Books

Star Wars: The Last Jedi The Ultimate Guide – Book Review

Disney is nothing if not protective of their brands, which is why their supposed behind-the-scenes guides for films have always been a bit of a curiosity. Interspersed between photos of the set and film stills are blurbs that run the gamut from blatant PR to truly enlightening. Their guide to the latest Star Wars episodic film, The Last Jedi, is no exception, yet is redeemed by some truly noteworthy story nuggets it shares.

The first half of this guide is unfortunately devoid of much interesting material. Discussions about director Rian Johnson’s work on set and proclamations from each cast member extolling his greatness offer nothing that was not shared during the film’s omnipresent advertising campaign, and seem at times to be attempting to fight back against the many detractors of the film.

After this opening discussion of the production, the guide presents at least one segment on each character of interest, offering one about the character and then one about the actor for the main stars. Rey’s and Daisy Ridley’s offers nothing really of note, a side effect of here having unfortunately little to do in the film. Luke’s segment is much more intriguing, however, if only because its walkthrough of Luke’s life brings his arch into much clearer focus. Johnson’s quotes as to his intent with the character also assist in this, making the choices easier to understand even if you disagree with them.

Sections on Chewbacca, Poe, and even Leia bore with their statements of well-known facts, and even Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo somehow has little added to our knowledge of her by writing that simply states what she does in the movie instead of anything new.

The guide then oddly shifts to talking about the locations and ships of the film before having discussed any of the villains. After the rather dull discussions of our protagonists though, it does offer a nice change of pace. The highlight of this portion is hearing about the design of the Canto Bight and its patrons with photos  of the work right there besides the blurbs. Much of this outstanding work was sadly lost in the frantic editing of that portion of the film, but the care put into both design and the production aspects of the costumes and set is truly inspiring.

Then it is back to finishing out the sections on our protagonists. Finn offers little, while Rose’s thankfully provides us with her life story. Some more writing on Canto Bight creatures and the Fathiers is presented; and then the guide finally gets to the good stuff.

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It has become clear that Kylo Ren is truly at the centre of this new Star Wars trilogy, which makes how little we know about him even more frustrating. The sections on the First Order included here offer some vital pieces of information, and possibly hint at things still to come.

The death of Snoke before his past was revealed has remained a sore point with many fans, and while the Ultimate Guide does not provide resolution, it does offer some great new insights. The most intriguing is that Snoke has trained at least one other apprentice in addition to Kylo, perhaps setting up a plot point for the upcoming Episode IX. The history of how he turned Ben Solo to the dark side remains frustratingly vague here, but at least it is something.

Kylo Ren’s section offers little new about him story-wise, but reading a bit more about the design of the character’s costuming and Johnson’s thoughts on his arc is appreciated. Sections on Admiral Hux and Captain Phasma will fill in their backstories for those who have not kept up with their recent comic and novel tie-ins.

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The guide finishes up with a short section on John Williams scoring, which is quite surface-level, and then a collection of concept art. While the art is indeed interesting, CGI is now at the point where what ends up on screen is so close to the design that the interest in seeing the conceptions is diminished slightly.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi The Ultimate Guide may be of interest to hardcore fans, but tends to offer very little that cannot be learned or seen by simply watching the film. Keeping it from being dismissed are its extremely high production values and the inclusion of pieces of information that improve one’s understanding of the story, which is more of a byproduct from the movie’s iffy execution of its goals. If you are already a fan of these kinds of guides, it may be worth checking out, but all others need not apply.

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