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Spotlight on: Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover

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Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover Matthew Stover, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith

When the announcement was made by the press that Matthew Woodring Stover's novelization of George Lucas's script for the upcoming film Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith (the final entry in the saga) would be released in advance of the film, I knew that, even though it would likely lessen my appreciation of the movie, I would have to read it because I love the story.

I have mixed opinions regarding the other two “prequels” cinematically speaking, but George Lucas’s epic tale of the rise and fall of Darth Vader is on par with some of humanity’s greatest myths. Joseph Campbell even used Star Wars as an example in his groundbreaking book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and spoke at great length with Bill Moyers about the original trilogy in the Power of Myth filmed interview (which is a must-see for fans of folklore and mythology).

If the movie had matched the depth and intensity contained in this novelization by the author of two previous Star Wars novels (Shatterpoint, which focuses on Mace Windu, and Traitor, starring Jacen Solo), it would have been well worth the wait. As it was, the film suffered in its inability to dwell on description and character motivation in the way that only a novel can.

I ripped through Revenge of the Sith's 400+ pages as only an impatient fanatic eager for a long-awaited completion could. (Imagine what might happen if the solution to the classic unfinished Charles Dickens whodunit The Mystery of Edwin Drood were suddenly discovered.) It is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions that the Anakin Skywalker who grew from mechanically-inclined slave into Podracing legend, Padawan Jedi, and then full-fledged Knight -- that this young man, who was “born for saving people” is ultimately unable to resist the forces intent on ensuring his seduction to the dark side of the Force.

Revenge of the Sith is definitely not for young children. Anakin’s journey includes hot-blooded murder, which rears its head in this form for the first time in the saga. (People have always died, but never quite so vividly. In the film, this violence is sanitized to the point of non-existence, with entire scenes of destruction entirely absent.) Rage, fear, and jealousy coat the proceedings as one of his closest friends works steadily to lure Anakin over to the dark side. Also, new villain General Grievous is fully willing to gruesomely eliminate members of his own crew to further his unsavory needs. Balancing this somewhat is the humor threaded throughout -- including Obi-Wan Kenobi’s sly observations, and three individuals who admit to "[having] a bad feeling about this."

The writer of a novelization is like an editor -- if he’s good, you don’t notice him. Stover seems unfamiliar with this concept, more interested in injecting his personality than in remaining true to the characters. However, his additions of multi-paragraph digressions (introduced by the phrase "This is...") illustrate characters' inner thoughts and motivations in a way impossible to do onscreen. Thus, though it is "only" a novelization, Revenge of the Sith exceeds its screen counterpart in almost every way. Stover’s quirks sometimes take the reader out of the story but, overall, he has done admirably in his rendering arguably the most highly anticipated conclusion of the last thirty years.

This is an expanded review of one that originally appeared in The Gardner News. Copyright 2005.

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