Contains mild spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker novelization
After years of enduring the FOMO of convention-goers getting exclusive early releases of books I desperately wanted to read, Chicago finally got a win. I was one of the lucky people to pick up Rae Carson’s novelization of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker at Chicago’s C2E2 convention last month.
I can't properly convey my feelings about The Rise of Skywalker novelization without revealing my thoughts on the film itself. I saw it four times in theaters in a vain attempt to make myself like it. It looked great, it sounded great, and I was fully on board for the Kylo Ren/Ben Solo action, but I had - still have - a lot of issues with some of the story decisions. The Rise of Skywalker novelization, however, succeeds where many story components of the film failed.
1) Deleted scenes, but better
The Rise of Skywalker novelization exists to take the reader beyond what we saw on screen. Like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker novelization is expanded. It includes a handful of new scenes written specifically for the book or shot and later cut from the final film. The list of bonus features on the digital, DVD or Blu-ray for the film doesn’t include deleted scenes, so it sounds like Carson’s novel is the closest we’ll get.
The new material in the novelization rounds out the story in a gratifying way, expertly employing the use of flashbacks to draw more emotion out of moments already designed to rip your heart out. One of my favorite additions involves Kylo Ren and Chewbacca in a confrontation that, I think, plays out best in written form. Not that the actors couldn’t pull it off, but Star Wars films often refrain from using flashbacks. It’s a moment in which both characters appear guarded as they each endure a heartbreaking internal struggle.
The novelization also includes details about Lando Calrissian and what he’s been up to since Endor. While discussing the process of writing The Rise of Skywalker at a panel at C2E2, Carson talked about a quiet pause in the action that follows Lando roaming the corridors of the Millennium Falcon, lost in old memories.
2) Leaning into Leia
Utilizing unused footage of Carrie Fisher’s previous performances as Leia Organa was an admirable accomplishment for the visual effects artists who worked on The Rise of Skywalker. But it forced Fisher’s scene partners to awkwardly act around her in a way I found distracting. In contrast, Carson weaves Leia content seamlessly into the story and expands on it in a way that’s far more satisfying than the onscreen experience.
The filmmakers did what they could, but the novelization cranks it up to an 11 to see Leia through her final act, which is built up using flashbacks and whispers from a certain Jedi past.
3) Much needed exposition
The novelization takes some of the storylines that seem to contradict other canon material and, well, it doesn't exactly fix them. It tries to justify them. For me, the added exposition makes some of them easier to swallow -- like mending the Skywalker lightsaber that was destroyed in The Last Jedi and positing that Leia had more Jedi training than we were previously led to believe.
Obviously the major one is Palpatine’s return. There is a lot of what I would call necessary exposition in the novelization that explains how that came to be.
Does it make sense? No. Does it justify all retcons to previously established canon material? Absolutely not. But it helps… kind of.
4) The ending
Fair warning: there’s no added epilogue. The book ends the same way as the movie. But if certain moments at the tail end of the film left you scratching your head in the theater, the novelization will clarify a few details. Thankfully it fixes the creep factor of Lando’s encounter with Jannah at the end of the film and gives him a new mission in a post-First Order galaxy. It also confirms exactly how long Rey plans to stay on Tatooine.
For me, reading The Rise of Skywalker makes the story and all of its flaws easier to accept. The novelization allowed me to take the story at my own pace, dive deeper into the juicy details of my favorite scenes and, best of all, it helped me make peace with some of the things I found lacking in the film. I’ll be curious to see The Rise of Skywalker a fifth time now that I have all the added context.
The thing about Star Wars films is that they often improve with age. There’s an entire generation that identifies with and embraces the prequel trilogy as their Star Wars. I have no doubt the same applies/will apply to the sequel trilogy. I just wish the Episode IX filmmakers had cared as much about telling a cohesive story as Carson did.
But ask me again sometime.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: Expanded Edition will be released in the U.S. on Tuesday, March 17 and is available for pre-order now.
Laura Kelly co-hosts the podcast Force Toast: A Star Wars Happy Hour with her friend Alyce and competes in the Star Was league of the Movie Trivia Schmoedown. She loves wine, pasta, Star Wars Rebels, English bulldogs and spending far too much time on Star Wars Twitter. Find Laura on twitter or email her.
Two months of studying and an intensive 3-day cram session and it’s all over in an hour.
Saturday, 9:30 am
It feels like Noon. Alyce and I have been up since 5:30 am and I probably have more makeup on than I will on my wedding day. The Schmoedown is filming five matches today and Star Wars is up first. My competitor, Andrew Dimalanta, his wife, Nicki, Alyce, our friend Abbie and I arrive at the studio precisely on time. Crew members are already setting up so I grab a seat out of the way, open my laptop and study my Rogue One materials right up until the moment Kristian Harloff pulls me into a studio for my pre-competition interview.
Some part of me starts to panic and is quickly hushed by the anti-anxiety meds I generally only take for flying. I'm overcome with what is sure to be a fatal case of Imposter Syndrome that no meds can fix.
Kristian introduces me to the crew members in the room and talks me through the footage they need. He's only about 10 feet away and his tone is calm and reassuring, but my ears are ringing and I can barely hear him. It feels like the walls are closing in and my mouth feels like I ate cotton balls for breakfast. I ask if Alyce can be in the interview with me in hopes that a familiar face and voice will make me look more relaxed.
It doesn't. But I didn't fly 2,000 miles across the country to look relaxed.
Saturday, 10:00 am
Someone calls out for everyone to get into the main studio where competitions are filmed. The announcers' desk is set up to face the competitors desk/stage (why did I always assume it was next to the main stage?). There are cameras and cables and lights and it’s a little while before everything is set.
Andrew and I hang out backstage. He inspects the wheel and chats with crew members. I pace back and forth and take some photos for the Force Toast Instagram. I wish I could put earbuds in to listen to something calming but I need to be alert and ready for instructions.
Kristian has Alyce come backstage so she can walk out with me. We didn't plan on this so we didn't rehearse or choreograph anything. But she's in full hair and makeup anyway, so it works out.
I make my entrance first but it’s like I blacked out. I have no memory of it or Andrew's entrance. I can tell you off the top of my head that the odds of the Resistance finding a way out of the caves on Crait were 15,428 to 1, but I don’t remember how I ended up in my chair that day. The human brain is a strange thing.
I try to tell myself that it’s just pub trivia without the pub. At one point, I had considered bringing a bottle of wine with me to the table. Thankfully I decided against it.
The match feels like it lasts three hours and I’m certain the final two questions take up at least two of them. In reality, I’m probably in my seat for less than 45 minutes.
Alyce joins me for the post-competition interview. She's shaking so badly, I'm concerned she's going to pass out or have a heart attack on camera. She gets like this for pub trivia too. Her nervousness calms me and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because we’re a team and our friendship, like the Force, demands balance. Or maybe I’m just an asshole. Either way, I’m glad she’s here.
Another match follows and I'm jealous of how relaxed and comfortable all the competitors seem. I wish I could have a do-over for the whole morning.
I am pleasantly surprised how warm and friendly all the cast and crew are. It feels like I'm someone's guest at a college reunion. There's no drama, no egos and the vibe is relaxed. There are a lot of huggers in the group and everyone is hellbent on making me feel included and welcome. Someone brought their dog and it’s a very excellent dog. There are pizzas and homemade brownies on a conference table.
We watch several matches over the course of the day. I spot some of the Inner Geekdom competitors hanging around the studio and I want to tell Rachel Cushing how much I admire her seemingly limitless knowledge of all the movies I love. I want Mike Kalinowski to know he made my brother into a Schmoedown fan. In the end, I'm too starstruck to talk to either of them.
The final match of the season wraps, Alyce and I say our good-byes and we head to our Airbnb in Hollywood. I turn on Downton Abbey and let my brain melt into nothingness for a few hours.
Alyce and I spend the entire night at the Scum & Villainy Cantina with friends and my brother, who surprised me by driving up from San Diego. One of the cocktails at the Cantina comes with a Star Wars trivia question. I don’t remember the question, but I know I got it right. There’s no prize.
Alyce and I go to brunch at some overpriced rooftop restaurant in Hollywood where the staff are beautiful and incompetent and the view is the only redeeming quality. We board a shuttle to LAX, head to our separate terminals and I call my parents to tell them about the weekend.
I board my flight, turn on Rogue One (my favorite Star Wars movie), and for the first time in months, I watch it for the sole purpose of enjoyment.
Competing in a Schmoedown match is unlike anything I’ve ever done and I’m proud of both of my performances. Before that day in Burbank, I had never been in front of so many cameras. I was afraid. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing, slouching, vomiting, coming off as an asshole, looking insecure, choking on my own saliva, looking at the wrong camera, standing in the wrong place, having spontaneous diarrhea in the middle of the match, and just looking awkward in general.
And why? It was my choice to be here – my choice to throw my hat in the ring. So what right did I have to be afraid?
EVERY RIGHT – and that’s the lesson. Don’t let anyone deprive you of it.
To anyone contemplating a step outside of their comfort zone: remember that you are entitled to your fear. You don’t have to conquer it right this second. Just own it. Confront it. Most importantly, remember Carrie Fisher’s greatest lesson:
Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action.
You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.
Let’s hope so.
The Star Wars match filmed in October 2019 is available now for Patrons of the Movie Trivia Schmoedown and will be made available to everyone on YouTube on Thursday, October 31.
About the author
Laura Kelly co-hosts the podcast Force Toast: A Star Wars Happy Hour with her friend Alyce. Laura made her Schmoedown debut at Star Wars Celebration Chicago in April 2019 after spending a year+ dominating Star Wars themed pub trivia events around Chicago with Alyce. Laura loves wine, pasta, Star Wars Rebels, English bulldogs and spending far too much time on Star Wars Twitter. Find Laura on twitter or email her.
Having a Star Wars Movie Marathon? Are you of legal drinking age?
Then welcome to what is probably the most valuable contribution we’ve made to the Star Wars fandom to date. Our friend and listener @MichaelColten sent us a totally awesome question for the show and we had so much fun with it in Episode 14, we thought we’d share it here too for easy reference.
And we want to hear your thoughts! Comment below or tweet at us @forcetoastpod and give us your movie-drink pairing!
I’d love to hear your drink pairing for each movie. My GF and I are doing a once-a-week rewatch in the runup to an in-concert Empire showing so I think it’d be fun to have a drink pairing or beer choice per movie. Cheers!
The Phantom Menace
Laura: White wine. Naboo and Tatooine present us with a lot of warm climates and between all the politics, Senator Palpatine and Queen Amidala, there’s a lot of formality featured in the film. I’m keeping it cool and classy.
Alyce: Something light, young and fun like a Dirty Shirley/Shirley Temple Black (Shirley Temple with the booze). Try spinning, that’s a good trick!
Attack of the Clones
Alyce: French Martini (pineapple juice, vodka and Chambord with a curly orange garnish). My favorite drink for my favorite movie. It’s also pretty, like Naboo.
Laura: Absinthe. So you can hallucinate hard enough that it actually makes it a good movie.
Revenge of the Sith
Laura: Guinness or an IPA. It’s a heavy movie (slaughtering younglings and all) so I’d go with something with a heavy body.
Alyce: There’s a lot of dark in this one, so I’m going with a dark red blend or Syrah.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Alyce: PB&J (PBR with a shot of Jameson on the side). It’s fun and casual, just like the vibe I get from Solo.
Laura: Snake Bite/Black Velveteen. It’s half Guinness, half hard cider. You change directors, I mean drinks, halfway through. (Too soon?)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Laura: Rebels from the Rebellion are rebelling against the Rebellion to steal something that isn't theirs. On the surface, it sounds like a pirate movie, so I'll go with a Rum Daiquiri.
Alyce: Guinness, gallons of Guinness. This one goes DARK.
A New Hope
Alyce: A cucumber vodka cocktail - something refreshing that’s just a happy palette cleanser to kick off the OT.
Laura: Beer. I’d go light, cheap lager. Chalmun’s cantina is so classic and so divey and if you stick with something light, you can just camp out at the bar all day (or all night. Honestly, what else are you going to do to kill time on Tatooine?)
The Empire Strikes Back
Laura: Hot toddy or mulled wine. Between Hoth, the cold vastness of space and the breezy elevation on Cloud CIty, fix yourself something warm and cozy
Alyce: A traditional drink for the traditional fan favorite. Something like bourbon or scotch on the rocks – Star Wars rocks, of course.
Return of the Jedi
Alyce: Hurricane, because why not? It’s a famous New Orleans cocktail consisting of rum, passion fruit, orange and lime juices, simple syrup and grenadine with a garnish of orange slices and cherries. It’s got a good mix of everything, just like RotJ.
Laura: Hard Cider (dry). With all the scenes on Endor and the bonfire celebrations at the end, Bright Tree Village probably smells like burning leaves and Autumn, which always makes me crave hard cider.
The Force Awakens
Laura: French 75 (Gin, lemon and simple syrup topped with champagne). It’s earthy, floral, herbal and so, so refreshing. Gin is my dad’s go-to drink, so for me, it’s always had a very nostalgic element to it.
Alyce: The Force is awakening, and the ultimate wake-up drink is a Mimosa. Add tequila for an extra punch.
The Last Jedi
Alyce: Jager Bombs galore! Just toss that Jager shot into a big ol’ cup of Red Bull. We’ve got the red for Crait, and the bombs for… well, you know. RIP Blue Squadron.
Laura: Red Wine (medium to heavy bodied). Red definitely fits the color palette of the film, but it’s also kind of a heavy story to take in (Battle of D’Qar, the deaths of the Resistance's leadership on the Raddus, Grumpy Balls Luke. You get it.)
What do you think? Do you have a go-to beverage pairing for any or all of the Star Wars films? Join the conversation and send us your comments/tweets/DMs/emails!
We started our journey into the Star Wars podcast realm on February 5, 2019. Our podcast baby that is Force Toast: A Star Wars Happy Hour, had been in progress for nearly a year before we finally launched.
When we started this process, we had no clue what to expect or how it would be received. That said, this whole experience has surpassed all of our expectations by multitudes! We are absolutely thrilled with all of the support we've received on this journey and we have YOU, our listeners, to thank for making this experience so special. It has been great getting to know you through emails and tweets and meeting those who were able to attend SWCC 2019.
We promise to do our best to keep up with this blog. We hope to use it to expand on any thoughts/topics that come up and do some extra deep-dives that we don’t get around to during our recording sessions. Or maybe this will turn into something else entirely!
Thanks again to all of you for being there for us! It means more than you know.
May the Force be with you, always!
-Alyce & Laura