Established Star Wars author Jason Fry unveils his much-anticipated novelisation of The Last Jedi, serving fans an expanded version of the story and successfully re-immersing us in the latest saga set in a galaxy far, far away…
The much-anticipated novelisation of Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives from acclaimed author Jason Fry whose previous work has included Clone Wars Visual Guide, Star Wars: The Essential Atlas, and the popular Star Wars Rebels series. The book, which was written with input from filmmaker Rian Johnson who signed-off numerous additional story elements and extended sequences, is a triumphant literary telling of The Last Jedi, written with the passion of a seasoned life-long fan.
Before writing, Fry sat down with the writer-director of the film at Skywalker Ranch to discuss the story and how the novelisation would complement it. The conversation concerned characters, their relationships and how Johnson wanted to convey their emotional state, particularly in relation to new characters such as Rose and Holdo.
In an interview with The Independent newspaper, Fry said: “We also talked about what he’d cut from the movie and why – that was a very helpful guide for me as I tried to work through deleted scenes, additional dialogue and beats that I might want to present in the novelization. It was important to learn, for instance, that one scene had been cut for running time while another one got excised because Rian wondered if a character’s emotional arc was clear enough in it.
“I felt lucky to be able to have a conversation like that at all, and even luckier because Rian was the writer as well as the director. He was aware of some of the challenges I faced in this novelization and was generous about helping me brainstorm them a bit.
“For instance, there are storytelling elements of The Last Jedi that depend on the visual language of film, such as the Rashomon-style flashbacks to what happened between Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren, and the visual surprise of the reveal after Rey’s experience in the mirror cave – the voiceover lets us know she’s telling her story to someone, but we’re surprised to discover it’s Kylo. How to recreate the surprise of that scene in print was one of the biggest challenges in the book.”
Fry’s novelisation sticks closely, as you’d expect, to the film but offers further insight into the characters which enhances our enjoyment of the action we see visualised on screen. While the book doesn’t ignore the humour featured in Johnson’s effort, there’s less emphasis placed on amusing the reader, rather Fry finds an agreeable pace that hooks you in despite our appreciation of the plot’s various twists and turns to achieve an immersive emotional journey built on his efforts to fully bring these characters – including the smaller roles – to life.
Satisfyingly, Fry gives plenty of “page time” to Luke Skywalker. I particularly enjoyed Luke’s previously unseen “Jedi Class” lesson to Rey which is one of the book’s more humorous moments. We also get a chance to delve more deeply into Skywalker’s life between Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi through his personal regrets that he ever got involved with the Rebellion. This is especially clear in his preference for a “normal” life and hints at the character’s reasoning behind his resistance to re-join the fight.
Fry said in his interview with The Independent newspaper that the best advice Rian Johnson gave him was about tone. “He talked about how he’d worked to ensure a sense of fun and adventure in the movie even when it was dealing with tragic events and weighty subjects – the way he put it was “lift, not drag.” I returned to those three words over and over while writing, and tried to leaven the novelisation with fun observations, dialogue and descriptions.”
This might have come through the filmmaker’s comedy – which at times feels too slapstick – but Fry uses it often in his beautiful description of place, time, the landscape and how the “force” feeds off the universe. The author even has a chance to rectify – or at least lessen – the weaker elements of the film’s middle act on Canto Bight with Fry using the time to flesh out Finn’s emotional state and Rose’s relationship with her sister.
Plot-wise, the book is more concerned with more intimate character details than answering the film’s enigmas or giving us lots of additional sequences that didn’t take place in the film. That’s not to say there isn’t enough here to add to experiencing the film. We get a cathartic sequence near the beginning for Han Solo’s funeral that acts as a rallying cry for the Rebellion troops, Snork’s backstory is hinted at through revelations about the Empire’s activities post Return of the Jedi, and there’s some nice interactions between Skywalker and Rey that expands on their push-pull relationship.
Star Wars – The Last Jedi: Expanded Edition is a terrific novelisation of the film that will certainly thrill fans of the wider Star Wars story, complementing Rian Johnson’s big screen effort and providing more than a few revelations that elevate a story you thought you already knew.
Written by Rory Fish
Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Jason Fry is out now.