The Art Of Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Phil Szostak, foreword by Rian Johnson (book review).
Please note, there are mild spoilers below for ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, you have been warned!
As the dust (salt?) settles on the latest ‘Star Wars’ release ‘The Last Jedi’, this is a great time to pick up Abrams’ latest concept art and design collection focusing on Rian Johnson’s masterpiece. ‘The Art Of Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is another of the large square, coffee-table, hardback artbooks that Abrams had previously published for ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘Rogue One’. Inside, there is much that surprises and delights.
Written again by Phil Szostak, who had previously completed ‘The Force Awakens’ volume, this book illustrates all the design thinking that went into ‘The Last Jedi’ when pre-production began back in 2014. Pleasingly, the book actually begins with art that was omitted from ‘The Force Awakens’, namely the design artwork for the death of Han Solo. Left out originally to preserve the surprise (equally, there’s no burning of the Jedi tree design artwork here), we get initial glimpses of how the scene was envisioned, with Han confronting Kylo Ren in a manner similar to Obi-Wan and Vader’s final fight in ‘A New Hope’.
The book then moves into ‘The Last Jedi’ proper with an in-depth look at how Luke’s home, temple and environment was created. There’s a useful map of Skellig Michael, the Irish island where filming took place and a great deal of artwork focusing on the Caretakers and, yes, the Porgs. Luke and Rey’s costume designs also have a number of illustrations and it was great to note that one of ‘2000AD’s best artists Jock (Mark Simpson) had contributed concept art here.
There’s also artwork from old hands like Doug Chiang, whose concept art for the Jedi Temple earned George Lucas’ seal of approval. In fact, the spirit of the original trilogy continues to inform the look of the movies with many of the artists expressing their love for Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston’s work.
Progressing through ‘The Last Jedi’, the book presents all the film’s key locations: the First Order’s huge star destroyers, the beleaguered Resistance fleet, the casino and racing resort on Canto Bight, Snoke’s throne room and the salt flats of Crait where the Resistance makes its last stand. As with the previous book, Szostak has great access to all the artists and there is plenty of Rian Johnson’s commentary here to explain the decisions that he took. It’s worth noting that during pre-production, Johnson ran a series of film screenings to help define the movie’s look. These included ‘Twelve O’Clock High’, ‘The Bridge On The River Kwai’ and even Hitchcock’s ‘To Catch A Thief’. A good game is to use this book to see where the design influences from those movies appears within the artwork.
As before, it is difficult to find fault with Abrams presentation of the book, the art is excellently reproduced and presented, Szostak’s commentary and quote selection is informative and relevant. Until Lucasfilm and Disney decide to release an actual making-of book, ‘The Art Of Star Wars’ serves the purpose well and once again illustrates the time, commitment and energy that goes into making a film like this. As a ‘Star Wars’ fan, there is much to enjoy, to think about what might have been and focus on what was created. For a fan of film-making, there is much to enjoy, too, and really does provide an in-depth look at how a joint writer and director was able to bring his vision to the screen and make it resonate with audiences.
(pub: Abrams, 2017. 255 page illustrated large square hardback. Price: £30.00 (UK). $40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-41972-705-4)
check out website: www.abramsandchronicle.co.uk