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The Art Of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker by Phil Szostak, foreword by Doug Chiang (book review).

January 29, 2021 | By | Reply More

I’ll be honest, readers, I’ve put off reviewing ‘The Art Of The Rise of Skywalker’ ever since I emerged, blinking into the sunlight a year ago from a trip to the cinema (remember those?) and felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment. ‘Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker’ (2019), JJ Abrams’ final part of the Skywalker saga was a mixed-bag at best.

After Rian Johnson’s excellent ‘The Last Jedi’ (2017), the decision to rewrite Johnson’s choices and to bring back the Emperor felt like the worst kind of pandering to the worst kind of fans. Rey’s lineage being a particularly sore and utterly pointless choice.

The Art Of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker by Phil Szostak and Lucasfilm Ltd. © Abrams Books 2020
(c) 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. and TM. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorisation

However, the design of characters, scenery and sequences was, as ever, up to ‘Star Wars’ high standards. Moving from the Sith planet of Exegol to the deserts of Pasaana and the perilous seas of Kef Bir, final resting place of the second Death Star. The film also encompasses numerous fight scenes and one gigantic space battle. The level therefore of design and pre-production was immense, thankfully Phil Szostak has once again done another incredible job of pulling together illustrations and photos that formed the look of ‘The Rise Of Skywalker’.

The Art Of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker by Phil Szostak and Lucasfilm Ltd. © Abrams Books 2020
(c) 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. and TM. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorisation
Page 59_left: JANNAHSKIFFVERSION01 ‘I did the ones with the splashes of red. The idea is that they scavenge stuff from the Death Star, so you see little bits of elements of what she would have found—which is echoing Rey and The Force Awakens, with her storm trooper goggles.’ – Dillon

There is a lot here. Szostak usefully chunks it up into discussing the key areas of the production: costuming, props, creatures and effects, set design and, finally, digital post-production work. There’s also spare pages to share the spoilerous design material that was left over from ‘The Last Jedi’. The double page spread of Luke stood facing down the First Order on Crait by concept artist Adam Brockbank is particularly impressive.

In terms of ‘The Rise Of Skywalker’, there is much to enjoy. For example, I was struck by the illustrations of the Oracle which went through over 40 iterations and focused a lot more on the gigantic baby head that the Oracle sits on. Maybe a disturbing image too far for ‘Star Wars’ but interesting all the same. One of the stand-out moments for me in the movie was the visit to the desert festival. Work here by the aforementioned Brockbank and another concept artist, Bob Cheshire, really brought this to life alongside Industrial Light and Magic designer Stephen Tappin.

The Art Of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker by Phil Szostak and Lucasfilm Ltd. © Abrams Books 2020
(c) 2020 Lucasfilm Ltd. and TM. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorisation
Page 197 top SERPENT VERSION 4A – Adam Brockbank

The presentation of the art is per Abrams’, the publishing company, usual quality. Illustrations are clearly annotated and complement Szostak’s careful outlining of the key events that shaped the film’s production. As ever, this is not a making-of and, given Abrams, the director, returning to the movie at short notice, replacing Colin Trevorrow, there is clearly a story to be told there.

Overall, this is another excellent coffee table book from Abrams on the subject of designing for a movie as huge as a ‘Star Wars’ one, with a massive design team. It is, as ever, a fascinating look behind the scenes and one that we should be grateful for, depicting the hard work and dedication of the team.

John Rivers

December 2020

(pub: Abrams, 2020. 256 page square large hardback. Price: £30.00 (UK), $40.00 (US), $50.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-41974-038-1)

check out website: www.abramsbooks.com

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Category: Illustration, Movie books, Star Wars

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