Gigantic Star Wars Related Movie Geek Books


Take a big gulp of the nostalgia cup with me.

A few weeks back a book landed on my doorstep with a clunk. It was The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, by J. W. Rinzler. This could quite possibly be the best book ever made.

Flipping casually through the pages, I'm taken back to a more simple time. Back when I lived and breathed Star Wars every day. Back then I wanted nothing more than a speeder bike, so I could impress everyone at school, and I thought Princess Leia was the most beautiful woman in the world.


As I sit here and gush over this book, I can't help but look over at my bookshelf, which is struggling to carry the weight of a dozen similar, wonderful books. So I figured, why not write a blog about the best of them?

Now, full disclosure, I haven't read all of these, not cover to cover, I mean. I bring them out every now and then, to look at the pictures and read selected parts of the text, but people do that with the Bible as well, so I'm good, right?



The Making of Star Wars
By J. W. Rinzler

This is the prequel (NO! Sorry, I used the bad word). Scratch that. This is the predecessor to the book that spawned this blog.

In this day and and age, with The Google and The Wiki only a click away, it's great to see that some people still value a hardcover brick tome such as this. Author J. W. Rinzler had unprecedented access to the Lucasfilm Archives, which seems to contain every single scrap of paper Lucas every wrote. He also had access to hours of interviews conducted in the late 70's, which has never been released before.

I would literally have killed for this book when I was a kid.

The Art of The Empire Strikes Back
Edited by Deborah Call, text by Vil Bulluck and Valerie Hoffman

This one has a special place in my heart. It was the first REAL movie geek book I ever got. I checked with my mum, and she said I was twelve. It was the first time I got an appreciation for the development of a design. It was the first time I realized that what ends up on the screen is developed through a process.

The book does contain some text, but otherwise it mostly consists of images and sketches. I could look at these for hours, and I have! I guess the new Empire book has made this redundant, but flipping through the pages still brings me back. (On an odd note, this book is far better than the ones for Star Wars and Return of the Jedi, which both include the screenplay for the films, at the expense of some explanatory text.)

The Star Wars Vault
by Stephen J. Sansweet and Peter Vilmur

This is a geeky as it gets. You have to see this book to believe it. You have to actually touch it. The cover claims it contains "thirty years of treasures from the Lucasfilm Archives, with removable memorabilia and two audio CDs"!

It's unbelievable. The book is stuffed with hundreds of unique photos celebrating the nerdiness that is Star Wars. We get reproductions of old programs, handwritten notes, stickers, cardboard model planes, and all kinds of glitter! You can flip through this book fifty times, and still discover new things. So epically cool!

Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop
by Lorne Peterson

It's heartbreaking to flip through this book. Why? Because the shop that produced all these wonderful things doesn't exist anymore. The Industrial Light & Magic model shop closed in 2006, and ILM is now only a computer farm.

Anyway, back to the book.

All the famous star ships, vehicles, and creatures are covered here, with behind the scene photos of their creation, and text that explains the thinking that went into each design, but honestly, you'll be too fascinated by the pictures to care. Just look at those gorgeous images that lets us appreciate every inch of these beautiful models in close-up. The craftsmanship is mind-boggling.

Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects
By Thomas G. Smith

I bought this book almost 20 years ago. As I have stated before on these pages I'm absolutely in love with old school, photo-chemical effects and this book is one of the reasons why.

Thomas G. Smith, who used to be general manager at Industrial Light & Magic, writes in a simple, fairly non-technical language. He carefully explains the complicated work that went into old school visual effects, taking each category of effects one by one. He gives the reader a great overview, but also goes into specific details about specific shots, which is really where you learn some interesting stuff.

Naturally every page is lavishly illustrated with tons of behind the scenes photos from ILM. Every film nerd should read this book, and fall in love with that old film magic too.

The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Paintings
By Mark Cotta Vaz adn Craig Barron

And speaking of old school effects, here is the cream of the crop!

Focusing exclusively on "matte paintings" this book traces the history of this wonderful technique from the early days of film making to the modern digital age. It describes how the old masters worked under the studio system, how the technique became a mainstay in Hollywood, creating incredible images of places that didn't exist, or simply lending a helping hand to studios during the war, when they couldn't afford to build sets.

The book is full of large images, and plenty of "before and after" shots that really let's you appreciate the miracle of a good matte painting.

The Complete Making of Indiana Jones
By J. W. Rinzler

Finally we can't cover gigantic movie books without including this one, despite the fact that it's not Star Wars related at all.

J. W. Rinzler, who wrote both the Empire book and the Star Wars book, was once again given unlimited access to the Lucasfilm Archives (Gosh! That must be a wonderful place), resulting in an exhaustive book that covers all four Indy films in great detail, with interviews, behind the scene photos and plenty of trivia.



When people talk about everything going digital, books disappearing, and everyone reading stuff on a .5 inch mobile phone screen I just shake my head. NOTHING can replace the experience of sitting with books like these, and I hope they NEVER stop making them.

And finally... Can I say it? No, I can't say it, it's too nerdy. Screw that, I'm gonna say it...

May The Force be with you!


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