Republics, Empires and Rebellions that Might Have Been: A Star Wars Art: Concept Book Review

With 2014 just beginning, I'm going to kick off this year’s posts the only way a geek like me knows how: by talking about some of the swag I got for Christmas. For now, I’ll be taking about Star Wars Art: Concept which was recently published by Abrams Books. Read on for my complete review.

Star Wars Art: Concept provides a historical cross section of Star Wars concept art, from the pre-production years of the first movie during the mid-70s up to the present day over three decades later. As such, it is not a comprehensive archive of concept art but a concept art sampler, providing glimpses into the conceptual work behind the movies, animated series and video games.

To understand why this book was assembled and published in such a way, you have to consider that Concept is part of a larger series of Star Wars art books published by Abrams, a series that also includes Star Wars Art: Illustration, Star Wars Art: Comics, Star Wars Art: Visions and Star Wars: Frames. Each of these books covers different visual aspects of the franchise as a whole, instead of focusing on a single title within the franchise. If you want a complete set of concept art for a specific Star Wars movie, animated series, comic book series or video game, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

The opening essays in Concept by Star Wars movie vets Joe Johnston, Ryan Church and Doug Chiang, as well as a concluding interview with Erik Tiemens, who worked on Revenge of the Sith, do a great deal to explain how essential visual art has been to the success of the franchise, so much so that there probably wouldn't be a franchise without it. Indeed, having a clear understanding of what the audience should see on the screen is crucial to building fantastic, fictional worlds; if special effects-driven movies fail to impress--either practical effects or CGI--it’s because their makers didn’t think creatively enough ahead of time before using the effects.

Star Wars Art: Concept does have some unusual choices made by the publisher. The movies are well-represented, as is The Clone Wars animated series; however, concept art from only a handful of video games appear in Concept. Concept art from video games released during the '90s is conspicuously absent, and not a single example of concept art from the popular Knights of the Old Republic series appears within the book’s 176 pages. Curiously, artist Hajime Sorayama gets four pages for his private commission work, even though none of the work in question had anything to do with the development of any Star Wars title; thus, why his work is in Concept and not Star Wars Art: Visions is a mystery to me.

Star Wars Art: Concept is a great purchase for fans who appreciate the franchise's lengthy history and understand where each of the pieces featured in the book belong in its chronology. As someone who grew up with Star Wars and remains fascinated by it, I love Concept and I look forward to picking up some of the other Abrams Books publications to see more perspectives on a galaxy far, far away.


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