With the anticipation that began with that final shot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it feels like strange thievery that the follow up has come and gone. Star Wars: The Last Jedi did not sit well with every fan of that galaxy far, far away. It did sit well with this fan, AFJ’s self-proclaimed “Jedi Junkie”. Which is why I was more than too happy to pick up “The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi” by Phil Szostak. Thus continuing my long Star Wars tradition of adding yet another art book to the shelf.
The Star Wars art book was a bit of an oddity when first released. Granted, George Lucas found a million ways to market his brainchild. Still, the Art Book has always had a special place for me. They are the exposed ideas of the artists tapped with visualizing the world, which, at one point, was only words on paper. In these types of books, especially for Star Wars, a moment or two may have been left behind or was simply too wild to bring to the screen. Phil Szostak's "The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is packed with these ideas. What I found both reassuring and in some ways disappointing, was that The Last Jedi art book had practically none. Yet, the reason why was contained in the book. Rian Johnson divulges that the script remained largely unchained from his first draft through the conceptualization process. So there really was nothing to go back and change. For a better example of changes made from conception to screen, see the aforementioned “The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens” or better yet, "The Art of Star Wars, Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (the later will make you go crazy).
So what did this fan love about “The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi”? A lot of things. First and foremost, it relayed to me just how massive an undertaking it was to not only make The Last Jedi but Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Force Awakens. Writer Phil Szostak takes us into meetings and screenings with Rian Johnson and his team, all the while highlighting the timeline of production of these three film. Yes, Rian Johnson was working on The Last Jedi before it was officially announced. In fact, he was working on things before the first trailer even dropped for The Force Awakens. I’m fairly certain that did not happen with the original trilogy and may have only been hinted upon for the prequels. Yet, a relaunch, its follow-up and stand-alone film all at the same time? If you don’t already appreciate what goes into making movies, at least marvel at the fact that they made three that each became the #1 film in the world at their time.
Surprises for this fan of Star Wars included the following: The details of Snoke’s handmade shoes, his ring and the various sketches of his face allow me to see the character in a new light (page 92).
The details and variations on all the Praetorian Guards was another treat. Certainly, I could buy each one of the action figures, but to have them all lined up here for my inspection was incredible (page 102).
I did love that Rian Johnson added teeth to the Force Order helmet that were not present in The Force Awakens. Visually it is something that we can barely see in the film, but he needed them to be there, over the general dark smile Episode VII had (page 169).
Knowing full well that the island of Ahch-To is a real place, Skellig Michael, Ireland, makes the map included here all the more enticing to visit the real place. Why? Because visually we see the whole island from overhead, so this map (I hope) will serve as a guide when I make my own trek up those 600 plus steps (page 244).
This is, of course, just a sampling of what you will discover, learn about, and revel in with “The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. We have a little more than two months before the film leaves the theaters and will be screened only at home. If you are a fan of the film or know someone who is, this book is a fantastic look at what went into the conception and realization of the worlds that all Star Wars fans accept as real. You will not be disappointed in the stories here and the art alone will have you scouring the internet for larger versions to hang upon your walls. May the Force be with you, always.
Written by: Phil Szostak
Forward: Rian Johnson
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Hardcover: 256 pages