The Force! The Force! My kingdom for the Force!
I don’t think I’m rustling any feathers when I say that The Last Jedi was a film that divided the Star Wars fanbase. Whether you love it to death or hate it, anyone can see that its polarizing reception has changed the face of the fandom as we know it. And you know what? It kind of sucks the fact that Star Wars is being taken so seriously that “fans” are attacking actors that worked on the film. It feels like people can’t have fun with Star Wars anymore, and that’s a tragedy. Star Wars is, and always will be, special. Even if Disney decides to run it into the ground with sequels (or not?), the series still has a special place in the hearts of fans.
But I remember a time when Star Wars could be goofy, silly, and just a bit ridiculous. There was the Holiday Special back in the early days of the franchise, the Ewok movies, and who could forget Han Solo bustin’ some moves? But let’s say, hypothetically of course, that you were a fan of both Star Wars and classic Elizabethan theatre. Is there any bizarre Star Wars material that would appeal to those theatre nerds?
Well it just so happens that there’s an entire line of Star Wars adaptations written as if they were created by William Shakespeare. And yes, The Last Jedi just got an adaptation, and it is gloriously weird.
In case you are wondering, yes, this is a complete adaptation of The Last Jedi, just written in iambic pentameter. The plot is still the same and everything that happened in the movie is still going to happen here. The same people will die, Rey’s parentage is the same as always, and everything that you loved or hated about the movie is alive and well here. Make of that what you will. I’m not here to analyze The Last Jedi, I’m here to dissect Jedi the Last.
So to all of my Shakespeare nerds out there, you may be giddy to know that every major Star Wars movie has been adapted in a Shakespearean text, and I highly recommend you track down all of them. Like, the prequels are actually well written in the style of Shakespeare. It’s mind-boggling.
For those of you who don’t know what iambic pentameter is, they’re lines that are ten syllables that go into a rhythm of weak/strong/weak/strong until reaching a concluding thought. If it sounds complicated, it is not. It’s simply just a way to say a phrase. Those last two sentences are in iambic pentameter. You can probably make a sentence in iambic pentameter without realizing it. But when people hear “Shakespeare” they hear a bunch of “thous” and “doths” and find it impossible to read. While it can be challenging at first, once you train yourself to take each sentence line by line, you’ll get better at it, trust me.
As is typical for each of Ian Doescher’s adaptation, each character has a specific gimmick to them relating to how they’re written. Some characters have obvious tics, like Poe making Edgar Allen Poe references, or having Captain Phasma refer to some kind of metal in every line, such as saying that Finn has a will of tin, but others are a bit more complicated. BB-8’s dialogue is entirely in Skip-Code, while Rey has all fo her major monologues containing an acrostic, usually relating to her feelings at the moment. For example, when she’s on Ahch-To with Luke training, she questions who she is and what her place in the universe is. Her acrostic states that she’s a nobody born from nothing. A bit on the nose, but neat.
There are plenty of Shakespeare allusions to be thrown around. You better believe that Finn says that Rose, by any other name, would smell just as sweet, and you better believe I shook my head when I heard that. Obvious, but hot damn was that a painful line to get through. Some of the references made also made me scratch my head. Case in point, Snoke’s assassination by Kylo Ren. When he’s killed, Snoke gives the classic “Et tu, Brutus?” line, comparing him to Caesar from “Julius Caesar”, but the comparison stops and ends there. The line translates to “You too, Brutus?”, Brutus being a conspirator in a plot to kill Caesar, but in Star Wars there is no conspiracy to kill Snoke. He just has the line because it sounds Shakespearean and cool.
But then you have characters that clearly had a lot of time put into their development. Several comparisons are made between Luke and Prospero from “The Tempest”. Both are old men famous for their magic that have been exiled to an island, though Luke did so by choice. Prospero renounces his magic at the end of the play, but Luke instead embraces his magic, only to become one with the Force shortly after. The parallels between both men are fascinating and seeing Luke zig where Prospero zags was strangely compelling.
And that’s really the best way to describe the book in all; strangely compelling. Doescher understands what it means to sound like Shakespeare, but he strikes a careful balance between being comedic and serious. There are still plenty of jokes to be had, like Rey saying in an aside that she did not expect Luke to throw his lightsaber off a cliff, then describing in painstaking detail how Luke looked at her with mad eyes while he drank and milked some alien milk. Hell, Kylo Ren makes a Monty Python & the Holy Grail reference.
My personal favorite is the Codebreaker, who no one remembers from the movie, getting an entire monologue where each line has a James Bond movie title. “Let me get thee unlock’d – O puss, e’en so!” That’s an Octopussy reference! In Star Wars! I love it!
But then you have little bits of serious development for characters in unexpected ways. Towards the end of the play, Leia has an entire monologue saying how she may die on Crait, so she reflects on her life leading up to that moment and her impact on the rebellion. If that isn’t a direct tribute to Carrie Fischer’s passing, I don’t know what it. But the most impressive bit of writing is when Rey is looking at the infinite versions of herself. She has an acrostic, but each line only uses the letter R once and in sequential order. Line one has R and the first letter, line two has R as the second letter, and so on, just to recreate the infinite Rey imagery. That’s really damned impressive reading it on a script, and it’s a good speech too.
Every book in this series has fun adapting the movie’s plot, and Jedi the Last is no different. You can tell that Ian Doescher had a ton of fun writing this, and it shows. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, you’ll have a nice big grin on your face as you read through all eight episodes.
As for Jedi the Last itself, the book has plenty of fun moments that made it enjoyable for me. I will admit that I’m the target demographic for it, but as someone who was indifferent to The Last Jedi, this book actually made me appreciate the movie just a bit more. It fleshed out some of the characters, has a few more scenes that clarify a few plot holes from the movie, and made me want to track down The Last Jedi to watch it again. It may be clunky with it’s references to Shakespeare’s texts, but it’s all to serve a cheesy and fun tone. It’s bizarre for sure, and even if you’re not interested in reading any of the stories cause you hate Shakespeare, at least you’re aware of a weird little footnote in Star Wars history.