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Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace Mass Market Paperback – February 29, 2000
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Alexander Adams, the actor who reads this full-length novelization of Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace, actually manages to do Jar Jar better than Jar Jar himself. Although he does sound a bit like a well-meaning dad doing an impression of the gangly amphibian for his kids, that added bit of restraint and unaffected goofiness actually works. Likewise, Adams's voice--all earnest and NPR-smooth--does good service to the rest of the cast, especially with Jedi teacher Qui-Gon Jinn and (surprisingly) Queen Amidala. (Only Anakin proves a little hard on the ears at first, perhaps a little too nasal.) The book's narrative receives the same competent treatment as the dialogue, with the added oomph of both John Williams's stirring score--woven in unobtrusively--and short suites of Lucasfilm sound effects that accompany every spike in the action, whether it's R2's beeping or the metallic bang of blaster fire.
Modern marketing has made movie novelizations a necessary evil and hence suspect, but Terry Brooks proves a deft embellisher of Lucas's well-loved epic, skillfully splicing in scenes and dialogue to fill out the breakneck, foreshadowing-filled story line of Phantom Menace. But that shouldn't be surprising: Brooks has long been the equal or better of Lucas when it comes to storytelling, most notably in his long-lived Shannara series, which began with The Sword of Shannara back in 1977, the same year Star Wars hit theaters. (Running time: 9.5 hours over eight discs) --Paul Hughes --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
“Breathless . . . filled with action from page one.”—New York Post
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The biggest problem I had was the dialogue; nearly every spoken line was taken directly from the film. Read: cringeworthy (Anakin’s especially, just as in the movie). I will admit that it was better to read it than hear it, so maybe that’s why I was able to not roll my eyes as much. The book also suffers from repetitive descriptions. Do we really need to be told every other page that Panaka and Windu are dark-skinned? Or that Jar Jar has a “billed face”? Or be reminded of the characters’ full names each time the scene changes?
I may be speaking out of bias (because I’ve come to adore Qui-Gon and Padme), but I also felt that a few key scenes were glossed over too quickly. The rift between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan when the Master decided to train Anakin, Qui-Gon’s death and its impact on Obi-Wan and Anakin, and Anakin’s separation from the mother he loved so fiercely; both were extremely important, yet with a few words they were over and done with, each character seemingly fine with life mere moments after the events. Obi-Wan at this point is still very much a slave to his emotions and that feeling of betrayal was something significant for him, even when Qui-Gon explained that he thought his Padawan ready to become a Knight. It also would have been nice to have seen Obi-Wan have more time to get a handle on his rage and grief at losing his Master and life-long friend, or to give Anakin a few paragraphs of struggling to overcome his separation anxiety from the only life he’d ever known and the only person he’d ever loved.
Speaking of moving too quickly, I still don’t like how fast Anakin’s and Padme’s relationship developed. Paralleling Rose and the Doctor’s shift in affections changed in Doctor Who, one moment Anakin and Padme are friends, the next they’re in love? I understand the love-at-first-sight motif and the love-stronger-than-anything device and their prevalence within Anakin’s life story, but this book did nothing to ease that transition that made me scratch my head during the film.
Although I do have several complaints, there are a few good things that I did like. My dislike of Jar Jar was lessened thanks to Brooks going deeper into his emotions and insecurities. I also greatly enjoyed Maul’s appearances, brief as they were, because of the further insight afforded to him; I never really felt connected to him during the movie, so it’s through the books that I’ve come to like him. Brooks didn’t disappoint me on that front.
Overall I felt that this particular attempt at a novelization fell short of what it could have been. If it had been given twenty additional pages of insight into the various characters and the emotional trauma they were subjected to throughout the story I would have rated it higher. I don’t know how much of that was because of contractual obligations or simply Brooks’ style, but in the end it doesn’t matter; this was a mediocre adaptation at best, sad to say.
There is a good pace to the book and I found it enjoyable.
This edition also has a short story Darth Maul: End Game. This expands Darth Mauls' backstory and fills in gaps in the film with what he was doing 'offscrene'. In this story we see more of Dath Sidious and what he expects from Darth Maul.
This is also an enjoyable story