The entire “Star Wars” series is nothing without the artists behind the film. All of the visuals, framing, and mood can be attributed to the team who shaped the vision of George Lucas’ space opera, and there can be no discussion of the aesthetic of the films without them. I am a big fan of production art, and have a few older books on the art behind the Star Wars films, but they only had a few pages of storyboards interspersed throughout them. Abrams Books has given me the greatest gift a Star Wars fan like me could ask for with their book, “Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy”, which is 350 pages of full-color storyboards that give you a new way to look at the series.
The honor of putting this book together was by J.W. Rinzler, who also did the prequel trilogy book, and was lucky enough to be allowed into the Lucasfilm Archives to dig around through all of their art. An enviable job that I would love to have, his hard work shows as we get to see some true gems, including boards of early scenes before the looks of the characters were finalized for “A New Hope.” The opening shots of the film look absolutely different, and even a bit gory, compared to what we saw on screen in 1977.
Storyboards by Joe Johnston, Nilo Rodis-Maero, Alex Tavoularis, Paul Huston, David Carson, Ivor Beddoes, and other essential artists shaped the look of the films. Many of these artists are still alive today, and were able to give commentary on their contributions as well as insight into what happened behind the scenes after the boards were produced. It seemed to be a very team-based process, where the boards would influence the matte painters to create the backgrounds, or the boards would affect how scenes were shot and viewed and what sort of special effects they would have to implement in post-production.
Looking through these boards now feels like reading a comic version of the movies, with dynamic scenes and layouts side-by-side that tell the story without any dialogue. A great storyboard does just that, much like a great comic book page, giving you more than just a sense of what is happening but telling the story purely with pictures. The visuals of Star Wars will always be one of its strongest points, and this book gives you an amazing taste at what helped form these timeless movies. Reading the battle of the first Death Star, Luke’s battle with Darth Vader from “Empire Strikes Back”, or the speeder bike chase from “Return of The Jedi” can be appreciated in a new light. There are plenty of deleted scenes as well in this book, all sorts of little things that almost made it to the cinema but had to be cut due to timing, budget, or just not fitting into the final storyline. Since most of these were never even shot, this book is the only way to see much of those missing moments.
For budding artists out there, this is a textbook of how to create storyboards that do what they should do – tell a story. Storyboarding is not just about making a pretty picture, but encapsulating an emotion in a single moving frame. Modern storyboards often include camera movements, or even use animatics where the boards turn into cartoons, but the boards from the original trilogy rarely employ instructions for the camera – they focus on the action at hand, and evoking an emotion or feeling that is just as strong as what you saw when you watched the movies for the first time.
You can order “Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy” on Amazon.com for under $30. If you are a hardcore Star Wars fan, there is no way that you can not own this book and get a new appreciation for the artists that helped make this movie. For fans of movie making, this is also a must have that is just as fun to read as it is an education tool on storytelling through images. Use the force if you have to, just get this book in your hands right away.
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