Review by C.J. Bunce
After the completion of the Star Wars prequels, George Lucas sat down and went frame by frame through all six Star Wars movies, examining literally hundreds of thousands of images and selecting about 250 screen grabs from each film, frames that he believed showed particular artistry, each in its own right. The result was 2011’s limited edition of 1,138 boxed sets called Star Wars: Frames, sold for $3,000, and now only rarely available with one set being sold at Amazon.com for a whopping $11,500. Thanks to Abrams Books, Star Wars: Frames is being re-released this month in a far less expensive but complete edition, collecting 1,472 stills from all six films in the Star Wars saga. It is without a doubt the definitive visual work on Star Wars, in a rare league of deluxe book editions along with long out-of-print Dressing a Galaxy: The Costume of Star Wars and Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop as the best Star Wars books ever released.
This more affordable, unabridged version of Star Wars: Frames includes two hardcover books, each covering one of the two movie trilogies in 368 pages, housed in a hefty Death Star-themed silver box. Listing at a published price of $150, you can buy it for less than $100 at Amazon.com. The only difference between the $3,000 version and this version is the original was issued in a six-book set (one book for each film instead of one for each trilogy), with each image taking up a full page, packaged in a wooden crate instead of cardboard. The content is the same. Star Wars: Frames will be released November 5, 2013, but we received an early review copy this week. The book lives up to its promise, in surprising ways.
Moving through the classic original trilogy first, we learn from the foreword by J.W. Rinzler that this is not just George Lucas’s view of the best images of his films, but it also includes visuals that help keep the beat of the story. So immediately you see key images that showed up in decades of marketing materials, on notebooks, stickers, trading cards, cardboard puzzles, and anything you can imagine. But you also see in-between frames that allow you to examine background detail your eye may never have caught before. You may be inspired to start a list of the best of the best–could this be whittled down further to the 50 best images of each film or even the top 10 (or one, as we looked at back in 2011 here at borg.com)?
The biggest surprise is that this should be a book for discussion among fans. Why did he select this shot of the Jawas in the Tatooine gorge instead of the memorable image of the Jawas carrying R2-D2? Where is that classic view of Han Solo and Chewbacca firing off the ramp of the Millennium Falcon? Lacking any text other than the forewords by The Star Wars comic book and “Making of” series writer Rinzler and director Guillermo del Toro and books dedications, each spread features four large widescreen “letterbox” images on impressive, high quality and highly detailed 15.7 inch x 14.1 inch pages in 20 lbs. of books. The rationale for the selection of each frame then is left to the imagination of the reader.
What also comes across is the scene by scene design artistry of one movie over the other. Maybe not surprisingly the most artistic compositions of the movies appears to be Episode IV: A New Hope, yet equally eye-popping is the imagery of Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Yes, devoid of clunky dialogue and stilted acting, Attack of the Clones is full of beautifully designed visuals, including shots inspired by Maxfield Parrish. You also notice that the movies heaviest in action–Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith–have far less iconic stills. The Empire Strikes Back, arguably the best of all the films, in particular is in need of its rousing John Williams soundtrack, although it clearly has its defining moments, including the contemplative Yoda on Dagobah, the AT-ATs and tauntauns on Hoth, and the capture at Cloud City. Even The Phantom Menace has brilliant sweeping cityscapes, although this is eclipsed by many images of the endless pod race scene. Yet, maybe more than before, it becomes clearer what Lucas was attempting to do with the prequels.
What is missed or overlooked in the quick scenes and edits of the films in the special effects realm can be seen and studied now in Star Wars: Frames. That the futuristic spacescapes of Attack of the Clones look so much like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, and that A New Hope looks so much like a David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge on the River Kwai, Dr. Zhivago) production, add to the elements that stack in favor of this boxed set.
Is Star Wars: Frames a must-have for Star Wars fans? No question. For a study in design and movie making this set will be one you pull from the shelf again and again. Get your discounted copy here at Amazon.com.