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Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Clone Army Attacketh, by Ian Doescher

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To Shmi or not to Shmi? 

The curtain rises on yeoman Jedi Anakin skywalker, a man torn between duty to his Masters, attraction to Padmé, and concern for his beloved mother, Shmi. His choices will determine not just his own destiny, but that of the entire Republic. 

Out, damned Fett! 

A noble lady in danger. A knight and squire in battle. And a forbidden love written in the stars. The quill of William Shakespeare meets the galaxy of George Lucas…complete with period illustrations, insightful soliloquies, and masterful meter that will convince you the Bard himself penned this epic adventure. 

Once again we return to the world of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, where people in doublets trade vicious insults while flying in ships and battling with lightsabers. It’s just as enormously fun as all the others.

I will fully admit that, while I do consider it a step down from the original trilogy, I didn’t uniformly hate the prequel trilogy – I enjoyed The Phantom Menace and though it has its problems, I still have some fun watching it. The same can’t be said for Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, which were plagued by an under-developed romance, inconsistent logic, and a wooden performance by Hayden Christensen as Anakin. I’ve only seen them once each and mostly refresh my memories of them through pop culture complaints about their quality. Luckily for me, then, that The Clone Army Attacketh came around and made the second movie fun in its own way.

 The book did its best to fix what went wrong in the movie, mainly the romance between Padmé and Anakin. While in the movie they had only a few scenes scattered amidst more interesting ones, their scenes get merged into one, with lots of added soliloquies that help show Padmé’s growing feelings for him. While it was nice that it got developed a bit more, it still felt intrusive, like if someone stopped Macbeth in the middle of Act 3 to show the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, and I was happy when the story got back to more interesting things. The romance was still underdeveloped, and while Anakin’s wish to marry Padmé can at least be dismissed as youthful impulsiveness, I still don’t see why Padmé would go along with it. I don’t think it’s very fair to blame to book for this, as they were in the source material, but it does pull the quality of the book down slightly, though at least you know that once the romance scene is over, you don’t have to deal with it again. I will make this point in its favour, and it’s one I never thought I’d concede: It makes the “I hate sand” line sound far less stupid.

As in the others, there were a lot of shout-outs to other plays; the one scene with Anakin and Padmé’s romance references most of Shakespeare’s comedies as well as Romeo and Juliet, and the play itself includes many references to Macbeth and, oddly enough, one reference to The Wizard of Oz. The character Rumour, who exists to spread discord, makes several appearances, and like The Phantom of Menace the book flirts with self-referentiality and continues Jar Jar’s character arc.

And if you need any other reason to read it, remember: This is the one where we have Samuel L. Jackson, wielding a lightsaber, speaking Shakespearean English.

Overall rating: 5/5


Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Phantom of Menace, by Ian Doescher

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O Threepio, Threepio, Wherefore art thou, Threepio? 

Join us, good gentles, for a merry reimagining of Star Wars: Episode I as only Shakespeare could have written it. The entire saga starts here, with a thrilling tale featuring a disguised queen, a young hero, and two fearless knights facing a hidden, vengeful enemy. 

‘Tis a true Shakespearean drama, filled with sword fights, soliloquies, and doomed romance…all in glorious iambic pentameter and coupled with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations. Hold on to your midi-chlorians: The play’s the thing, wherein you’ll catch the rise of Anakin! 

We all know there are only three Star Wars movies, but luckily for us Ian Doescher continued his series of plays based off of them with this fourth book, The Phantom of Menace, which was a fantastic read all around.

Moreso than the other translations of the Star Wars movies, this book really expands upon the story, adding new implications, new dialogue, and new perspectives that change your perception of the film. Characters get new interpretations and different emphasis is placed on dialogue to change how the entire film appears to play out. These do much to add depth and tone to the film, in some ways bringing it more in line with the original trilogy and improving on the story overall.

The book had to tackle two main problems: the pod race – how to convey a rather long scene with almost no dialogue and not much way to convey action? – and Jar Jar Binks, considered the most hated animated character of all time. Both of them were handled exceptionally well. The pod race was handled differently from the regular battle scenes, which conveyed it better, in my opinion, allowing for a nice overall picture of how it went that we would not otherwise have gotten. Jar Jar’s character got completely turned around, making him likeable and competent (almost). We get the usual references to other Shakespearean plays and a nice, light-hearted scene poking fun at how different and comparatively old the original trilogy looks compared to the newer movies. Unfortunately, nobody says “Prithee”, but the rest of the dialogue is awesome enough to compensate for that.

I once again implore people to put on a performance of these plays for my entertainment, but until people do, this book is a wonderful read on its own.

Overall rating: 5/5


Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Jedi Doth Return, by Ian Doescher

Once more unto the Death Star, dear friends! 

The epic trilogy that began with William Shakespeare’s Star Wars and continued with The Empire Striketh Back concludes herein with the all-new, all-iambic The Jedi Doth Return — perchance the greatest adventure of them all. 

Prithee, attend the tale so far: Han Solo entombed in carbonite, the princess taken captive, the Rebel Alliance besieged, and Jabba the Hutt engorged. Alack! Now Luke Skywalker and his Rebel band must seek fresh allies in their quest to thwart construction of a new Imperial Death Star. But whom can they trust to fight by their side in the great battle to come? Cry “Ewok” and let slip the dogs of war! 

Frozen heroes! Furry creatures! Family secrets revealed! And a lightsaber duel to decide the fate of the Empire. In troth, William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return has it all! 

Friends, we have come to the final installment of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, and when I saw it on the shelf as I was walking out of the bookstore I nearly gave myself whiplash. Naturally I bought it right away and began reading it the next day, and loved every moment of it.

The Jedi Doth Return was, stylistically, more similar to Empire than to New Hope; it uses monologues, dialogue, and speeches to explain action sequences; the chorus comes up only a couple of times in the play. This was, overall, a very good choice; the characters could give their thoughts and views on a situation, which fleshed them out and made the sequences more fun to read. Once again, side characters were expanded upon and motives explored more in-depth, and characters who had little to no personality in the original were given clear characters – a prime example being Salacious Crumb, Jabba’s odd laughing pet, who gets several lines in the play. This expanding of dialogue meant that I occasionally got a very different impression of characters than I do when watching the movie, especially regarding the Han-Luke-Leia love triangle, which made reading the play a fresh experience in some ways and a slightly different experience than the movie.

I was curious about how the Ewoks’ dialogue was going to be rendered in the play, and I was amused to find it was written as four-line, half-nonsense little poems; the first and fourth lines were gibberish while the middle lines were odd-sounding English that gave character to the Ewoks and let us understand them while preserving their distinct way of speaking. Doescher had previously used similar tricks to great success in Empire (Yoda speaks in haiku, Fett in prose) but this is the first time he’s done it with an alien language to make that language understandable – Chewbacca’s and Jabba’s dialogue, as well as that of the Jawas and other aliens, is left untranslated. Reading the way they spoke and the conversations they had with C-3PO was quite fun.

Unfortunately, Darth Vader doesn’t say “prithee” in this play like I hoped he would, but it was still a fun read and a nice ending to the trilogy. Nevertheless, we still get great and innumerable shout-outs to the original Shakespeare, like one monologue that references “All the world’s a stage”. By the way, if any of you are planning to put on a production of these plays, now would be the perfect time, because you could perform them all back to back and either invite me to watch or send me a video of it (I’m still waiting). In conclusion, I’ll just say that this series has been great from beginning to end, and that if you haven’t read The Jedi Doth Return yet, you should immediately.

Overall rating: 4.5/5


Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back, by Ian Doescher

The saga that began with the interstellar best seller William Shakespeare’s Star Wars continues with this merry reimagining of George Lucas’s enduring classic The Empire Strikes Back.

Many a fortnight have passed since the destruction of the Death Star. Young Luke Skywalker and his friends have taken refuge on the ice planet of Hoth, where the evil Darth Vader has hatched a cold-blooded plan to capture them. Only with the help of a little green Jedi Master – and a swaggering rascal named Lando Calrissian – can our heroes escape the Empire’s wrath. And only then will Lord Vader learn how sharper than a tauntaun’s tooth it is to have a Jedi child. 

What light through Yoda’s window breaks? Methinks you’ll find out in the pages of The Empire Striketh Back!

My friends, the wait is over: the second part of Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars trilogy is here.

In the author note, Doescher says that The Empire Strikes Back was the most similar to one of Shakespeare’s plays; it has the same pathos, tragedy, battles, triumph, and romance that Shakespeare was so fond of. And, indeed, the book certainly reads very much like a play, and feels like one. Stylistically, it’s somewhat different from Verily, A New Hope; while New Hope made use of a chorus to explain scenes without dialogue to them, Empire uses characters to do the same thing in most cases, both of which Shakespeare did depending on the play. We also get more monologues from side characters explaining who they are; the wampa gets two such speeches at the beginning of the play.

The main strength of Empire is that it greatly expands on the movie. Instead of just being a straight retelling, monologues, asides, and observances are added that expand upon character motivations, making Lando Calrissian, Bobba Fett, and other characters more three dimensional and making it easier to sympathise with them.

Once again, the book heavily references Shakespeare; the opening line is a reference to Twelfth Night and a stage direction references The Winter’s Tale. They’re fun to spot for the Shakespeare nut and a nice little bonus for those who remember Shakespeare from high school. You don’t have to read Shakespeare regularly to spot them, either; many of them are references to very well-known lines that people with a casual familiarity of Shakespeare can spot. Also like the first book, Empire is dotted with illustrations of how the scenes would look if they were in a stage production, including ships held up with strings and AT-ATs pulled along on wheels, and these are always rather amusing.

All in all, The Empire Striketh Back improves on the first book by adding more to the movie. It’s a must-read for any fan of either Shakespeare or Star Wars of all ages. Unfortunately, Darth Vader doesn’t say “prithee” in this, so we can only hope that comes back for the third book. Once again, if anybody wants to put on a production of this, let me know so I can either come and watch it or get a DVD of the production.

Overall rating: 4.5/5


Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, by Ian Doescher

May the verse be with you! 

Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ‘Tis a tale told by fretful Droids, full of faithful Wookies and fearsome Stormtroopers, signifying…pretty much everything. 

Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for. 

Do you like Shakespeare, but find yourself disappointed by the lack of dramatic space battles? Do you revel in Star Wars, but feel the word “prithee” wasn’t used enough? Well then, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is for you.

It’s pretty much what it sounds like: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, but in the style of one of Shakespeare’s plays. At the same time, it’s not a line-for-line translation; soliliquies and monologues are added, expanding the script considerably (Luke’s two-lines in the later-third of the film, “It’s not impossible. I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home, they’re not much bigger than two metres”, is thirty-eight lines long, and invokes Luke’s dead family and Leia’s dead planet), and many characters have little asides added to their dialogue that expands on it, filling in their thoughts and relating little stories they had heard that relate to the situation at hand, something Shakespeare was fond of doing. Characters’ motivations are expanded upon and explained. A chorus comes in to fill in parts of the story where there’s no dialogue to render, and relate the opening crawl as well. Because of this, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is not just the same as the movie.

Of course, it’s not actually all that different from the movie, either. Despite the expanded dialogue, you’re still getting the same story: restless farmboy leaves his planet with a couple of droids and a weird old guy to rescue his sister and save his galaxy from his father. Besides little things, like Luke reflecting on a story Beru told him before deciding to use the promise of a reward to convince Han to save Leia, nothing really new gets added to the story. It’s essentially a novelisation, except in iambic pentameter.

Nevertheless, it’s worth a read. The text includes references to the original Star Wars, including the Han Shot First controversy, shout-outs to Shakespeare, and references Star Trek at one point. Doescher’s translation was done very well, and the format, language and style make it similar to a real Shakespeare play and a fun read. 

And Darth Vader says “prithee”. Twice.

So, is it something different from the norm? Yes. Does it expand on the movie and show us more about the Star Wars universe? Well, not really. Is it fun reading? Oh hell yes. Definitely pick this up; maybe put on a performance for your friends or school (and invite me; or, at least, send me a video of it. I’d love to see it). It’s worth your time to read.

And Darth Vader says “prithee”.

Overall rating: 4.5/5


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