There’s a line credited to Harrison Ford when he was working on the first Star Wars picture. If you’re a bit of an anorak you probably know what the line is already but we’re going to just tell the story quickly. When reading George Lucas’ dialogue about schematics and strategies, he told the director ‘you can type this shit, George, but you can’t say it’. This book feels at times like it hasn’t had that chat yet.
It seems pretty evident that either Foster was working from an earlier draft of the script, or he had a low word count and needed to sex it up a little. The main offender is Finn by a country mile. It’s a testament to how well the character is sketched out on screen that the reader can look at the page and realise how jarring some of his dialogue is. For example, ‘any kind of internal defense, much less something as nebulous as a gas counterattack, would be the last thing a squad sent to take its crew into custody would expect’. We can’t remember every line of dialogue from the film, but if that’s something he actually said then we will gladly eat a crow. In nearly every instance the dialogue is longer and somehow clumsier than its on-screen counterpart.
The best novelisations expand on what’s on screen and can help to make a good film even better. They provide more depth to the characters and backstory. This time around, that approach doesn’t really work. The main reason for this is the inescapable sense that really, Foster doesn’t really know what’s going on any more than we do. Without the ability to really get into the meat of the story, we are left with a novelisation that reads like a mere embellished transcript of the film.
Foster writes well, but the fact that he didn’t have a lot to work with really harms the book. We’ll certainly be re-reading it in future, but if you’ve already seen the film you’re not missing out on much.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS NOVELISATION / AUTHOR: ALAN DEAN FOSTER / PUBLISHER: LUCASBOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW