Thursday, May 27, 2010

Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith
© 2005: Screenplay, George Lucas; novelization, Matthew Stover.
419 pages


Blade to blade, they were identical. After thousands of hours in lightsaber sparring, they knew each other better than brothers, more intimately than lovers; they were complimentary halves of a single warrior. In every exchange, Obi-Wan gave ground. It was his way. And he knew that to strike Anakin down would be to burn his own heart to ash. (397)

An article on TvTropes convinced me to read the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, primarily because     it mentioned that Stover remedied my primary gripe with the movie, the way it turned Padme Amidala into a two-dimensional prop for Anakin whose only function seemed to be crying and wringing her hands in helplessness. Happily, I was not mislead here, for Revenge may be one of the better Star Wars works I've yet read.

Revenge of the Sith is the last of the prequel movies, depicting the downfall of the Galactic Republic and the fall of Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side. Skywalker is the hero of the hour, a lifetime prodigy whose exploits are known far and wide. He and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi  have served the Republic tirelessly throughout the Clone Wars, but political stresses tug them apart. The Jedi council has grown concerned over the increasing amount of power invested in the Supreme Chancellor, and doubly wary given the Chancellor’s strong connection to young Anakin, who -- while powerful, brave, and fiercely loyal -- possesses fear and pride in abundance. While the Republic struggles to bring an end to the civil war which has so undermined its foundations, the JedI attempt to defend the integrity of both the Republic and Anakin. In the shadows, the Dark Lord of the Sith pulls the strings and anticipates his greatest triumph: unlimited and unquestioned mastery over the galaxy and its citizens.

What Stover adds to this is not just a few extra scenes that tie up loose ends, but passages that give the players involved in this great tragedy emotional depth, depth that explains and possibly even redeems some of the film’s weaker portions. Stover occasionally breaks from the usual third-person past-tense narration to focus on a character in the second tense, bringing the reader inside a character’s head. This approach handled character exposition well, and proved to be efficient in tackling Order 66.  The added character depth allows Stover to create more believable tension between Anakin and the main characters, particularly Obi-Wan and Amidala, the latter of whom is active throughout the book in an attempt to restore the Constitution to its pre-Palpatine form: Palpatine regards the 2,000 senators who join her cause as traitors, and links them with the alleged attempt on the part of the Jedi to overthrow the republic and place it under their rule. Thus, Anakin’s hostility toward Padme and Obi-Wan arriving on Mustafar together at the end of the movie has greater significance.  Although this a dark book, Stover adds in surprising and sometimes odd amounts of humor: Anakin starts throwing out snaky one-liners as soon as he steps foot on Mustfar and doesn’t quit until the last  of the separatists are dead.  Curiously, he underplays some of the more dramatic moments in the movie, particularly Anakin's wail of unbelief when the Emperor tells him of Padme's death.

Revenge of the Sith  made for a great read even though I’m so familiar with the movie. It added depth and humor to the original screenplay,  maintaining a strong stride until Mustafar. I can easily recommend it to Star Wars readers.

Related:

  • Shatterpoint, by the same author -- to my surprise.I struggled through Shatterpoint, but Revenge was a breeze.
  • Dark Lord: the Rise of Darth Vader, by James Luceno. I've read this and enjoyed it, although since it's been so long (before I started this blog, even), I can't remember too many details. The novel is set immediately after Revenge of the Sith and focuses on Anakin as he grows accustomed to his new role as Darth Vader.

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