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on September 30, 2007
The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film (Star Wars)

I was four years old when the original "Star Wars" was released, and like so many kids of that generation, that film and its two sequels defined an enormous part of my childhood. Even though I didn't know it at the time, it introduced me to the "best bits" of classical mythology, while being a visual catalyst for my imagination (and years of subsequent role-play, particularly in Upstate New York, where re-enacting ice planet Hoth after "Empire" came out was all too easy...).

As I grew older (I hesitate to use the phrase "grew up," as I'm not sure it's happened yet), I came to appreciate more than just the adventure and dynamic visuals that "Star Wars" represented; it was my "gateway drug" into wanting to learn more about how movies were made. I remember all of the TV specials of that era that pulled back the curtain on the filmmaking process, particularly with regard to the original "Star Wars" trilogy, and I couldn't get enough information. That hunger became the same kind of obsession that's typically associated with "Star Wars" fans, and I absorbed every scrap of detail I could find, from Ralph McQuarrie's concept art, to model photos, to script pages, and even before the Internet made it only a matter of a few clicks to access such information, there was a wealth of it, when it came to "Star Wars."

Fast forward to 2007; "Star Wars" is 30 years old, a whole separate trilogy has come and gone, and my own children are budding "Star Wars" fans for their own reasons. I figured I knew pretty much all there was to know about this film. I darn well should have, for as much time as I had spent (and continue to spend) over the years actively seeking out new details about it. Then came this book; I didn't know anything.

This is dense, dense reading, covering every minute detail about every aspect of production of the original "Star Wars," from drafting the script, to getting it taken seriously by Hollywood, to assembling the team that would revolutionize filmmaking as we came to know it. This is a wonderful thing. I find myself poring over every word, every image, every caption and footnote, just as I did as a child who was learning about film for the first time. It is an amazing tribute, an insanely detailed reference volume, and most incredible of all, a unique representation of a film that has been covered in so many ways by so many authors, that finding anything new to talk about seemed impossible.

The aspect of this book I personally find most exciting is that all of the interviews that comprise it are taken from the period immediately surrounding the production and release of the original film. There is none of the revisionist hindsight pertaining to the film that has come about as a result of the films that came after; every word spoken by the people involved is "of the moment," and as such, is refreshingly candid about what was going on while the film was in the throes of its conception and execution.

The hardcover volume is worth the extra cost, because of its additional supplemental material, not found in the softcover edition. There are 45 pages of storyboard reproductions, as well as Lucas' first-ever references to the larger world beyond what was shown in the original film, in the form of interview excerpts taken in 1977, which involve Lucas describing character and environmental background information. As author J.W. Rinzler explains in the opening to the section, "Many of these ideas...[have since been] modified to a greater or lesser degree. They are presented here...[as] an idea of how he first began [the process of expanding the "Star Wars" universe]." Given the amount of tweaking that the backstory has undergone in the decades following "Star Wars," the inclusion of Lucas' first impressions of it in this volume are incredibly valuable to anyone who, like me, has wondered if the second trilogy of films was truly borne from his original ideas, or was more a product of his later experiences.

This book is exactly what its title promises: the definitive history behind the original film. And for someone who has spent most of his life feeling like there was nothing new under the suns (not a typo) when it came to the story of how "Star Wars" was made, that's saying something.
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on April 25, 2007
I've been a huge Star Wars fan since I was a kid, and have collected a tremendous amount of "making of" material in various forms over the years, so I figured I'd heard it all and seen it all. I've read this volume cover to cover now, and what I have seen and read opens a whole new chapter in my understanding of this milestone film. There are literally hundreds of photos in this book I have never seen, and the process of making the film (all the way from original concept to opening day) is documented with a level of detail far beyond any account that exists. This is not light reading or a "bubble-gum" movie souvenir book, but an extremely detailed account of the struggles, disasters, and eventual successes of a film that changed cinema forever. The research and production of this tome was obviously a massive project, but the results are truly impressive. Rinzler's book will surely be the definitive work on this important subject.
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on April 25, 2007
There are so many books and films about this now-classic film that it's hard to imagine that anything published in 2007 could bring anything new to the table. There was a made-for-TV special with the same title, but believe it or not, no companion book ever came out for the original "Star Wars" movie -- just every other film in the series.

The beauty of this thick volume is the in-depth, candid look at the production *before* anyone knew it was a hit. The interviews and notes are almost entirely from 1975 and 1976, which really gives you a flavor for how crazy/brave/pioneering/enterprising young George Lucas was when he fought to make the film.

Writing and production quality is excellent, but it's the content that really shines here. I have the paperback version, which is an excellent value from Amazon, but apparently the hardcover edition has even more exclusive content.

This book is strongly recommended for any fan of the series, the genre, or filmmaking in general. You'll want to watch the documentary "Star Wars: Empire of Dreams" again after seeing this, too .... set some time aside to geek out with your sideburns out.
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on December 6, 2013
This review is for the "enhanced" edition. The quality is absolutely awful on all 3 of these editions. If you're looking to purchase, DO NOT get the kindle editions and buy the iBook editions. They use 720p HD video, as opposed to the standard definition video on the kindle which has been severely compressed. Also compressed are the picture files which look awful on the higher definition kindle.
To compare, the kindle edition is approximately 1/4 the size of the iBook edition. If you care about the visual quality of this release. then get it from iTunes.
Amazon overly-compresses ALL of their "enhanced edition" books and this practice needs to stop.
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on April 25, 2007

This is a fantastic work, which spans the origins and creation of the film and includes insights into nearly every aspect of the filmmaking process. A true archive of both information and visuals, it is, in my opinion, a book that should be in the collection of every fan of the film. Highest recommendation.

This review is broken down by the following group areas - Written Content, Visual Collateral, Presentation/Quality, and Overall Value - focuses on the perspective of the original prop hobbyist, in that sometimes we are looking for photos pertaining to real, original props and editorial content is of less interest; other times, in performing research, we may be seeking information more so than photos, etc.

Written Content (10/10)

This is, quite frankly, the most impressive and comprehensive Star Wars resource I have ever laid hands on. Whereas the legendary Star Wars Chronicles set the mark some time ago, in my opinion, in terms of visual collateral and photos, it had little by way of actual written content - just remarks about the stunning photography and images.

This book matches the visual collateral in quality (though not sheer quantity) but far exceeds in the realm of pure information, narrative, background, insights, opinions, and more. You truly can't appreciate it until you begin flipping through this book - it's just astounding.

If anything, the reader gains an appreciation for how impossible it seems to be that the final product is what it is, in that it was such a collaborative process that underwent constant change and alteration, and it had so much stacked against it throughout the creation of the film.

As someone particularly interesting in story, character, and writing, I was especially captivated in following the development of the story and script itself, and its many and drastic changes.

But I would say that there is definitely something for everyone in this work. There is focus given to special effects, models, creatures/masks, acting, production, post production - it's all here, in a format that encourages a bit of "flipping around".

Visual Collateral (9/10)

Of course, some of the photos have been seen before, in various publications and elsewhere. But there is so, so much I'd never personally seen. An incredible amount of "eye candy". Description just can't do it justice.

Particularly interesting to me were some of the prototype props, such as the photos of the unpainted prototype R2D2 and the early lightsaber prototypes (think "flashlight").

There is a substantial amount of behind the scenes material as well as sketches and artist renditions, photos of models, sets, workshops, actors, etc.

As far as photos of actual props go, there are some excellent reference photos with great detail, which may be of some help to those lucky enough to have original pieces from A New Hope.

Between this book and Star Wars Chronicles, I think any fan would be happy with the amount of material covered in both books.

Presentation/Quality (9/10)

It's a nice-looking, squareish hardcover book with a reflective yet not "fingerprint magnet" jacket. I usually take the jacket off right away (I find them annoying) and the actual book is all black textured material with a gold signature across the front (I assume George Lucas).

The interior pages are of a high quality, and I get the impression it will hold up to handling quite well. Again, not of the "fingerprint magnet" variety (my biggest pet peeve with books - designed so as to discourage handling!).

The content of the book is laid out in good order and there is at least one photo on every page in the book; though the "all photo(s)" pages are few and far between, which is a distinct departure from the Chronicles style. This is just as much about information as it is the visuals, and the visuals truly compliment the editorial content.

Given the overall length of the book, things are broken up well enough to where you can read section by section or skip around based on interest.

I was a bit disappointed with the index. It is fairly comprehensive in listing actors and production members, as well as main characters, but is limited to mostly that (i.e. you can't look up "lightsaber" and find the references in the book). Not the biggest deal, but given how much content there is, going back and trying to find something after the fact is a huge challenge. An expanded index would have been a bonus, in that there is so much content to work through. One would truly have to read through the entire work once just to have an idea of how much is covered throughout the book.

In summary, it is a beautiful "coffee book-style" piece that is difficult to put down once you start flipping through it.

Overall Value (9/10)

The retail price is $75, which seems like a lot for a book. However, Star Wars Chronicles was $150 in initial release, and was fewer pages (320 vs 372) though it was 100% full color with pull outs and a slip case.

Given that it can be had via for $[...] and deeply discounted at other retailers as well, I think it is well worth the price of acquisition. It is a wealth of information, in a high quality book, with all full color photos throughout.

Conclusion and Overall Rating (10/10)

I would characterize this book as a "must have" for any Star Wars fan. It is a fantastic book with an incredible about of both written and visual content, much of which is unique to this release. Along with Star Wars Chronicles, I would say these are the two books any serious Star Wars fans should have in their library. Highly recommended. I can count the books in my collection that I would rate a "10" overall on one hand, and I have a pretty extensive library. Star Wars is, in my opinion, the most important film of my generation, and this book gives exclusive insights into the making of that legend.

Jason De Bord, Original Prop Blog
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on November 25, 2013
Let me start by saying this is a very detailed and comprehensive book. I really like it and for the reading experience i would give 5 stars. Im rating "the enhanced version" and im going one star because i cant enjoy any of tne enhanced content because my android device cant play any of it. Its in a format only apple or newer kindle will play. Not even my PC can play any of it. Im really disappointed in amazon for getting in bed so snuggly with apple that the hork over so many consumers like this. Thanks for nothing Amazon.
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on June 14, 2010
The paperback version of this book that I first bought (not from Amazon) turned out to be a version that was practically text-only, and also lacked some sections of text. Illustrations were only in a few photo pages inserted among the low-quality text paper. Quite disappointing, since I expected what can be seen through "look inside" on Amazon. Apparently, this is the British paperback version, and according to Jonathan Rinzler (himself?) in a comment (which was written before I changed this review), the American paperback is nothing like this. Well, I don't really know, I'm just saying: be careful about which edition you choose! I recommend the hardback.

I originally gave this a "1" rating, based on the terrible paperback, but since I realized Amazon does not separate between editions in ratings (and also it might not be the edition actually on sale here) I changed it.
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on November 4, 2015
This is specifically about the Kindle edition. I purchased all 3 books in this series and they have been the biggest pains in my whole Kindle library. I can't read them online and Amazon directs me to download an app. The app also can't display them. Sometimes on Windows 8.1 it would be hit and miss that they would open but now on Windows 10 they won't open at all. So the only way I can read any of them is on my Galaxy S6 and that's without the audio or visual enhancements I paid for. They won't play at all. Perhaps if I got the exact right device I might get a look at what I bought but as yet I have not managed to do that. Seriously the biggest pain in the neck in the whole library. Look nice books but excruciating to try and read because of Kindle.
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on December 30, 2013
Never read the coffee table book, but the trade-offs with the Kindle version made it the better option.

Devices read on:
* iPad (retina)
* Nexus 7 (2013)
* iPhone 5

*The pictures*

Still pretty, and many are illuminating, but by default they're never full page -- always a ton of white space around 1-3 zoomable pictures -- so you lose the ease of flipping through pages and just landing on something pretty

*Audio and Video only playable on some devices*

If you have an iPad or Kindle Fire, you're golden. Videos and audio work on those devices, and they're amazing. Own a Nexus 7, you're SoL. Nothing plays, which is too bad considering the Nexus 7 was my favorite device for actually reading the book.

* Everything else:

Great detail without going dull. Lifelong Star Wars fan, so getting this much narrative of the production itself is like nothing I've ever seen.

Being able to actually read this thing anywhere is great. I don't see how I would have consumed the coffee table edition, outside of the occasional bored skim.

One of my all-time best Kindle purchases.
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on May 18, 2007
I consider myself to be a die-hard Star Wars fan, and when I heard this book was coming out I was thrilled! A comprehensive book about the beginnings of the Star Wars saga - from concept to the first movie - was long overdue. Once it arrived, though, I must say I was somewhat disappointed. The book seemed to think that if some fact was available anywhere else, it needn't be included. I expected at least some consideration given to major changes in the film made as late as the editing stage - such as the deletion of the Biggs scenes on Tatooine - but these barely pass without mention. I also found the "rare photos" all too often to be of the crew of Star Wars and ILM rather than pictures of details or props from the movie itself. I have the utmost respect and admiration for these people, but that's not a reason to buy a $75 book. If you're a Star Wars fan, you can glean more from fan histories on the internet than you can from here - although it does have nice additions and some surprising facts. The physical format and page quality is, to be fair, impressive and enjoyable. Overall, I'd recommend this book if it can be purchased at discount, but not at full list price.
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