…and it’s made me think about the limitations of two very different, yet constantly converging, types of media: book and film. Which is better? I have my own opinion (it’s books. It’s always books) but I was surprised by how much my own preference of books over movies was apparent when I read the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time.
I’ve been watching Star Wars since I was in the single digits. I grew up with it, and don’t remember a time when I didn’t love it. As I grew up, I took in the prequel trilogy and noticed its inferiority to the original trilogy, which was heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell’s theory of myth. So Star Wars has been a constant friend. I used to watch it every year when I took finals in high school and college because it provided perfect white noise for studying (I hated studying and Star Wars made me do it). I’m a vehement proponent of the release of the original unedited trilogy on DVD, and the recent transfer of power from George Lucas to Disney made me sigh one huge sigh of relief. I’m a decent-sized fan.
So I don’t know why I waited so long to read them in their novel forms, because reading them has made me love it even more. It has made me connect to the characters more than I have before, more than is possible (for me, perhaps) by watching them onscreen. So much is included in the books that isn’t possible to include in the movie, like the characters’ inner monologues and in-depth narration on the thoughts/feelings/perceptions of the characters. Han, Leia and Luke came vividly to life and added something extremely special to the story: my own interpretation.
This is the power of the written word. For the first time ever, I saw my own Leia. My own Luke and Han, as well. They’ve become both separate from the actors that play them yet they add to the films’ interpretation of them. Here are a couple examples of how an author’s narration can make a character leap off a page more than he/she can from a television screen:
Leia…thought of her experience in the forest earlier—her sense of oneness with the trees, whose outstretched limbs seemed to touch the very stars; the stars, whose light filtered down like cascading magic. She felt the power of the magic within her, and it resonated around the hut, from being to being, flowing through her again, making her stronger, still; until she felt one with these Ewoks, nearly—felt as if she understood them, knew them; conspired with them, in the primary sense of the word: they breathed together.
Han and Leia:
Han and Leia turned to each other full of feeling. All they’d struggled for, all they’d dreamed of—gone, now. Even so, they’d had each other for a short while at least. They’d come together from opposite ends of a wasteland of emotional isolation: Han had never known love, so enamored of himself was he; Leia had never known love, so wrapped up in social upheaval was she, so intent on embracing all of humanity. And somewhere between his glassy infatuation for the one, and her glowing fervor for the all, they’d found a shady place where two could huddle, grow, even feel nourished.
It was like I was seeing the story for the first time, with new eyes.
Now, let me clarify a couple points. This isn’t literature. The first novel, penned by George Lucas himself, is quite poorly written. The second is marginally better, and the third much improved (which I loved, considering my favorite movie is Return of the Jedi—please don’t egg my house, btw), but each one is not meant to be a novel alone, and the writing reflects that. Each one has major flaws as a novel, but as an accompaniment to the films, I’d argue that the novels are indispensable to the Star Wars experience. It’s not simply a conversion of script to prose, even though it’s somewhat straightforward. Rather, it’s a way to reinterpret, reimagine, reinvent your love for the films and make them your own. That’s books for ya. You’re the director. Have fun.
However—I miss that intro. Now THERE’S something a book just can’t duplicate…