There’s something about reading the scenes and dialogue that come alive in a movie that brings a new perspective. Whether it be what thoughts ran through a character’s mind in a particular moment, to how a setting is described, an extra dimension is added to the overall story. That’s why when I discovered that there was a novelization of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” published, I was curious to see how author Alan Dean Foster would interpret the first good “Star Wars” film in over three decades. (Please note that there are descriptions regarding the plot up ahead, but nothing too spoilery. If you, for some reason, still haven’t seen the film by now, this is where I advice you to stop reading.)
War is at large and the last Jedi, Luke Skywalker, is nowhere to be found. The First Order has every intent to get to him before the Resistance does, but they need the last piece of a map that leads to him; and that information is entrusted in a small BB unit called BB-8. Together with Rey, a scavenger from Jakku with a mysterious past, and Finn, an ex-storm trooper who fled the First Order, they are thrown into a mission to get this vital piece of information to the Resistance; and thus ignites the beginning of a whole new adventure in a galaxy far, far away.
It is wise to note that I am a huge fan of not only the “Star Wars” franchise, but also of this latest film. The characters, both old and new are great, the callbacks to the original trilogy were touching enough to have any geek melt with joy, and there was a good use of both special and practical effects (unlike the prequels, but let’s not go there…).
When it comes to the novelization, it did a good job with sticking true to the story. It was fun reading Foster’s descriptions of BB-8’s mannerisms, the thoughts and loneliness felt by Rey, the bursts of frustrations from Kylo Ren, and the state of the atmosphere when it came to the interactions between Han and Leia.
One of the things that I liked was the additional scenes Foster tossed into the book, providing answers and giving light to characters who otherwise weren’t as prominently seen in the film. For instance, while we didn’t see Leia for the first time until about halfway through the film, we see and hear from her a lot more throughout the novelization. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the scenes Foster had written are deleted scenes from the film.
Additional dialogue was tossed in as well, enhancing on certain scenes, as well as enhancing on the character’s personalities as well. We see some more exchanges between Rey and BB-8 than we otherwise see in the film, and Han has a lot more “wisdom” to share with her and Finn. At the same time, it was also the additional dialogue that I found off-putting at times, for there were instances where it came to be a little too excessive; to the point where it dragged on for a little too long. Not to mention that this even resulted in altering and/or removing dialogue altogether that were otherwise very poignant in the film.
Same can go for descriptions throughout the book as well, and ultimately slowing down the storytelling in the process. The film is very fast paced, with very few quiet, slow scenes in between. Knowing that, I feel that Foster didn’t do as effective of a job of translating that speed of motion to the novelization.
Overall, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a hit and miss. There were strategies that Foster used that worked, but other times didn’t. However, it does succeed with capturing the spirit and story of the original film.