I have to start this review with a caveat that I have not yet managed to finish reading this book. It’s fairly monstrous and there’s a lot to read. Plus, I keep getting distracted by all the pretty pictures.
Having said all that, I feel like I’m far enough along to give at least a relatively-informed review.
Bottom line: I’d recommend getting this book if you hold any love for the original movie. It’s a lot of fun.
It’s hard not to review this book without giving a large chunk of the commentary to the illustrations. I almost prefer the pictures and their accompanying captions to the actual text. I’d say about half of the pictures are ones I’ve never seen before.
In addition to the generally goofy look of 70’s fashion, the neat part about the selection of pictures in this book is how much hope you see in them. These people are genuinely having fun trying to figure out how to do things. Even the ones where the stress is evident (for instance, watch George slowly sinking himself into a stress-related hospitalization) speak to the sheer creativity of the piece.
You get pictures of contracts and development deals. Shots of George’s original scripts, complete with bad handwriting. Early doodles as Ralph McQuarrie tried to puzzle out the look. Even George’s earliest doodles of TIE fighters and X-Wings.
This book is worth it for the pictures, alone.
The bulk of text is made up from interviews done before the film was released and became a world-wide phenomenon. They were supposed to be put together into a book, but the project got dumped and they were hidden away in the Lucasfilm Archives. As a result, you get a view on the films without bias.
Sure, there’s a bit of the “I’m hyping the film I’m in” to them. But you also get true reactions unclouded by the insanity that was soon to follow. And that’s something we haven’t really seen before.
The book is easy to read, but the text is tiny. And unless you’re really into the whole “how to get a movie made in Hollywood” aspects, it can be a little dry in spots. But, overall, it’s a very interesting look at how this world was formed.
The Book, Itself
This is another of those heavy books. My carpal-tunnel wrists don’t like holding it, so I have to put it onto a pillow and do interesting contortions to read the book. (Hence my complaint about the tiny print.) But this is due to the tons of content and the high-quality paper, so a worthy sacrifice to the reading gods. (Plus, there’s always massage.)
For those who geek about such things, I think the softcover binding will hold up well if you don’t continually try to force the book open past its binding. There’s very thick glue to hold in those heavy pages. The hardcover binding also appears to have been done well, so it’s worth the extra cost, if you’re thinking about it.
The softcover book (carried by all the major chains) is retailing for US$35.00 and the hardcover book is going for US$75.00. Shop around, apply those discounts and go ahead and splurge on this book.