showcasing the film's fine creature and effects teams that didn't quite gel with audiences.

The malignancy of Supreme Leader Snoke continues.

And as light rises to meet darkness in the depths of space, there's more tantalizing hints emerge about the malevolent Supreme Leader Snoke's corruption of the all-too-powerful Ben Solo prior to his Jedi training, as well as titillating subtle past connections/manipulations of the Skywalker family. Here's hoping the full and no doubt compelling history of the evil doer's involvement with that troubled family lineage finally comes to novel reality after the event of EPISODE IX - it should be right up James Luceno's street!.

Finally, a special mention and commendation to one of the very best moments in the book, not written by Johnson but Fry- at the end, when our heroes are gathered escaping Crait in the Millennium Falcon, there's a scene where Leia, subtly separated from the main group, tells an emotional Chewie of the loss of Luke Skywalker. It's a true tear in the eye, lump in the throat moment between these two important and iconic characters that I wish had been in the film, especially after the mistake made on screen in The Force Awakens where Leia wasn't seen comforting her old friend Chewie on the death of Han. For this special new scene alone, the purchase of The Last Jedi - Expanded Edition proves essential.

AFICIONADO RATING: A solid page-turner adaptation. Oh, and I liked that 'Cosmic Force' referencing too, Jason! 3.5 out of 5

The red of rebellion, and revenge!

Get hold of the book here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Jedi-Expanded-Star-Wars/dp/178089841X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1521553625&sr=1-1&keywords=the+last+jedi+expanded+edition

Jason Fry talks about the book and his personal goal to fuse the film adaptation with other aspects of the novels and comics forming the current iteration of the official Expanded Universe: 

http://www.starwars.com/news/how-the-last-jedi-novelization-connects-to-a-galaxy-of-star-wars-books-and-comics

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