Story: The work of the various art teams is showcased along with brief descriptions of how the designs fit into the evolution of Revenge of the Sith.
Review: J.W. Rinzler explains that this book should be considered as a companion to The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith; like that book, it is organized chronologically. This sets it apart from the other five Art of Star Wars books, which were organized either topically or around the framework of the screenplay. I appreciated the change; there is less text taking away space from the art, and what text is there helps place the images into the context of the making-of-the-movie story.
And there is no doubt that the work included in this book is outstanding. Ralph McQuarrie established the feel of the Star Wars universe for me, but the artists who worked on Sith are proud heirs to the tradition. The designs for the “seven battles on seven worlds” sequence are just beautiful, and I’m glad those settings got incorporated into the film elsewhere. I think that Ryan Church is my favorite of this collection of artists; his works have a very polished, precise feel to them whereas his fellow concept design supervisor Erik Tiemens tended to a rawer, rougher approach. (I am generalizing here; all of the artists are versatile enough that I never reached a point of being able to immediately pick out a particular person’s work.) Warren Fu, who designed Grievous, has an approach similar to Tiemens that I enjoyed a lot, and Ian McCaig’s character designs are very interesting.
What I find most fascinating are the little tidbits that the artists offer about particular pieces. Often, they would try to tell stories of their own in these paintings, imagining what key characters would be doing there and trying to depict striking moments. Many of these ideas did not make it into the final film, but they show the creativity and talent of the people Lucas worked with. I imagine some will be frustrated on the artists’ behalf. Lucas’s lack of detail provided the artists with room to let their imagination roam to new ideas, but as Lucas narrowed in on what he wanted, many of those ideas had to go. I can’t say I blame Lucas too much, though. In a sense, the design work, especially early on, is kind of like location scouting, where you’re looking for the right setting to tell your story but where the settings you find might suggest new ideas. Lucas just had to get these alien locations created before he could scout them.
As the book progresses, the design paintings are augmented by physical models, sets and costumes, as well as digital matte paintings. (The last category includes some very striking work by Yanick Dusseault, whose lighting was very effective at setting the tone at various points.) Church and Tiemens remained involved throughout the process, working with set designers and computer animators. The evolution really does add greater dimension to the understanding of the film production process, and the new works are no less imaginative even as the film’s story gets locked down. The end result is a coffee-table art book that actually communicates something in the bargain. This is definitely my favorite collection of Star Wars art, and well worth repeated examination.
Author: J. W. Rinzler
Publisher: Del Rey