Classic Trilogy Perspective, Part 3:
Return of the Jedi – Beware the Power of the Dark Side
Continuing our look at this unique trilogy of retellings of the classic trilogy, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi — Beware the Power of the Dark Side by Tom Angleberger, is perhaps one of the more interesting takes of the three. As in Part 1 and Part 2, I will be asking the following questions:
(1) What scenes or elements have been added to the narrative we know from the film?
(2) What knowledge from other canon narratives are part of this tale?
(3) How has this book influenced or altered our understanding of the film?
We started off this series with a unique look at A New Hope, from the viewpoint of each of our three main characters, then we took Empire Strikes Back from the viewpoint of an instruction manual on how to be a Jedi. Now, and perhaps my favorite book of the three, we see Return of the Jedi told in a very Victorian style, complete with chapter titles that often tell us what the chapter is about (often beginning with the words “In which…”) and footnotes that add a lot of depth and history behind the story that adds more layers to the canon. Additionally, the narrator often draws interesting conclusions which are not incorrect, but are often not quite how we think about the film.
Now lets dive in:
What scenes or elements have been added to the narrative we know from the film?
This adaptation, as far as physical action goes, stayed pretty true to the film. The additions come in the form of the way the author comments on the actions, footnotes about history, or the window provided into the mind of a character.
One major addition at the opening of this novel is the story of Luke forming his new lightsaber. After losing his saber on Cloud City, it seems he didn’t finish creating a new saber until just before he sent R2-D2 to Jabba’s palace.
In a footnote in Chapter 22, we discover that R2-D2’s thrusters stopped operating and have never been repaired, which answers that age-old question that is often brought up when talking about the prequels.
Chapter 24 is a very brief chapter that focuses completely on the life of the flight controller on the Death Star, depicting an average citizen doing an average job, a viewpoint of the Empire that we rarely anywhere, and it is a welcome perspective that adds enormous depth to our examination of the Star Wars universe.
On Dagobah, as Luke is leaving for the final time as he talks to Obi-Wan, the narrator takes time to help the reader understand about Force Ghosts, and brings in Qui-Gon as his mentor in the process of returning to the physical world. In this same scene, Luke asks Obi-Wan about his mother, which helps us understand even more his question to Leia on Endor. At this point, there is very little he knows about how he and Leia were separated and for all he knows, Leia was raised by his birth mother.
Between the scene where Leia volunteers for Han’s mission to Endor and their departure, Mon Mothma encourages Leia to reconsider going on this mission. This novel, more so than the movie, gives us this sense that Mon Mothma is really the woman in charge and Leia is a very visible persona, but she herself is not ultimately in charge.
When Luke asks Leia about her mother, the author peers into Leia’s mind to tell us that Leia is not even sure that she even ever knew her mother, that those were perhaps just images or things that she’s told herself over the years. This answers yet another of those prequel questions for those who wonder how she could know about her mother when Padme died in child-birth.
What knowledge from other canon narratives are part of this tale?
Probably more so than any other of these adaptations, this novel brings in a lot of knowledge from other stories. In Chapter 22, he brings in the idea that Max Rebo’s band is armed and dangerous, Sy Snootles the most dangerous of all, harkening back to The Clone Wars episodes with her.
There is a reference to Nien Numb, giving him credit for stealing the Imperial shuttle Tydirium, which harkens back to the young adult novel Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure.
In the scene where C-3PO is detailing the adventures that got them to this point, he actually starts with stories from the prequel era. These stories are not as detailed as one would expect, as his memory was wiped after Revenge of the Sith, but his story does mention the boy whose message ignited a Spark of Rebellion, which is no doubt a reference to Ezra Bridger, whose position in Alliance history seems to be more significant that we might have perceived.
How has this book influenced or altered our understanding of the film?
This book gives us different ways to think about the film. By diving into the minds of Imperial officers, we understand what it must have been like for the average citizen. The author, to some extent, credits the victory of the Rebellion to the Ewoks, and presents quite a convincing argument as to why. And, perhaps more so than any of the other adaptations, reaches across all six films of the Star Wars saga to give us a complete picture informed by the prequel films and beyond.
Have you read Return of the Jedi – Beware the Power of the Dark Side? Anything you noticed in this adaptation that I did not mention here? Let me know your thoughts by posting in the comments below. You can find my coverage of #starwarscanon stories at my YouTube channel Star Wars: The Canon Explained. I can be found on Twitter (@starwarstce) and Instagram (@starwarstce), and you can also reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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