Biweekly Book Review: The Empire Strikes Back

On to the next! The game-changer. The favourite for so many. Let’s dive into The Empire Strikes Back by Donald F. Glut.

Right away, it’s noticeable that unlike the A New Hope novelization, this one is already a bit more Star Wars-y. It’s more in line with the novelizations we would come to get for subsequent movies, which stick fairly close to the script.

That said, even that isn’t always so straightforward. For instance, it’s well-known that Carrie Fisher was a script doctor in her day, and made significant changes to many scripts, including Star Wars ones.

Anyone who has seen the screenshots of her notes on the Empire script will notice that her scissor marks didn’t make it as far as the novelization. While many of Luke’s scenes feel largely unchanged, the dialogue between Han and Leia is very different. It’s less zippy, and a little too wordy. He calls her “sweetheart” a lot. He tells her that a lack of kissing means she’s forgotten how to be a woman, and honestly, good change there, Carrie.

The thing that struck me the most though was how different the famous “I love you”/”I know” scene plays out. Han comes across far cockier than he does in the movie, and much less sincere. As mentioned above, there are just too many words, really taking the punch out of the scene.

I also am left wondering what happened when this book was first published. It came out a full three weeks before the movie. Meaning for three whole weeks, one of cinemas great “you had to be there” reveals was just kind of…sitting there at your local bookstore, waiting for you to discover it and shout it at people in the ticket line (only I hope no one did because that’s a dick move).

My final thought is a small one. It was interesting to see how necessity and production design informed things that would become classic Star Wars, but don’t appear in the novel at all. Namely when the bounty hunters are first introduced, the description of Bossk doesn’t sound like a damn thing like a giant lizard man. I don’t know the design history of Bossk (though if I remember correctly, the toys had something to do with it?), but it was fun to watch something, however minor, change in real time.


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