Book Review: The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Few movies are kept shrouded in as much secrecy as Star Wars: The Force Awakens was leading up to its theatrical debut over the holiday season. Sure, there were a number of trailers, but they all teased just enough to get fans excited without giving away any integral plot points, unlike most trailers that make you feel like you’ve already seen the movies their hyping within a few minutes. The way J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilm, and Disney managed to closely guard against leaks and pre-release spoilers was pretty impressive in this day and age of smartphone cameras everywhere and social media exposure, which made for a movie-going experience full of anticipation and discovery for Star Wars enthusiasts.

All of the pre-release secrecy also means that there is a lot of movie-making magic to discover for the very first time within the 256 pages of the film’s glorious new art book, from Abrams. (Abrams Books that is, not J.J.)

Taking a different approach from the art book norm, which typically consists of art being categorized into chapters by things like characters, costumes, environments, vehicles, weapons and so on, The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is formatted as a chronological timeline that maps out the entire creative process, from the concept phase through the three stages of production (pre-production, production, and post-production).

After a foreword by production designer Rick Carter and an introduction by image archivist and conceptual researcher Phil Szostak, the book proceeds to chronicle how the movie’s creative “dream team” proceeded to take the artistic foundation laid down by George Lucas, Ralph McQuarrie, and Joe Johnston and reimagine the iconic Star Wars visual identity with J.J. Abrams’s own aesthetical imprint for the future of the galaxy far, far away. The book kicks things off in late 2012, during the “guided imagery” concept phase, right after Disney had acquired Star Wars to begin a new trilogy, and before J.J. Abrams had even been named director. From there, the art is presented as a sort of calendar of chapters, showing the art team’s month to month progress between January 2013 and January 2015.

This layout is something I wish more art books would do, because it more clearly shows how the movie was created from start to finish. You get to see the step-by-step progression the design of the unnamed “Jedi Killer” went through before getting the directorial stamp of approval and being finalized as Kylo Ren. You get to see the original realizations of new stars Rey and Finn, back when they were first named Kira and Sam. You get to see how the early foundations of junk planet Jakku took shape. And you get to see the artistic vision behind who original trilogy icons Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia had become in the three decades since they were last seen on the big screen celebrating their happily ever after.

Though strong in the Force, The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t need to rely on any Jedi mind tricks to convince anyone of its pristine quality. Star Wars fans and sci-fi movie buffs are sure to geek out over the bountiful collection of conceptual paintings and illustrations highlighting the epic spaceship battles and Jedi lightsaber duels, gorgeous outer-space vistas, and distinct alien, droid, and vehicle designs the series is known for.

The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now available from Abrams Books and Amazon at a list price of $40. If you can stomach the wait, also stay tuned for The Making of Star Wars: The Force Awakens coming later this year from Abrams.

Disclosure: A copy of The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was provided to VGBlogger.com for review by Abrams Books.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!