Review by C.J. Bunce
The “Moviemaking Magic/Cinemagic” series from Abrams Books is my current favorite book format for genre tie-in non-fiction works. Check out my reviews of the volume on the Marvel Studios Heroes and Villains here, and the first volume on Star Wars, The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures and Aliens, here. The format is interactive, featuring several series of foldout photographs that allow the reader to see the changes in design over time, like ships from concept to realized model. And these books allow for hundreds of photographs and how-to film production process accounts and interviews, arranged in an easy to reference chronology. With the latest film in theaters, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Abrams has published the next look behind the scenes at the production process, The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Ships and Battles, the most comprehensive account of the 11-film franchise’s models, sculptures, concept artwork, and their creators since Sculpting a Galaxy was released in 2005 when we only had six films available (you can see my review of that book here).
The book is targeted at a younger audience, but Star Wars fans of any age will appreciate the detail and information they may not have read about before, including notes from George Lucas from the first idea for the film, his treatment for The Star Wars, to Colin Cantwell and Joe Johnston′s concept drawings, all the way through the two “Star Wars story” movies Rogue One and Solo, and all nine Skywalker saga films, including a preview page of concept art from The Rise of Skywalker. The original trilogy gets the biggest share of the coverage, including the full run of major ships, how they were developed, and what method was used to get them on the big screen, but the 21st century films and the prequels also get significant sections. Readers will follow the development of filmmaking methods old and new: full-sized sets and vehicles like the landspeeder and X-wing fighter, scale models (both small and large scale), kitbashing, matte painting, and CGI.
Fans of the Millennium Falcon specifically will not want to miss this book. They can track the development of the many models and designs used across the original trilogy, which had to be resurrected for the final trilogy with a side trip to an early, modified version of the ship for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Coverage includes concept art, unused designs, and photos of the pocket-sized models through the multiple full-sized, walk-on creations. The various Death Star space stations and Star Destroyers get similar handling in the book.
The key battles and how the production teams created the looks for those major plot elements include Yavin, Hoth, Endor, Naboo, Geonosis, Coruscant, Starkiller Base, Scarif, Crait, and the Maw (the battles in the current film are not included to avoid audience spoilers). Readers will also find a feature on the Dykstraflex camera, developed by John Dykstra for the original trilogy to film the saga’s most memorable sequences.
These previews from the publisher illustrate how some of the interactive elements of the book work:
Written by Landry Walker, The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Ships and Battles is the next must-read for fans of the original movies, the prequels, the new trilogy, the story films, or all of the above. It’s recommended for fans of all ages, featuring filmmaking technology for beginners, and concepts from the professionals that long-time fans will appreciate. It’s available now here at Amazon.