J.W. Rinzler’s The Making Of Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi Review
In J.W. Rinzler’s The Making Of Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi (hardcover, Kindle), we learn, in great detail, how the titular sci-fi movie was made, complete with behind-the-scenes photos, numerous new interviews, original concept drawings, script pages, and other bits of movie minutiae. But if you think this makes the book just for film students or people who have to know every single trivial detail about this film, you couldn’t be more wrong.
While hardcore film fans…
will enjoy it as well, The Making Of Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi — like Rinzler’s previous Star Wars making-of books: 2005’s The Making Of Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith, 2007’s The Making Of Star Wars, and 2010’s The Making Of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back — is a fascinating but also breezily written and even funny book that will appeal to casual fans of the film as well.
Published by Del Rey/Lucas Books, The Making Of Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi starts long before filming began, and meticulously documents every stage of the production, from the early ideas and concepts up through the movie’s release in 1983. But while it could’ve very easily been an academic tome, Rinzler — an Executive Editor at Lucasfilm — smartly writes with a more conversational style, even when getting detailed about the budget or other aspects of the film’s business machinations. This is not to say that the book isn’t serious about this movie, or the art of making movies, just that its tone isn’t always so serious.
Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) on location in California’s Buttercup Valley aboard Jabba’s barge, April 1982. © 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd.
The Making Of Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi doesn’t just tell you what happened in Rinzler’s conversational style, though. It smartly leaves a lot of the talking to the people who were there, working on the film. And not just the usual suspects, either. While there’s plenty of commentary, remembrances, and insight from George Lucas and the cast, Rinzler also talked to people from all aspects of the production, including the art department, costumers, and special effects.
Augmenting the informative but loose tone of The Making Of Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi are tons of production photos that cover everything from pre- to post-production and every point between. But the pictures don’t just include original (and, in some cases, unused) concept drawings and photos of people working, but also more casual shots of the cast and crew. Which, again, adds the kind of flavor you wouldn’t get in a more tightly-controlled remembrance.
George Lucas and Richard Marquand on the Emperor’s throne room set at Elstree during principal photography. © 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd.
More importantly, by making this book the size and style of a hardcover art book, many of the pictures are presented large enough to see the details. There’s even times when whole spreads are dedicated to whole images of concept paintings.
Though it also helps that Rinzler’s bosses at Lucas Books seem to take a hands off approach to this making-of tome. While a book this detailed and insightful would be very difficult to do right without some inside help, such access usually means compromising when it comes to the dirtier details. But while there probably were people standing over Rinzler’s shoulders, shaking their heads, it doesn’t have the feel of something that was vetted by a stodgy legal department.
Consider the section called “Ewok Trouble,” in which the artists talk about how the design for the furry folk came about, and some people felt they were starting to look, “…very much like teddy bears [and] there was a feeling that it was maybe too obvious a marketing idea.” Such bits don’t just add insight, they also bring an honesty that would’ve been glossed over in other books of this kind.
Ewoks seize the clapperboard on May 17, 1982, during second unit work near Crescent City. © 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd.
Of course, you have to like the Star Wars movies, and especially Jedi, a little bit to really enjoy The Making Of Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi. And it helps to have at least a passing curiosity in how big budget sci-fi movies in the ’80s were made. But the genius of J.W. Rinzler’s informative but engaging and breezy writing style is that even the most casual Star Wars lovers and film fans will enjoy reading this book. Even if they hate Ewoks.