Now it’s Aftermath

So, I’ve got to reading Aftermath, the book immediately after the events of Return of the Jedi in the Star Wars narrative (a narrative which requires a mapping much like the lands that are sketched in fantasy novels. This would be a huge undertaking considering all the stories involved, but should be fascinating to read).

Aftermath is a compelling read.

The outline is compelling in itself and the storytelling is compellingly presented.

I’ll look at the outline because my last post on Star Wars was about how Aftermath continues the story of the Empire and the Rebellion though there is no hint of its continuation in Return of the Jedi.

The Rebellion, the good guys, became heroes for executing victories over the Empire, victories which punctuated the original trilogy. (The prequel trilogy was not positive like this, as heroes fall and the Empire is born to oppress planets for decades.)

In Aftermath, the Rebellion is consolidating it’s wins and establishing the New Republic which is based on democracy.

The Empire is scrambling to reassert itself. The survivors of the Empire, the “dregs”, are contemplating what their arsenal will be.

In this one, the Rebellion has the advantage from the start, which is a first in the Star Wars stories I’ve seen and read.

It seems the Empire’s fight back will be short-lived…as the First Order takes over the “mantle” of evil, oppression and greed in Episode VII onwards. But how the empire dissolves, if it does, will be interesting.



Essential reading

I wouldn’t call myself an avid devotional reader. Apart from the Bible, the devotional literature I have read is minimal. So minimal in fact, that the devotional book I’m currently finishing is the only devotional book (apart from the Bible) I’m about to finish in its entirety.

It’s so good I couldn’t put it down. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis is essential reading for any Christian or anybody.

It’s humbling, challenging, inspiring, and glorifies God, and can put ego in perspective.

This God-focussed book may boil it down to Christ divine, his grace and love for fallen humanity is available for those who want to seriously follow him.

Of course, that summary may simplify this special, spiritual book, which will take one by the heart and spirit as much as the mind.

It’s also beautifully written as if God was orchestrating his music through it.

Perilous undertaking to save Middle Earth

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) ***** Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm. Director: Peter Jackson. I watched this film at the 171min length (DVD Widescreen Edition) Originally 178 minutes There are also the 208min length (Special DVD Extended Edition) and the 228min length (Blu Ray Extended Edition).

At school, we had to listen to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings being read. I never liked the book much. It was a bit unusual and strange with its epic themes somehow devoid of reality and a cast of strange characters of elves, hobbits and conjurers. The Lord of the Rings is now a film and a blockbuster at that. This makes all the difference to someone feeling foreign to the book.

The journey through Middle Earth could have felt like tedium, arduous for viewer. Yet the first part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy works and progressively ups the stakes.

The story is set in the world of Middle Earth which is undergoing a seismic upheaval as Sauron’s denizens the Ringwraiths seek a ring that in Sauron’s possession will control Middle Earth under an oppressive spiritual darkness.

A diminutive hobbit, the earnest, honourable Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), gets possession of the ring and on the advice of Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), a wisely, well-beared wizard, Frodo must take the ring out of his homeland, the Shire. If he does not leave, the Ringwraiths will track Frodo down to the Shire and kill Frodo and take possession of the ring.

Frodo and fellow hobbit, the faithful, good-humoured Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) embark on an escape, without knowing anything much of the details of their journey onward. Yet with a mental road map of where to go next and one thing in mind: don’t let Sauron get possession of the ring.

Keep away from the roads, says Gandalf. Frodo will take the country. The Ringwraiths, dark and foreboding, who succumbed to evil but were once men, are tracking Frodo down on horseback and the danger makes for action, suspense and excitement.

Writer and director Peter Jackson doesn’t make it look easy for the hobbits. Even so there are some things that require one to suspend disbelief.

The film may get one thinking about the deeper meaning.

Like when Arwen (Liv Tyler) appears “out of nowhere” to assist Frodo, I thought that’s hard to believe because Frodo should have died. But thinking about it more, Arwen helps Frodo despite the dark or sinful influences, the “poison”.

The outcomes of Gandalf’s hopeless plight on a tower in Mordor will also make you think twice, in unbelief, but also awe.

The powerful scene of Gandalf trying to escape the demonic clutches of Sauron’s right-hand man Saruman (a deeply resonant Christopher Lee) leads up to it.

The middle breaks at Rivendale for the introduction of the fellowship of the ring, where representatives of the tribes of Middle Earth meet and join Frodo on his quest to eliminate the ring.

At Rivendale, there is time to explore, in this very long movie at almost three hours, the characters. Not necessarily a bad thing in slowing down the action, as the moments with the characters are rich, but may be aloof nevertheless.

I think The Fellowship of the Ring is better when it moves along with the action and creates meaning out of those actions, out of miracles, daring escapes, and facing conflict and evil.

The Fellowship of the Ring gets better and keeps on getting better, making this a vivid, panoramic tale where it is indeed a perilous undertaking to journey Middle Earth to save it.

The end of this episode

In the novelization of Return of the Jedi, the Empire’s end felt a little underwhelming as if it should have felt more resonate, more grave, more underlined. But the next trilogy of books, the Aftermath, carry on the Empire’s story. I suppose someone thought like I did. Something’s a little amiss in the delivery and the end of the Empire needs a better send off.

Apparently, in terms of story (rather than tone or feel) there were loose ends to the Empire’s end that needed to be done up. That wasn’t apparent in the book version of Return of the Jedi. In the book there is no moment allowing for the possibility of a sequel. There is not a moment in Return of the Jedi that sets up the Aftermath trilogy. However, we were given a sketch of what has happened following Return of the Jedi in the marketing of Aftermath and I guess fans have speculated on it for a long time before.

So I’m getting around to seriously read Aftermath soon. In the meantime, I think back to what I liked about the final chapters of Return of the Jedi. Again there is sentiment which I felt was overdone when Luke’s father is dying and he tastes Luke’s tears and is pleased by them. But what I liked is that the battle scenes at the end of Return of the Jedi is exciting and Luke and Vader’s confrontation echoes. But, as I said earlier, that in the novel of Return of the Jedi, the gravitas is missing at the end, but the Empire’s end deserved a tone of gravitas because the Empire’s end is profound. However, the tone of the Empire’s end has been left to the Aftermath trilogy.


I cottoned onto why I didn’t find Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi as involving as the previous films in the trilogy, while reading the book version of the film.

I didn’t find the movie Return of the Jedi that involving, but I was able to see why by reading the book version of the film.

I thought it may have been just me, but there was usually a distance between me and the movie. Perhaps once I felt better about it.

I pinned the problem on a lack of tension in proceedings. I find the book version of the events better, particularly at the end. This is probably because the book creates more tension, by setting up the reader nicely. Luke’s confrontation in the Emperor’s throne room and the offensive on the Death Star in space and on Endor feels more exciting.

“And The”

I am absolutely tired of how many times “And The” appeared in the Harry Potter movie titles. However, it makes sense. Children’s serials may have “And The”. It just connotes a continuing adventure of a character or set of characters in a different adventure than the one before it. There’s been the Hardy Boys series (The Tower Treasure, The House on the Cliff, for example) and those Willard Price series of books like the Amazon Adventure and Tiger Adventure. And of course, the Famous Five. Harry Potter may be the most famous series of adventures that contain magic which has made it controversial.

More sentimental than the book

Sentiment appears to be easier at the movies: just add music to intimate material

In Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker is about to reveal a family secret to Princess Leia. This is a warm hearted family scene, a scene of family connection. It is naturally warm and sentimental scene.

The scene couldn’t have a tone of gravitas. That would be too grave. There was no other way to tackle this warm hearted family scene.

Can the sense of breadth of warmth and sentiment that’s in the movie be in the book?

I did get the sense in the book of family connection, which is the point of the scene, but not up to the same level of emotional tone that’s in the movie.

Books and movies do the same content of the same scene quite differently.

Too much

This was too much in the final analysis, when it goes too far and too strange. Let me set the picture.

I’ve been reading a scene from the novelization of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi that works as a transition to the next phase of the story. It’s important for setting up what follows.

In the movie it is a very sentimental scene as the rebels try and convince the natives to join them on their mission. The scene is also about Luke Skywalker walking into his destiny, to face the villain, not that he’s there yet, but it’s coming.

The book is longer in describing how the rebels try and persuade the natives (The furry ‘ewoks’) to come on board, but this detail is not in the movie, an appeal to the natural environment of the ewoks. If it was included in the original screenplay I can imagine why they decided to leave it out of the movie. I found it almost laughable. Too much. I like trees, but Princess Leia telling the ewoks, do it for the trees, was the last straw.


A brisk read

I like film-book tie-ins and linger over them like an adoring puppy. Or in other words, they are one of my favorite type of books. So revisiting the film-book tie in  The Empire Strikes Back was easy. It’s a brisk read like the pace of the movie. It doesn’t linger long on scenes. The longest are the action sequences which are very well written, probably the best writing in the book. With the memory of the movie, it probably makes a better experience as a novel. However, some scenes which take liberty with what’s actually there in the movie are jarring and unconvincing like some moments on the planet Dagobah where Luke is in training with a Jedi master. All in all it’s a novel suitable for young adult audiences that’s entertaining and engaging, especially for Star Wars aficionados, young and old.