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Jedi News Book Review: The Making of Return of the Jedi
Reported by Mark on 01 Oct 2013 00:00

Once again, the author’s unprecedented access to the formidable Lucasfilm Archives has yielded a mother lode of extremely informative, vastly entertaining, and often unexpected stories, anecdotes, recollections, and revelations straight from the closely guarded set of a big-screen blockbuster in the making. Brimming with previously unpublished photos, production artwork, script excerpts, exclusive intel, vintage on-set interviews, and present-day commentary, The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi chronicles “how George Lucas and his crew of extroverted artists, misfits, and expert craftspeople roused themselves to great heights for a third time” to create the next unforgettable chapter in one of the most beloved sagas of all time.

Not many making of books can hope to arrive with not only the pedigree but the anticipation that J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Return of the Jedi does. Continuing on from The Making of Star Wars and The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, this final chapter chronicling the creation, design and build of the most beloved movie trilogy in cinema history improves upon its predecessors, telling of the sometimes fractious, oftentimes brilliant and always enthralling production of Return of the Jedi.

As with the previous two books, Rinzler doesn't rush into dazzling details, instead explaining the growth of the production from the ground up, starting in 1981 and the early story run-throughs and discussions. A fascinating 4-way between Lucas, producer Howard Kazanjian, director Richard Marquand and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan reveals a dizzying amount of information, showing us exactly who came up with what idea and giving us a peek into the collaborative nature of Lucas at the time. Perhaps that was his way back then, or perhaps due to his being burnt out on Star Wars, but Lucas certainly encouraged ideas and input. Sometimes he didn't know what he wanted - rather, he could easily identify what he didn't want, to the sometimes frustration of his staff - but the end product was all the better for it.

Rinzler conveys the scale of the production brilliantly, showing us that in many ways, while Empire was about striking out alone into the world of self-finance and independence, Jedi was equally as challenging. People didn't believe in sequels in 1980, but despite the fact that by 1983 the second sequel was seen as a 'sure thing', there were still plenty of fiscal hurdles to get over.

The production of the first two books were fortunate in that they leaned heavily on a mass of archived interviews and recordings that Rinzler was able to locate and pull out of the Lucasfilm Archives. Strangely, for Jedi there were far fewer interviews to lean on, so the book is packed with fresh and contempory interviews (a handful of which were conducted by yours truly). As expected, veterans like Robert Watts, Lucas himself and Kazanjian have crystal clear recollections of the production, giving an insight through the years that's unfiltered by the potential politics that could have obscurred it. A good example of that is Rinzlers own The Complete Making of Indiana Jones , an absolutely essential read for any fan of Indy that delves deep into the historical production of the first three films, but is far more diplomatic when discussing the recent entry Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That's no criticism, it's simply human nature. In this instance, the sands of time have been kind to the project, and an unbiased recollection, detailing faults, errors and conflicts is revealed, making for another cracking book.

So the story of the Original Trilogy is told, and soon we will be able to enjoy it once again via the ebook version which are due in October. Perhaps we will be fortunate enough to delve into the Prequel era and read more of the challenges both technical and fictional in bringing those tales to the big screen, and if we do let's hope Rinzler is at the helm as he has proven himself to be defly adept at not only finding nuggets of gold in those dusty archive boxes, but in presenting the story of the films production in such a way that it feels like it all happened a year ago, not over three decades ago. If this is his final foray into Making of territory, so be it - after all, he's making a name for himself as quite the comics writer and seems set to complete a trilogy of stories there - but I'd certainly be interestd in reading more. How about The Making of Willow?

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Source: Random House

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