The first in a new series, The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars looks at different aspects of the galaxy far, far away.
In this first volume, Mark Salisbury - who’s previously delved deep into everything from Tim Burton to Fantastic Beasts - takes a look at one of Star Wars’ most endearing aspects: its creature work.
Covering the ten live-action films from A New Hope to Solo in chronological order, Salisbury breaks down the concept, design and execution for a variety of aliens from each movie. There’s a wide variety of concept art - from Ralph McQuarrie’s original work through to that done for Solo - along with copious amounts of revealing behind-the-scenes photos (such as the distinctly unimpressed elephant standing in for A New Hope’s banthas), and informative commentary.
While there’s much here that’ll be familiar to many fans (for example, much of the original and prequel trilogies’ concept art is included on the Blu-rays), all but the most devoted will find something new here. Salisbury has a habit for digging out great little bits of trivia - such as an astonishing 600 pounds of latex was needed to construct Jabba; or that the Force Awakens’ rathtars were based on a dog’s toy.
Star Wars’ effects have always been at the forefront of cinema, and the series’ evolution has been mirrored in wider cinema. The book charts the remarkable progress just within the original trilogy, with the (admittedly hastily assembled) cantina aliens giving way to the still-astonishing Yoda only a few years later. The prequels were equally innovative, introducing the much-maligned Jar Jar – then the most complex CGI character ever created. Although the recent films are less ground-breaking than their predecessors, they perfectly demonstrate the hybrid approach favoured by many modern filmmakers, mixing classic practical techniques with cutting-edge digital effects. Case in point - Simon Pegg’s Force Awakens character, Unkar Plutt was a prosthetic, digitally enhanced in post-production to make him appear more alien.
In charting this development, the book focuses on some of the most complex, and beloved creatures ever committed to film. The likes of Yoda and Chewbacca are given the treatment they deserve, with pages devoted to the artistry that went into their creation.
By way of contrast, other creations are given short shrift. Revenge Of The Sith, in particular, is skimmed over, receiving only four pages, with the book’s focus more on the practical creatures than their CGI counterparts (quite rightly considering their post-design creation is often more interesting). The section on Solo also feels like a last-minute addition, written well in advance of the film’s completion.
These are minor quibbles though. While not delving as deep as some may like, Creatures + Aliens is a worthy addition to any fan’s library. It’s a fantastic overview of the greatest collection of creatures ever committed to film.
THE MOVIEMAKING MAGIC OF STAR WARS: CREATURES + ALIENS / AUTHOR: MARK SALISBURY / PUBLISHER: ABRAMS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW