Review by C.J. Bunce
Not just another visual guide to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a new art book from Abrams looks behind the creative process in making a major motion picture. The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is unusual in that it doesn’t rely on film stills or the typical art design imagery you might find in a making-of movie work. It is closer to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles–Art & Design reviewed previously at borg.com here than say Star Trek: The Art of the Film, discussed here, in that it is an exhaustive account of the trials and discarded concepts that come along with creating a new story for an established franchise.
Also, like the Hobbit Chronicles book series, Lucasfilm chose to use one of its own to chronicle the pre-production of the film. Author Phil Szostak, who has a long history with the art department at Lucasfilm, was embedded in the art department of The Force Awakens crew as a conceptual researcher and archivist from December 2012 through the end of the making of the film.
The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens provides many possible paths that might have been taken in creating the look and feel of Episode VII. The most surprising may be that Rey and Finn were going to be called Kira and Sam for nearly the entire production process. Many members of the press have used imagery from this book to assert that somehow scenes were deleted from the final cut or that the concepts and ideas in the book reflect the original plan, but that’s really not the case. The ideas thrown around in the planning stages are the same types of ideas used in any production–some ideas are good and are used, others don’t make the cut for any number of reasons. This is illustrated well in the pre-production for Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, as seen in Elysium: The Art of the Film, reviewed here. Many good ideas just get left behind for the needs of the plot and the timing of the film.
Look for plenty of production paintings, concept sketches, storyboard art, blueprints, and matte paintings, and even some costume designs ultimately used for key characters like Poe, Rey, and Han Solo. There’s something for every sci-fi fan here. Maz Kanata concept drawings have a striking similarity to E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial. The artists really stuck to the designs of the original Death Star space stations for much of their ideas. And the stormtroopers from the original trilogy seem to have been the design the artists thought would be used for much of their concept paintings. Only the chrome stormtrooper Captain Phasma seems to have been planned for some time. One image (above) looks like Luke Skywalker (although the text refers to the character as Finn) and an unknown woman meeting with Maz Kanata–could this be someone’s idea of backstory for Luke delivering his lightsaber to this wise old woman?
Fans of the Star Trek: Ships of the Line series will also enjoy all the similarly rendered images of spaceships and strange new worlds created for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in this book. The only things it could use more of are Michael Kaplan’s own costume designs and detail work on new props created for the movie. Since this is now the biggest selling movie of all time, we’re thinking these are likely the subjects of future books.
Get your copy of The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens now here at Amazon.com.