The Last Jedi: Expanded Edition

Written with input from director Rian Johnson, this official adaptation of Star Wars: The Last Jedi expands on the film to include scenes from alternate versions of the script and other additional content.
From the ashes of the Empire has arisen another threat to the galaxy’s freedom: the ruthless First Order. Fortunately, new heroes have emerged to take up arms—and perhaps lay down their lives—for the cause. Rey, the orphan strong in the Force; Finn, the ex-stormtrooper who stands against his former masters; and Poe Dameron, the fearless X-wing pilot, have been drawn together to fight side-by-side with General Leia Organa and the Resistance. But the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke and his merciless enforcer Kylo Ren are adversaries with superior numbers and devastating firepower at their command. Against this enemy, the champions of light may finally be facing their extinction. Their only hope rests with a lost legend: Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

Where the action of Star Wars: The Force Awakens ended, Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins, as the battle between light and dark climbs to astonishing new heights.

There’s a long and storied history associated with the Star Wars film novelisation. Running right back to December 1976 and Alan Dean Fosters ghost-written adaptation of Star Wars, through the mega selling Donald F Glut adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back, James Kahn’s Return of the Jedi and the 16 year leap to Terry Brooks fascinating version of The Phantom Menace with it’s extra illuminating scenes, R.A Salvatore’s Attack of the Clones and Matthew Stover’s gold standard Revenge of the Sith right back to Foster for 2015’s The Force Awakens, the bar is set high. Thankfully, Jason Fry – a man revered for releases such as the absolutely essential Star Wars The Essential Atlas – is more than up to the task.

There’s no getting around it, The Last Jedi has proved to be the most polarising release in the 40+ years of the saga. Hard to believe, after the ruckus in fandom that The Phantom Menace wrought back in 1999, but here we are. Not that he would have known it when he signed on to adapt Rian Johnson’s script, but this book could have turned out to be the ultimate poison chalice, and yet Fry, with input from writer / director Johnson, has crafted a fascinating read that takes the film, buffs up the rough edges, plasters in the cracks and presents a fully rounded read.

Naturally, the attention is on the ‘new’ scenes that were not included in the movie. To get a measure of the book, take the first six pages, where we read a very different history for Luke Skywalker. Still on Tatooine? Married to Camie? The Death Star snuffing out the seeds of rebellion across the galaxy? It’s a brave way to kick off such a book, but along with some deft turns of phrase and insightful character moments, Fry takes the Bantha by the horns and goes for it.

We’re there at Han Solo’s memorial as Leia mourns, using the moment to rally the Resistance. We learn that Leia has reached out across the stars, reigniting Luke’s connection to the Force. We delve into the rise of Snoke, as his knowledge of the Unknown Regions gives him the edge over the remnants of the Empire, feel for Leia as she remembers the young life of her son Ben ‘Kylo Ren’ Solo and watch as Paige feels pangs of jealousy over the close connection between Rey and Finn.

And when Chewie and Leia have a moment together in the Falcon cockpit, mourning for their lost friends and family….I dare you not to pause for a moment as they remember the many years they’ve fought together, and the things they’ve lost along the way. If J.J. made an error by not having Chewie and Leia hug at the end of The Force Awakens, Fry more than makes up for it here.

Along with the extra’s arriving on digital and blu ray over the next few weeks across the planet, the story of The Last Jedi – which don’t forget is the longest running Star Wars film of them all – is expanded even further, tying in to other releases like Claudia Grey’s Princess of Alderaan, Marvel’s Storms of Crait and Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy. In that regard alone, Fry was a smart choice, used to as is he to weaving various elements together into a cohesive whole in reference books.

However, the real treat of this adaptation is the writing style of Fry. Easy, smooth and rhythmic to read, the confidence in the material just oozes off the page and if he isn’t given another adaptation, or better still a series of his own adventures, then there’s no justice.

Many thanks to Random House for the review copy.