Review by C.J. Bunce
A new collection of artwork upon which the original Star Wars trilogy was built will have fans who have seen the films hundreds of times delving back in again, this time to match memory to history. Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy is the second archive of selected storyboards edited by J.W. Rinzler revealing the works of a variety of artists hand selected by George Lucas and his visual design team to share ideas about what the movies would become. The first was Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Trilogy, released last year.
Rinzler, known for several books on Lucasfilm, including his work on The Making of the Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Frames, reviewed previously at borg.com, also partnered with artist Mike Mayhew and colorist Rain Beredo this year to write The Star Wars–an eight-issue mini-series based on Lucas’s original draft screenplay of Star Wars. Now that fans can examine the original film Episode IV: A New Hope, The Star Wars, and Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy, they can have a complete view of what is, what was, and what might have been, for the Force, the characters, the Rebellion, and the Empire.
Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy includes key storyboards for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, enough to tell a complete story in sketches, but not all of the thousands of images created, used, try-ons, and discards, which would be the stuff of a far larger volume. At 352 pages, there’s still more than enough to appreciate.
For die-hard fans, it’s your own personal game with the mind’s eye that will give a unique experience for every reader. Was this scene in the movie? Did I see this in the comic books adaptation but it never made it to film? Isn’t this drawing the exact angle that was used for the opening scene with the overhead Imperial cruiser, or isn’t this scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader reveals he is Luke’s father the exact camera angle ultimately used? “Hey, I don’t remember that scene with the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.”
One recurring theme from the comments accompanying the storyboards is the artists’ reliance on World War II films for X-Wing and TIE Fighter battle scenes, as well as scenes on the Millennium Falcon, all as suggested by Lucas.
You could read Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy on the one hand by inserting the dialogue from memory, as you flip between artists’ renderings, some very detailed and others very vague. You could also have the book accompany you the next time you’re viewing all three films, probably the best use of the book. Fans of Will Eisner’s Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, art students and art professionals alike, could all gain something from how these artists told this groundbreaking story in pictures. Although many of the artists were novices when Lucas tapped them for the work on the trilogy, most grew to become celebrated creators, including Ivor Beddoes, Roy Carnon, Dave Carson, Steve Gawley, Paul Huston, George Jenson, Joe Johnston, Ralph McQuarrie, Gary Myers, Ken Ralston, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, David Russell, Ronnie Shepherd, Alex Tavoularis, and Brook Temple. The near-complete storyboard stories read a lot like comic books, and interestingly follow similar development processes.
What is surprising from a comparison of the storyboards from each of the three films is how brilliant and memorable the Star Wars images are, compared to the other two films, especially considering that the visuals were so well-established by the time Return of the Jedi was created, and storyboards were being outsourced to seasoned professionals. It emphasizes how much of a landmark film Star Wars really is, how unlikely Lucas’s band of creators could get together to make such a successful, era-defining film back in 1976, and how Lucas’s leadership and vision along with the teamwork of a broad range of visual artists were able to come together to create a story that would stand the test of time.
Get your copy of Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy, published by Abrams, and now available here from Amazon.com.