No matter what you thought of Phantom Menace, you just have to love its visual effects and props. Episode I was absolutely radiant with special effects, making use of some 2,000 of them, dwarfing that of previous Star Wars installments and even the CGI-happy Titanic with its now-paltry 500. And the low-tech effects, the physical props of Star Wars, have always been unbelievably detailed, from Luke's scuffed-up speeder to Vader's slightly dinged-up helmet (don't pretend you didn't notice). Phantom Menace continues this tradition proudly, whether it's with Amidala's baroque headgear or the intricately machined (and deadly) armament on a droideka.
A page-turning droolfest, Episode I: The Visual Dictionary stops the film and zooms in on all this eye candy. As he did with the first trilogy in Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary, author-archaeologist David West Reynolds once again elucidates and itemizes with glee, combining witty, pseudo-scholarly prose with clear movie stills and excellent closeup photos of actual props and characters. Every personality and group of note gets its due in this well-labeled, picture-packed book, from the Jedi High Council to the podrace crowd to the sea monsters of Naboo. Craving a closer look at Maul's double lightsaber? Wish you could tell a Neimoidian's rank by the hat on its head? Need some ideas for filling out your podracer toolkit? This is the book for you. --Paul Hughes
Similar in size and concept to Reynold's Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary (1998), which covers the movie series up to that point, this large-format volume will appeal to those who can't get enough of Star Wars: Episode I as well as those who are still trying to understand what they saw. Each double-page spread introduces one main character or group of characters and includes several extremely crisp photographs (movie stills and posed photos) surrounded by captions and paragraphs of information. Taking a deadpan approach, archaeologist Reynolds never mentions movies or actors, he simply reports on creatures and events, explaining history, technology, anthropology, and politics in a galaxy far, far away, and perhaps helping fans to figure out what the heck was going on there long, long ago. Carolyn Phelan
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