Since its release in 1977, Star Wars has been a staple of the science fiction genre, beloved by millions, and making creator George Lucas both a rich man and a household name. Whilst Star Wars: A New Hope was a massive success it was not the most popular of the original trilogy, with that accolade (for many at least) going to the sequel, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, a film that reaches its 40th anniversary this year. To celebrate this, Titan Comics have released a beautiful new book to take a look back at what many consider to be the best film in the franchise.
Starting with a brief summary of the original film, the new book delves deep into the development of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, providing readers with insight into how long and laborious the project was to even get off the ground to begin with. Soon after the release of the original film, when it became clear it was a huge success, George Lucas had to negotiate with 20th Century Fox to be able to make the new film, and to also secure creative control and much of the rights; something that would be a huge financial success for Lucas personally, as well as allowing him the freedom to later go on to create things such as the prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars series.
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With the rights and creative control secured, Lucas set out to bring a lot of the crew from the previous movie back together, including such names as concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, who would create much of the look and feel of the entire Star Wars universe, and director of visual photography Dennis Muren. The book also goes into detail on how the film came together in regards to the story, giving insight into how brief, scribbled notes by Lucas would be expanded upon by the first writer for the film, Leigh Brackett, who would unfortunately die from cancer after submitting the first draft of the film. With help from Lawrence Kasdan Lucas himself worked on the script, and the story for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was finalised.
After this, the book is split into sections that takes a look into different parts of the production, focusing on key sequences and locations from the story. We get insight into how the production not only went about designing the frozen, snowy planet of Hoth, but the difficulties they faced filming in Norway. We get some amazing behind the scenes photographs of the puppeteers and special effects wizards bringing the iconic battle against the AT-AT walkers to life. And we see the design process and development that went into even the tiniest background detail for the dramatic opening. A good portion of the book is spent covering the start of the film, but it provides excellent insight into how the cast and crew made the planet come to life, how it produced the epic battle scenes, and it even shows the cast having fun behind the scenes.
This treatment gets repeated with other important parts of the film, including the introduction of Jedi Master Yoda and the swamp planet of Degobah, the first appearance of the Emperor himself, and everyone’s favourite bounty hunter Boba Fett. These insights make it clear just how much Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back actually added to the Star Wars universe. It was giving viewers deeper insights into the ways of the Jedi, showing the insides of Imperial ships for the first time, bringing to life the criminal underbelly of the galaxy, and actually showing what the guerrilla war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance was actually like for those involved. The book snaps you out of the magic and wonder of the film and makes you realise that whilst Star Wars: A New Hope might have started it all, it was actually this film that made the universe feel more real, more alive, and more detailed.
This is why this book is so good, it shows you why its considered to be the best by many, many fans. You get to see how much of the heavy lifting this instalment did for the entire franchise, and the level of dedication and skill that went into it from the writers, the set designers, the costumers, and the model makers. You might think that you’d know everything you need to about a film that’s forty years old, that this book couldn’t possibly add anything new, but you’d be surprised how much insight they cram into the pages here. Whether you’re a casual watcher of the films, or a hard-core fan who knows every Clone Trooper’s serial number, there’s going to be something in this book to enjoy.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Special is out on 1st June from Titan Comics.