by Editor-in-Chief Michael Brooks
“Anakin.” Obi-Wan’s voice had gone soft, and his hand was warm on Anakin’s arm. “There is no other Jedi I would rather have at my side right now. No other man.”
Anakin turned, and found within Obi-Wan’s eyes a depth of feeling he had only rarely glimpsed in all their years together; and the pure uncomplicated love that rose up within him then felt like a promise from the Force itself.
“I… I wouldn’t have it any other way, Master.”
“I believe,” his onetime Master said with a gently humorous look of astonishment at the words coming out of his mouth, “that you should get used to calling me Obi-Wan.”Matthew Stover, Revenge of the Sith
Enjoy this book review of the novelization of my favorite Star Wars movie. Yes, my favorite Star Wars movie is Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. But, the movie is not without faults and I believe that this book does what we wish the movie would have done. It was an incredible read and you will see why below.
Why I Read the Book
I go in and out of “Star Wars” kicks and I have been in one for a while now. With the High Republic initiative beginning my interest in reading Star Wars was kicked back up again. But, I have had the hardcover edition of Matthew Stover’s novelization of the third movie on my shelf since I was in high school. So, I decided to read it and finish it. It being my favorite movie I was excited to dive in.
Synopsis & Structure
Matthew Stover’s follows the Lucas script and thus follows the major events of the movie almost exactly. The book does include a few extra scenes. Two that come to mind are when Padme and a few Senators– representing 2,000–approach Palpatine with the Petition of the Two Thousand to request an end to the war peacefully and give up his power. Another scene which is increased so much that it feels like an addition is the confrontation between Windu and Palpatine. But, primarily, it adds layers and dialogue to the main plot. These additions add deep layers of new dynamics and understanding to the story.
The book is incredible for a host of reasons. I will focus on a few here. Something that I thought could have been easily overlooked is that Stover’s additions do not feel stilted nor do they corrupt the original story. They are natural and fit perfectly with what Lucas seemed to have envisioned and with the movie and the Star Wars universe. Stover brings needed slowing down, extra dialogue, and key information about events and characters in the background that make the story truly incredible. Another element that I really appreciated was the depth added to the characters. Stover brings a richness and understanding that was needed when compared to the original movie.
While reading the novelization the reader learns more about the gifts, strengths, and weaknesses of many main characters as well as their thinking and viewpoint as the events unfold around them. Obi Wan takes center stage as you are in his head a lot more. It feels in some ways a celebration of him, his integrity and greatness, while at the same time showing his own limitations. These limitations are part of the reason (as he states and is implied) why he could not help Anikan in the way that he needed.
“This is Obi-Wan Kenobi:
A phenomenal pilot who doesn’t like to fly. A devastating warrior who’d rather not fight. A negotiator without peer who frankly prefers to sit alone in a quiet cave and meditate.”
You learn so much more about Windu and the struggles of the council. An important point here is that Stover’s additions give us insights that help the reader understand the reasons and logic of the council in the decisions they made. This was a needed element compared to the movie. Yoda takes on a greater role later in the story. You see his failure and how even he is unable to help Anikan. He then has a realization about why the Jedi have failed during this time. He blames himself for the Jedi not being able to defeat the Sith.Why? His inflexibility and lack of ability to change and grow are the reasons he sees why the Sith are stronger and smarter than the Jedi. This was the reason for their downfall. Yoda realizes that he had been leading the Jedi to defeat the Sith of the previous wars but not letting the grow and change for new challenges ahead. He was too rigid. The Sith, on the other hand, had been preparing to learn anew how to defeat the Jedi.
“This truth: that he, the avatar of light, Supreme Master of the Jedi Order, the fiercest, most impeccable, most devastatingly powerful foe the darkness had ever known…
Stover continues filling holes the movie left partially open. He gives you insight about Anikan and the depth of his internal struggles. This was something that seemed rushed in the movie. In the book you agonize with Anikan. You even learn of Anikan’s own initial plans to kill Palpatine. This happened right after his conversion to the dark side. This desire to kill your master is part of the conversion to the dark side. I enjoyed seeing how Palpatine describes and communicates about the “dark side”. He did it in a convincing way which makes it believable as to how it would sway a fragile Anikan. This is helpful in understanding the wisdom of Palpatine and the deception of Anikan.
Another benefit of the book is the political intrigue, conflict, and dynamics at play that are not nearly as present in the movie. One example is how the Jedi Council is losing the trust of the people and the Senate. This is discussed quite a bit throughout the book. Another example is Palpatine’s immense skill in playing the Jedi off against each other and keeping everything in view to bring about his purposes. The political element is not nearly as present in the movie because so much is going on. The book slows down to deal with these important elements.
Stover does a good job of still keeping at the center the love Obi Wan has for Anikan and his own attachment to Anikan. The struggle he faced between obeying the Council and truly helping Anikan. You see their brotherhood and love. But, at the same time, you see Anikan’s frailties and insecurities come through even in his relationship to Obi Wan. You see how he views Obi Wan and the distrust that is present within Anikan the more fragile and fearful he becomes.
“I think,” Obi-Wan said carefully, “that abstractions like peace don’t mean much to him. He’s loyal to people, not to principles. And he expects loyalty in return. He will stop at nothing to save me, for example, because he thinks I would do the same for him.”
Mace and Yoda gazed at him steadily, and Obi-Wan had to lower his head.
“Because,” he admitted reluctantly, “he knows I would do the same for him.”
On its own there may be some negative elements. For example, the ending for the book seems rushed. Stover rushed the rather eventful ending in the script in a surprising way. It seemed that Stover felt his own limits in how long the book could be and thus decided to end the part of the book. Another element that, on its own, is a bit of a negative is that I was not entirely impressed with his writing of Anikan and Obi Wan’s legendary duel. But, the movie does that so well (in my opinion) that the book did not need to do it as well. It was not poor in any way but it did fail to live up to the quality present in the rest of the book. I also wish we had more to the storming of the Jedi temple. This would have been a cool addition as this is the destruction of a sacred monument of the Republic and in a sense the symbol of the Sith victory.
Overall, this is a must-read. But, I do think that it would be most enjoyed by those that really like the third movie or most helpful to those that hated the third move. For those that hate the movie this may help them appreciate the story Lucas was trying to craft. For those that love the movie this book adds depth that would have made the movie truly outstanding in every way. Thank you Matthew Stover for writing such an incredible novelization of the third movie.