Fun to read out loud but probably more than a bit of a challenge to stage, William Shakespeare’s Jedi The Last by Ian Doescher is the latest in his series of Shakespearian adaptions of Star Wars movies. Translating a film script to the Bard’s style of verse and metering is clearly no simple undertaking. Getting in memorable lines, adding theatrical stage directions, and expanding the often economical dialogue into conversations that allow for inner monologues while keeping the overall story still recognizable is a tall order. And it’s one Doescher certainly accomplishes.
(minor spoilers for this book and major spoilers for The Last Jedi ahead)
The author takes it a few steps further than that though. Some of his rephrasing of the film’s memorable dialogue makes the words seem more dramatic and operatic than before. He makes references and lifts lines from Shakespeare’s famous plays that are a treat for those who’ve studied them. And somehow it’s amusing and kind of adorable the way the porgs pop up with their utterances of a single word.
But there are places where the expansions and references weigh down the pacing and just make you read a lot more words than necessary. The prime example of this being the monologue given to the Master Codebreaker. In about the length of a page he mentions the name of every James Bond movie so far. To top if off the first letter of each line when put together spells out “International Man of Mystery”. All this so the character can introduce himself to both other characters and an audience who already know who he is and then repeatedly hammer home that he’s like a James Bond character. It’s funny at first but then it just keeps going.
There are also minor quibbles to be had like the fact that Rey has a whole monologue where she talks about never dreaming of a place like Ahch-To, where as both films she’s in specifically have dialogue that says otherwise. There’s also the fact that R2’s inner thoughts are expressed through easily-read asides while Chewbacca’s translations are footnotes that make it easy to lose your place jumping to them and back up the page.
Doescher’s handling of the transition from a Rey and Kylo ForceTime session to her experience in the mirror cave back to another ForceTime has a neat staging idea in addition to a certain poetic movement about it. Within there’s another use of an acrostic but this time to more poignant effect. If you don’t catch it on your read through, it’s noted in the author’s afterward along with some more reasoning for adaptions and additions, which is a helpful bonus.
There is also one particularly meta moment Doescher gives Leia, which manages to be a reflection of Carrie Fisher as well. It’s really touching. Later it helped me realize that these sequel trilogy adaptations have less opportunity for Doescher to foreshadow or go meta since they’re still a work in progress where as he was able to add that level when adapting the original and prequel trilogies after their completion.
If you’re not familiar with William Shakespeare’s work the language may take a bit of getting used to, but if you’ve seen The Last Jedi you already have a framework that will definitely be a resource in the deciphering. Although if you didn’t like the movie it’s based on, there’s not a large chance this retelling will do much to change your mind.
All in all, Jedi The Last is a book with its ups and downs. With this being the eighth book of its kind the novelty has worn off a bit, but if you like Shakespeare and Star Wars there’s still enough to enjoy.
The publisher provided FANgirl with a copy of the book for review. As usual opinions are my own.
William Shakespeare’s Jedi The Last is out now from Quirk Books in hardcover and e-book formats.
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