Review: Star Wars Art – Concept / Author: Lucasfilm / Publisher: Abrams / Release Date: Out Now.
Strange as it may seem, 36 years on, the Lucasfilm archives still manage to find new material about the Star Wars universe to release.
Star Wars Art: Concept is exactly what the title suggests, and this is its value to Star Wars fans. Keeping text to an absolute minimum apart from forewords and introductions by Joe Johnson and Doug Chiang and a short interview by J. W. Rinzler, it lets the artwork do the talking. It’s an intriguing and alluring look at what might have been had earlier drafts of the scripts come to life on the screen. Kicking off with the iconic but familiar Ralph McQuarrie artwork, we see old favourites like the stand-off in the Mos Isley Cantina and a streamlined Darth Vader fighting Deak Starkiller. Intriguingly, we even see Alderaan not as the ill-fated, peace-loving planet atomised in A New Hope, but as a sterile-looking prison planet.
Much as we all owe a huge debt to the late Mr McQuarrie, the book’s real reward is the amount of space given to the works of the other concept artists including Industrial Light & Magic personnel who have contributed to the legacy in its various incarnations and expanded universe but whose work has been largely unseen until now.
Joe Johnston worked at ILM long before he became a director. He was a prolific artist, contributing among several others, early sketches of Yoda (but thankfully they never used the outrageous feet Johnston conceived for him,) and a more high-rise Jabba’s Palace. In a piece for Return of the Jedi, we see there were at one stage giant flying birds ridden by the rebels. How cool would THAT have looked on screen?
Leaving the original trilogy, we have draft sketches for the Droids and Ewoks cartoon series leading to, among others too numerous to mention, contemporary visionaries Ryan Church and Doug Chiang’s beautifully rendered and dynamic artwork for the prequel trilogy. It’s incredible to see the first design of General Grievous as a floating armoured entity in dark grey on the one hand, and how little the Battle of Geonosis changed from concept to realisation on the other.
Moving away from the films, the book then shifts its focus to pre-production artwork from the Clone Wars series and a proposed comedy show called Star Wars: Detours which sadly was never realised, and completes its journey from 1975 to the present by including of course the the video games.
Concept is in short an epic visual tour encompassing the entire Star Wars universe, giving a previously largely unseen glimpse of the soaring imagination of those responsible for bringing to life a stunning vision. It is a beautifully presented book worthy of shelf space in any Star Wars fan’s collection, if only to stare at the unused ideas and sigh wistfully at the roads not taken.