Revenge of the Sith Novelization

When you think of Star Wars, you think of the movies first and foremost. Sure, Star Wars Rebels ranks among the Star Wars stories, and the Extended Universe books are beloved by all who suffered through the Dark Age in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, a time before we were blessed with new content every three minutes or so. But for the most part, Star Wars fandom begins and ends with the movies.

I’m a prequels kid (see also: Millennial), in that the prequel trilogy was the one that truly ensnared my imagination and drew me into the fandom. (Sorry not sorry, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.) And before The Force Awakens graced our screens, I used to consistently and emphatically rank Revenge of the Sith as my favorite Star Wars film (while editing out the mistreatment of Padmé Amidala in my head, of course). But I was always fudging my answer a little. Because it wasn’t the Revenge of the Sith movie I loved so deeply – it was the book.

A Brief History of Novelizations

Novelizations have long been a part of Hollywood history. According to an article in Vanity Fair, the concept of adapting movies into books emerged all the way back in the silent film era, and became understandably popular before the propagation of home video made possible an infinite number of re-viewings. Nowadays, novelization writing can sometimes be a thankless and grueling job – last-minute script alterations and persnickety studio demands can wreak havoc on an author’s writing schedule and psyche – but it also offers the opportunity for fans and creators alike to dive deeper into mythology, character development, and scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the film. (Are deleted scenes considered canon? Discuss.)

In this age of content inundation, the recent release of the novelization of The Last Jedi has served as yet another source of Star Wars-related information that the fandom immediately began to suck dry. Jason Fry’s rendition of Rian Johnson’s film is indeed a fine addition to the collection of Star Wars novelizations (as General Grievous might say), if a bit Disney-fied. And yet…

Perhaps I’ve become a bit jaded, but it feels as though this novelization was produced mostly to cater to fans and reporters who sped through the book as soon as it hit the presses just to be the first to post a clickbait tweet about an extended sequence, a missing line, or a small detail about a “new” Force power. Reading the novelization for The Last Jedi made me nostalgic for the novelization of a significantly less lauded Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith, and all of the ways that author Matthew Stover expanded on the epic Star Wars mythos and the larger-than-life heroes in a unique, ceaselessly engaging, and emotionally fraught tale of love and loss.

Star Wars Revenge of the Sith Original Ending

Writing Style

“The end starts now.”

The four words that complete the book’s epigraph are weighted with import and gravitas, somberly setting the tone for the unavoidable tragedy that is to come. The prequel trilogy as a whole charts the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker and of the esteemed Jedi Order, so the bulk of the “fall” takes place during the events of Episode III. As such, Revenge of the Sith really is a tragedy in the truest sense, an embrace of the tropes promulgated and perfected by ancient Greek playwrights: there is prophecy, there is hubris, and there is brutal inevitability.

Indeed, the inevitability is compounded by the fact that readers of the Revenge of the Sith novelization (and novelizations in general) already know the story because they’ve already seen the movie. Which means that the style of writing – the way the story is told – is perhaps even more critical to the enjoyment of a novelization than to the enjoyment of a regular ol’ novel. You don’t read the Revenge of the Sith novelization to be shocked by the plot twists (Anakin Skywalker becomes who?!) but to be moved by the written language, and to envelop yourself in the inner monologues of characters whose actors (ahem) may not have reflected such depth on the screen.

Stover’s novelization contains an epigraph before each of the book’s four sections, and these brief but magnificent passages wax poetic about the darkness and the light in a way that illuminates the saga as a whole, befitting the grandiosity of the space opera genre. Behold:

“The dark is generous, and it is patient, and it always wins – but in the heart of its strength lies weakness: one lone candle is enough to hold it back.

Love is more than a candle.

Love can ignite the stars.”

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