“Give Unkar Plutt A Hand: Adaptations in a Post-Canon World”

Are Adaptations Canon?

“There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” – Bob Ross

On April 25th, 2014 it was announced here that previous Expanded Universe stories would become Legends in order to unify future comics, novels, etc to the movies and TV shows in Star Wars. Pretty simple… Except, when it falls under the adaptations. A lot of confusion seemed to have sprouted by the discrepancies adaptations left. Are old adaptations canon? Are new? Here I will hopefully help offer an understanding of canon adaptations in comics and novelizations.

Shortly after the Legends announcement Del Rey Books official Twitter did clarify here that previous adaptations are considered canon, where they line up, with canon media. At first, I used to think that that comment meant just the previous adaptations. Now I realize it also applies to the new adaptations as well. Take for example the scene in The Force Awakens, where Rey is tempted to sell her new droid friend BB-8. In all the canon adaptations and movie Rey contemplates selling the droid, with Unkar Plutt, but in the end, refuses to sell. In each adaptation, the dialogue is not the same. Sometimes she outright refuses. Other times she counter-offers, but in the end, declines. However, that is a good thing, because it allows each author to give their interpretation of the movie.

Wiggle Room

By allowing authors wiggle room this opens the door to new perspectives on the movies. It sets up the movies as a modern mythology, where the storyteller adds their own flavor. Take for example my review of Rey’s Story and Finn’s Story h ere . In these adaptations, the focus is one main character, which can be tricky as it cuts out huge chunks of the overall movie. But they are a ton of fun to read, and opens the door to new audiences. Just think of the younger audience watching the movie, identifying with Rey or Finn, but not old enough to read the junior novel or novelization. They could pick up one of those stories (or be read to as a bedtime story), and dive deeper into the characters.

Additionally, the junior novelization and adult novelization of The Force Awakens offers new insight that may or may not be locked down fully in canon; however, they do offer further exploration to the movie. For example in Alan Dean Foster’s version, which reads like a sci-fi novel. The novel begins, with General Leia, and peels back the curtain to her side of the story that the movie does not include. On the other end of the spectrum, you have Michael Kogge’s approach, with a bigger lean on the fantasy side of the movie. One additional scene that stood out to me in Kogge’s version was Chewbacca’s thoughts after the “bridge scene” as he headed back to the Millennium Falcon!

Side Note

Side note, even if you are an adult the junior novelization of Michael Kogge is worth the read. The physical version and audiobook are the complete version that incorporate elements from Greg Rucka’s Before the Awakening middle-grade novel. Kogge did not downplay the story. Check out this HIGHLY SPOILERY excerpt that takes place after Kylo Ren “thanks” Han Solo:

At first, Han didn’t feel anything except a piercing heat in his chest. Then his lungs didn’t work. His heart stopped beating. His legs wobbled. He lost his feet. The fiery blade sank deeper. And he knew that this time, this impossible situation was one Chewie couldn’t save him from. In the last few seconds of his life, he thought of the Falcon and his furry first mate and his beautiful princess, but he saw only his son. The darkness in his eyes. And the sadness. Han forgave his son for what he had done. He prayed someday his son would forgive him in turn.

My heart…

What about additional scenes added in adaptations?

Now are these extra scenes canon? Maybe! The events most likely took place, but specifics might shift in stories that are not adaptations. The same can be said of the deleted scenes. There are numerous reasons scenes get cut, and usually, it was due to pacing.

Take for example the Unkar Plutt deleted scene in The Force Awakens (**warning for spoilers**). In the movie and adult novelization after Finn leaves Rey, Unkar Plutt appeared on Takodana to steal back the ship Rey stole from him. The reason why it was not in the movie was most likely due to how it was shot, or the pacing of the movie. In the final cut of the movie, without the scene Rey in an unsettled state gets drawn away after Finn’s untimely departure to the call of some Force to get to the Force Back lightsaber scene.

In the novelization, Finn leaves, Unkar Plutt appears, Chewbacca rips off an arm, Rey & Chewbacca go back to the table with Maz & Han, and THEN Rey wanders off to the Force Back scene. The big question becomes, did Unkar Plutt lose an arm? Most likely, but I would consider it in LIMBO until another story confirms it.

In the novelization, Finn leaves, Unkar Plutt appears, Chewbacca rips off an arm, Rey & Chewbacca go back to the table with Maz & Han, and THEN Rey wanders off to the Force Back scene. The big question becomes, did Unkar Plutt lose an arm? Most likely, but I would consider it in LIMBO until another story confirms it.

Possible Reasons for the Discrepancies?

Authors working on the adaptations do have to struggle, with not knowing the full picture. They know as much as the Lucasfilm Story Group will inform them. Even then the story of Star Wars is an ongoing narrative that jumps around on the timeline. The Lucasfilm Story Group has done a wonderful job keeping everything in line, but that can be tricky on adaptations.

There might be a little detail in the next two movies that would cancel out a small scene in The Force Awakens novelization, but that is okay. Adaptations are more like time capsules when they are written. Most of the time they are adapting the screenplay, and not the movie. For example, the “Traitor” scene between Finn and Nines on Takodana was downplayed in the novelization and junior novel, because the scene didn’t fully solidify until filming. However, in Finn’s Story that scene played out closer to the movie version.

Another big example is adaptations written years before established canon locked down important events or created new characters. This is the case in the Revenge of the Sith novelization. The novel would have included so much additional material if it had been written after The Clone Wars TV show. However, what the novelization does include is a deeper understanding of the character’s motivations at the time the film was created, with nods to select Legends materials.

Bottom Line

The adaptations will include additional information that might carry over to future stories. However, they are designed to be flexible to new stories and author interpretation. I strongly encourage those to not be bogged down by the flexibility the adaptations bring. Canon is meant, for paid storytellers to adhere to in creating Star Wars stories. A great story will still be great even if it ends up a little wibbly wobbly to the story it is adapting. Hopefully, this helped to clear the air to the confusion! If you have a favorite adaptation, comment below!

Bonus

Of the adaptations I read, here are my top three!

1. Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover

I read this novelization in the Dark Lord trilogy paperback, and Holy Snokes was it a blast to read! It included all the cut Padmé scenes, and filled in so many of the blanks that the movie assumes or infers the viewer to understand. Stover did a tremendous job bringing to close the prequel trilogy. One of my favorite moments was the scene before Anakin gets appointed on the Jedi Council, but refused Master status. In that scene, the Jedi Council basically debate their gameplan strategy to allowing the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to select Anakin to be a representative on the Jedi Council (since Palpatine took over ruling the Jedi Order). The set up scene just made what we saw in the movie that much more intense!

2. The Rebellion Begins by Michael Kogge

This was an adaptation to the Star Wars Rebels TV show movie event Spark of Rebellion. The beauty of this adaptation is the extra story in the beginning of the book that set up the movie event. In addition, Agent Kallus had a chilling introduction that made my appreciation to the character grow tenfold that I teased in an earlier article here. In fact, the whole Ghost crew are wonderfully characterized in this junior novelization! One of my favorite moments was the 22 Pick Up moment, where the reader goes inside Kanan’s mind as he reveals himself to be a Jedi in front of the Empire!

3. A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken

The approach Bracken took was brilliant! She broke up the story into three perspectives (Leia, Han, Luke), and made it work. I would say that ALL of the story was my favorite! It was such a delight to read. Two stand out moments I enjoyed were Leia’s escape attempt and the Wedge/Luke X-Wing simulator scene. This book was such a delightful companion piece that made me enjoy A New Hope even more.

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Franklin Taylor
Long time Oregonian that spends most his time in his quadjumper traversing the Star Wars galaxy. When on his homeworld he takes care of his puppy anooba and bratty Loth-cats. Went into Corellian Overdrive of the fandom in 2013.