Fur­ther read­ing

Not just for Star Wars fans, this stun­ning tome of­fers un­par­al­leled in­sight into Episode VII’s art di­rec­tion

ImagineFX - - Reviews -

The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens; Rise of the Tomb Raider: the Of­fi­cial Art Book; Begin­ner’s Guide to Sketch­ing: Char­ac­ters, Crea­tures and Con­cepts.

For those of you who’ve seen the lat­est Star Wars and want to know how they made it all look so damn beau­ti­ful, this book will likely never be bet­tered. But even if you’re not a fan, any artist will find a lot to be fas­ci­nated by in this colour­ful ac­count of how con­cept artists drove this block­buster movie.

The au­thor, Phil Szostak, was em­bed­ded with The Force Awak­ens art depart­ment as a con­cep­tual re­searcher and ar­chiv­ist from De­cem­ber 2012 right to the end of pro­duc­tion, so he knows his stuff. And his ex­pla­na­tion of how the team went from ini­tial sketches and con­cepts to fin­ished mod­els, cos­tumes and vis­ual ef­fects is in-depth and de­tailed.

Phil re­counts how pro­ducer Kath­leen Kennedy gath­ered to­gether an ar­ray of art tal­ent, led by Rick Carter (who pro­vides the book’s in­tro­duc­tion), Dar­ren Gil­ford, and Doug Chi­ang to reimag­ine Ge­orge Lu­cas’s fran­chise for the Dis­ney era. Ex­clu­sive in­ter­views with th­ese and other artists pro­vide unique in­sights into how they brought di­rec­tor JJ Abrams’ vi­sion to life.

In fact, we’d prob­a­bly have bought this for the text alone. But the real joy of this beau­ti­fully pro­duced book lies in the 600 colour il­lus­tra­tions, in­clud­ing pro­duc­tion paint­ings, con­cept art and sketches, sto­ry­boards, blue­prints and matte paint­ings. There’s no at­tempt to pad things out with movie stills; ev­ery spare inch of the 258 pages is crammed with breath­tak­ingly imag­i­na­tive art.

And you don’t just see, as with sim­i­lar books, rough ver­sions of what even­tu­ally ended up in the fin­ished film. The artists, known at Dis­ney/Lu­cas­film as the Visu­al­ists, went through a pretty wild brain­storm­ing process to get there, and much of the art they left by the way­side is re­pro­duced in all its glory.

We see the orig­i­nal sto­ry­board for the open­ing se­quence, for ex­am­ple, which pre­cisely mir­rors the start of A New Hope. We see ini­tial de­signs for Jakku in­spired by the ship­break­ing yards of mod­ern In­dia - a far cry from the Wild West-in­spired desert towns they later be­came. We ex­pe­ri­ence the lengthy evo­lu­tion of what even­tu­ally be­came Kylo Ren’s mask, yet ini­tially be­gan as more of a twist on the orig­i­nal Dark Vader hel­met.

More in­trigu­ing still are the con­cepts that didn’t make it at all: the Em­peror’s Tower, crash-landed un­der­wa­ter af­ter the se­cond Death Star ex­plo­sion; a four-per­son TIE fighter, called the Quad fighter; Luke tor­mented by Anakin’s Ghost… How much of this, we won­der, will turn up in the Star Wars films yet to come?

An older Han Solo was in­spired by the posters for the films of Ser­gio Leone, and Jeff Bridges in True Grit.

The au­thor re­veals that early drafts of the story fea­tured a Jedi Killer, seen here with a mot­ley group of ac­com­plices.

Au­thor Phil Szostak Pub­lisher Abrams Price £25 Web www.abrams­books.com Avail­able Now

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