Does Star Wars vet Karen Traviss make this one shine?
Novelisations usually suffer the same fate as video game adaptations of blockbuster movies - they fail to capture the spirit of the source material and are rushed and created by folk with no real inclination of delivering a quality product.
So when I was asked to review a book based on a movie which is based on an animated TV show which was inspired by a film I was, as they say, cautiously optimistic.
I love Star Wars, I really do. I'd hate to count how many dollars I've invested in the franchise as I'm sure it would spin me through a long-lasting bout of depression. Because of this love, whenever I am faced with something Star Wars, I do my best to like it.
I started reading The Clone Wars, and partway through I watched the movie it is based on. I hated the movie... well, hate is such a strong word, but I didn't like it very much. I'm of the ilk who really enjoyed the prequels; in fact, Revenge of the Sith is my favourite Star Wars film, but I do realise that many people hate them with a passion. For the first time as a Star Wars fan I could actually understand how someone could hate a Star Wars film. So it may surprise you that I find it very easy to recommend any Star Wars fan to read Karen Traviss' novelisation of this terrible movie.
The story goes that Anakin and his new surprise padawan Ahsoka are tasked with rescuing Jabba the Hutt's kidnapped son. In doing so Jabba says he will grant the Republic exclusive access to space-routes in the Outer Rim, an area controlled by the obese criminal lord. At the same time, the enemy of the Republic, the Separatists, aim to control these space-routes too. Cue double crossing, frame-ups, clone battles and lightsaber duels.
The failure of the movie is marked by the lack of a strong story to tell and the fact that it was never intended to be a feature film (just a pilot for the upcoming TV show). As a novel however it works much better as every plot point is fleshed out and we get a keen insight into the ruminations of Anakin and Count Dooku. It's very interesting reading about a Jedi super-hero who's constantly wrought with guilt and pain over the recent loss of his mother and through this it makes it easy to like Anakin, something which many found hard to do during George Lucas' films. Perhaps even more intriguing is seeing how Anakin takes to his new padawan. Though we will get to see this in The Force Unleashed, here he is human and still on the good side of the force.
I don't mean to compare this novel to the source material as a measure of quality, but it's hard not to when it is so much better. In the film, the Clonetroopers are laser-fodder shouting gung-ho lines as if they were in a video game, and the battle-droids a slapstick comedy device. Here, in the book, you get to see the militarialistic Clonetroopers we saw in The Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith and feel the threat of a robotic army without feeling. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise as Traviss' pen has delivered three excellent clone wars novels (one of which was turned into a game) and there's even a forth of the way. Traviss is regarded as the authority on all things Clone Wars so getting her to write this was a solid choice.
I can stomach Jar Jar, and I never disliked the Ewoks but Ziro the Hutt, in the film, is the most awful Star Wars character ever. Just imagine Jabba were he effeminate, spoke English, was tattooed and wore make-up. This is Ziro. Traviss barely alludes to any of these things; instead paints a Hutt as they should be painted - devious, powerful, and disgusting.
The novel is truly better than the movie. Much better.
The finest benefit comes from what all books offer - the use of your imagination. Obi-Wan can look like Ewan McGregor and Padme can look like Natalie Portman and the battles are as fierce as you want them to be. The film captured only a snapshot of what your imagination and Traviss' words can illustrate.
The Clone Wars novel is well worth your time though at 250 pages it won't take much of it. It fleshes out what the movie shows us by adding a layer of character depth which was sorely missing from the movie. It is the better of the two mediums, and considering it's priced the same as a movie ticket, you'd be better off settling for the book.