Review: Star Wars – The Blueprints / Author: J.W. Rinzler / Publisher: Titan Books / Release Date: August 15th
As Star Wars fans will know, there are enough behind-the-scenes books out there already, detailing how that galaxy far far away came to be, to fill up any freighter’s cargo hold. The latest offering from Titan Books, however, has a very different focus to what’s come before. The Blueprints, originally released as a limited edition in 2011 but now with a mass re-release, showcases the technical drawings used to map out the details and dimensions of the saga’s iconic sets and props.
While these drawings may not have the immediate visual glamour of Ralph McQuarrie’s oft-seen concept art, the work collected here details a less explored and incredibly important part of the series’ production. From Dagobah swamps to Death Star corridors, the worlds of Star Wars were built from the ground up at England’s Elstree Studios, and this is the story of that process.
It’s an enormous tome, with over 250 blueprints from the Lucasfilm archives printed in precise detail over 2’ x 2’ pages, plus 500 more photographs and illustrations, and 10 impressive gatefolds. This size enables close study of the blueprints, to the extent that you could theoretically use this book to build your own full-scale Millennium Falcon. I missed the page explaining how to construct a working hyperdrive, though.
J.W. Rinzler, the author behind several ‘Art Of’ and ‘Making Of’ books, guides us through the collection with insightful, meticulously researched commentary, further backed up by interviews with the production directors, art directors, set dressers, and draughtsmen behind the work on show. The interviewees bring with them a range of fascinating and funny anecdotes, from how a droid malfunction delayed the first ever shoot to the artist who’d draw pictures of Ewoks being killed when Lucas’ enthusiasm for the space teddies became grating. All of these experiences, together with the archive material, come together to give the full story of this side of the production.
One possible criticism is that the focus is clearly on the original trilogy, which is covered over 252 pages, and so the three prequel films are skipped over, only receiving 62 pages between them. Though it’s true that the prequels used more CGI and less practical set work, Rinzler does point out that The Phantom Menace alone had sixty practically built sets, so there’s undoubtedly a lot which missed the cut.
The only other criticism is the price; at £60, it’s not cheap, especially if you then need to top up on plywood to build your Falcon. Nevertheless, The Blueprints is a truly absorbing study of the saga’s masterful craftwork, an important and under-appreciated aspect of what made Star Wars such a big part of sci-fi culture, and it is a great addition to any fan’s bookshelf.