Some of this is owed to the dunderheads at Amazon.com. For years, I was an Amazon.com Top 1000 Reviewer of books, films, and products; and then Jeff Bezos grew a wild hair up his posterior and changed the rules so that legitimate stay-at-home critics – folks like me who were actually making a reasonable living doing this – were dropped (partially) from his platform before unceremoniously dumping all of our works even if we followed the new rules. I don’t normally bemoan capitalists amassing capital, but it was clear to many of us affected that – now that he had built his own galactic empire – Grand Moff Bezos no longer needed reviewers, so he threw all of us out like trash. Such is life.
In any event, I do still pick up the occasional ‘reasonably new read’ and scan it cover-to-cover if it interests me. Although my duties editing SciFiHistory.Net get the lion’s share of my free time, I still managed to finally put down Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: From A Certain Point Of View, and I wanted to sound off on it for posterity’s sake.
For those unaware, the ‘A Certain Point Of View’ imprint for the franchise thus far takes a look at the events of the seminal films but – as the header suggests – not from the perspective of any major characters. These are short stories – vignettes, really – which peel back the layer of an event from the motion picture by seeing it fresh and through the eyes of someone the reader is just getting to know. As an example, imagine the opening of Star Wars: A New Hope wherein droids C-3PO and R2-D2 are racing down the halls of the Tantive IV Blockade Runner, but imagine all of it as being told from the ‘point of view’ of, say, a third droid, one entirely unaware of the circumstances that pit these Rebels against the Empire. This all-new ‘point of view’ gives the reader an opportunity to not only reminisce about a scene from the popular movie but also presents these details from an all-new viewpoint. It’s the appeal of mixing the old with the new, something I’d imagine would have fans clamoring for more.
To date, they’ve done two volumes – one for A New Hope and one for The Empire Strikes Back – and the publisher has released them to coincide with the fortieth anniversary (respectively) of each picture.
Because these are short stories, there isn’t an awful lot of depth here. Again, these are meant to be inspired recollections of events within the greater Star Wars (film) mythology; so much of it has the inherent wide-eyed fascination that we as an audience experienced with the space saga on the silver screen. Many of them are what I’d even call ‘quick reads,’ giving the reader something light to simply pass the time between new Star Wars media projects. Others – to the credit of some talented authors – do give some nuance to the filmed chapters by fleshing out a familiar face like Wedge Antilles, that menacing Wampa who almost made a meal out of Luke, or even Cloud City’s Lobot. Granted, it may not be much complexity, but as an anniversary edition these efforts are perfectly entertaining on their own merits.
As can happen when you pack in forty different ideas around a forty-year-old film, there are some stories which – ahem – probably shouldn’t have been greenlit from the beginning. There’s a particular gruesome slog-of-a-read toward the end which features a witness to nearly the entire lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. When a character you’ve never been convinced to care about somehow manages to stumble not once but twice in the darkness of some utility tunnels upon one of the screen’s most epic confrontations, it all feels forced and inorganic … almost like the writer had no other idea so decided to rewrite the film from his or her own perspective. Ouch.
And, sadly, this happens more than once in the volume. While I have no problem with narrative side glances back at the film itself, why simply engage in retelling your audience something it already knows? Why not capture – as the title suggests – a whole new ‘certain point of view,’ like the ghostly Obi-Wan Kenobi promised? Or maybe a different author should’ve been chosen?
So, yes, be prepared for more than a stinker or two (or three, since Star Wars films come in trilogies), but keep in mind it’s all meant in good fun.
Recommended. If you’re an old school Star Wars fan like myself, then I suspect you’ll find more to like than dislike within the pages of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: From A Certain Point Of View. Not all of it is particularly winning – honestly, the first half dealing with Hoth, the asteroid field, and Dagobah feel more inventive, unlike the second half which felt more like an anniversary cash grab – but enough of it light-speeds you back to the galaxy far, far away efficiently enough that it’s a journey worth taking.