Review: Jason Fry Expertly Expands and Enhances The Last Jedi in His Novelization of the Movie
Author Jason Fry is no stranger to Star Wars, having written multiple source books and junior novels, including two tie-in books for The Force Awakens and the Servants of the Empire series, so it should come as no surprise that he is intimately familiar with the Star Wars universe, and this knowledge really shines through as he vividly brings Rian Johnson’s film to life in the pages of his novelization Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Expanded Edition). Spoilers Ahead…
So, first things first…what’s with the “Expanded Edition” moniker attached to the title? Is there even a “regular edition” of the book? Well, after a few minutes of searching, I concluded that this seems to indeed be the only edition of the novel available. I assume the naming convention is there for the sole purpose of revealing the book’s intent to the reader. This novel was written to expand your understanding of the film and to enrich your experience by adding valuable details to the story that either didn’t make the final cut of the film or were impossible to convey on screen apart from the written word.
Having been written with input from the movie’s director Rian Johnson, and given Fry’s vast knowledge of the galaxy far far away, this book delivers the goods as promised. Fry succeeds in expanding on the story of the film itself, while weaving a plethora of cross-media Star Wars canon connections throughout the book, and in some cases, fundamentally changing the way I now see certain scenes in the movie.
Moving forward, this review will focus on the contributions that Fry makes with the book rather than the story itself. Simply put, if you enjoyed the film and enjoy a good read, then you will probably like the book. But if you didn’t like the film for its story, you will probably not enjoy the book either, though I still recommend giving it a chance as Fry’s book revealed certain things about the story, specifically concerning the character of Luke Skywalker that I didn’t get from watching the movie. Fans who were disappointed with how Luke was handled may find something of value here, and the ones who loved his part in the movie will grow to appreciate it all the more after reading this book.
One of the things that Fry does take advantage of is the fact that being forced to cut scenes is never really a problem in the book format as it is on the big screen. Johnson made some decisions to cut some things out of his final script or from the film itself during the editing process to give the movie the pacing he wanted to achieve for the story he wanted to come across to the audience. What Fry was able to do was pick some of these things off of the cutting room floor and inject his novel with all sorts of extra character moments and details.
Many of the additional scenes in the book, such as Rey crashing the Caretaker party and Finn’s run in with trooper 926 (pretty sure this is Tom Hardy) can be seen in the deleted scenes on the home release of the film. But there are some other scenes that only appear in the book, such as Luke’s dream of what his life could have been if he had stayed on Tatooine and not gotten involved, playing out like an intriguing “what if’ scenario that Fry uses to open the book. In the dream, Luke decided to go after Artoo at night instead of waiting until morning. He gets lucky and doesn’t encounter any sand people, the Empire arrived the next day to confiscate the droids, and Luke grew old with his wife Camie (one of his friends from the deleted scenes of A New Hope).
For the most part, I can understand why some of the scenes were cut, like the moment when Rose bites Hux’s finger after he taunts her on the Supremacy. There was actually quite a bit cut out of the movie from the Supremacy infiltration sequence, from Finn making sure their uniforms were convincing enough (as he fit BB-8 with a trash can droid disguise) to a near encounter with a First Order Security officer. However, most of these found their way onto the deleted scenes list so you can always enjoy them there as well.
One of the scenes that I regret to say wasn’t in the film or its deleted scenes was actually one of my favorite moments in the book. I’m not sure if this was from Johnson or if it originated with Fry, but after their rescue on Crait, Leia has a sweet moment with Chewie where they embrace and reminisce about the old days. After this, Leia sobs into the Wookiee’s fur as the two lament over all that they had lost. Abrams really missed his opportunity for a moment like this in The Force Awakens, and Johnson did give us a hug, but he didn’t give us a moment like this, and it was a very soft yet powerful moment that I would have loved to see on screen.
With Fry being the source book writer that he is, you can bet that he has a good handle on the technical stuff, as he effortlessly provides readers with explanations of how the technology works in the story, from the Resistance’s magnetic bombs (so that’s how they dropped their payload in zero gravity!) to what exactly happened to the First Order fleet when Holdo made her murderous jump to hyperspace. He also addressed how Leia was able to survive in the vacuum if space and the adverse health effects that the exposure may have caused. I could even see this as a way for them to explain her passing between films.
His effortless ability to directly reference countless other canon stories like Leia, Princess of Alderaan, The Storms of Crait, Shattered Empire, Aftermath, Battlefront II and many others was also a delight to read. I love how interconnected the Star Wars universe has become, and things like this really bring out the significance and importance of every story, a testament to Fry’s gifts as a writer.
Before I give you my final thoughts and attempt to score the novel, I want to address a moment in the book that fundamentally changed my perception of Luke’s actions against his nephew in the flashback sequence. Just like in the movie, we are presented with three different versions of this event – the version Luke told Rey, Kylo’s version, and the final version that revealed the whole truth of what happened. However, in the book we are given even more concerning Luke’s motivation for the near murder of his own flesh and blood, a moment that a lot of fans had a big problem with after watching the movie.
Granted, I can’t honestly say if this was the original intent or if this is just Jason Fry’s spin on it, but in the book, readers are told exactly what that darkness was in Ben that caused Luke to actually consider ending his life while he slept. Luke witnessed Ben murdering his students and his temple in flames, a point which was alluded to in the movie when Luke mentioned that he realized Snoke had already turned him as the screams of his students can be heard in the background.
When Ben saw that Luke had seen his dark thoughts (or possibly the plan he had already made with Snoke) that’s when he made his move. He wasn’t lashing out because of Luke’s betrayal of him, but rather, Luke’s discovery of his dark intentions. To me, this added a little weight to Luke’s actions and really helped me understand why he would even consider such a dark deed. I’m all the more impressed that he was able to resist the temptation knowing what he did about young Solo.
I noticed a couple of smaller details in the book that I thought were interesting as well. For instance, DJ’s dialogue is not written with a stutter, which leads me to think this was a trait that Del Toro brought to the character on his own. Also, in the final moments of the book back on Canto Bight with the stable boy, it is also not explicitly stated that he uses the Force in any way to draw the broom into his hand, leading me to believe that this was an idea that perhaps Johnson had later on in the process.
To sum up my thoughts on Jason Fry’s novelization of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I can say that it’s one of the better film adaptations I have read, and it’s definitely my favorite of the Star Wars movie adaptations. The richness it contains in relation to other canon media is quite impressive and the value it adds to the movie is exactly what I want in a book adaptation. In short, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the movie.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Expanded Edition) is available now in hardcover or digital format. Until next time, happy reading Star Wars fans!
Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.