Review: The Making of Return of the Jedi By J.W. Rinzler

Return-of-the-JediImagine having complete access to the archives of one of the most revered movie company’s in the world. Imagine next that the company has produced one of the most iconic and genre defining movie franchises in history. Then imagine being able to publish it in a book and show and tell the world things that until now have been consigned to a little remembered shelf or drawer in a room.

Oh, and then imagine that it is about Star Wars and the film company in question is Lucasfilm. I can bet that you, like many others around the world, would feel more than a twinge of excitement.

It is worth noting that throughout this review I will avoid giving away much of the content that is in this tome as I want the reader to have the same spoiler free experience that I did when I first read through this book. Doing so will hopefully allow the reader to get a more genuine and unique experience when they read it.

The Making of Return of the Jedi is the third book in the series of ‘making of’ books by Lucasfilm executive editor, J.W. Rinzler. As you can gather from the introduction above, this book promises the reader a chance to embark on a journey behind the scenes of one the most revered sci-fi movie sequels of all time, all the while gaining new insights into its journey thanks to a collection of previously unpublished material. A task that is no mean feat, especially when you consider that Return of the Jedi is over 30 years old and has been the subject of countless behind the scenes exposes over the years, both on film and in print.

In fact, in the book’s introduction, Rinzler mentions two such works that have helped him and as such expanded unpublished extracts of them are included in the book also. With a poignant foreword by writer/director/actor and producer, Brad Bird, aside the following three pages we are treated to some fantastic concept art that help set the tone for the rest of the book. 

The book is split into 16 parts that cover everything from the film’s early production stages right the way through until its release, meaning that in total it covers an impressive eight year period.

Throughout the 362 pages, we are then treated to what is best described as a mixture of fantastic facts (such as an early draft of the script where Vader was summoned to the capital city of the Empire, a city which was later cut out), interesting interview extracts, memorising personal recollections coupled with an unparalleled collection of unique and in some cases intimate images (one of my personal favourites is the image of the letter from a 13 year old Warwick Davies asking George Lucas to send him some of the new action figures). It manages to chronicle not just the movie’s history, but a legacy that for years has remained unseen.

Speaking of the images and the art, it is difficult not be stunned by the sheer number of them that have been included here and also the quality that they are presented in, especially when you consider the age and the conditions that they may have been kept in. Rinzler has done a truly remarkable job here in gathering together some amazing images. They not only help paint a picture that amplifies the accompanying text, but in some cases they tell more of a story than the text dares hope to.

The text itself however should not be undersold. Contained within the book are examples of what truly fantastic research can achieve in the form of long lost extracts from a rough draft of the script that dates back to February of 1981, to comments made about the infamous slave bikini costume and how it fit actress Carrie Fisher, which is both revealing (no pun intended) and entertaining. The result of this means that the reader is compelled to read each page, not only so they are entertained but also just so that they do not miss out on learning any of this incredible information.

Content aside the actual presentation of this book is engaging and actually serves to add to the level of excitement from the reader on receiving it. The book has a cardboard binding that is wrapped in an eye catching photo slip cover that even when removed has a treat in store for fans (one that I will not spoil) etched into the bottom right corner of the book. Coupled with this is the beautiful black and white image that lines the insides of both the front and rear cover. Even before you get to the actual content itself you know you are already holding something special.

Overall it is very easy these days for companies to say a book is a tribute to a film’s legacy and in most cases they very rarely are. The Making of Return of the Jedi however is one of the few that is an exception to this and not only does it live up to the hype, but it exceeds it. The £40 RRP may be seen by some as a high price to pay, yet the sheer wealth of content and the quality of the product itself means you are getting a bargain that will not only appease fans of Star Wars, but also movie fans who are looking to learn more about how a piece of history was made. This book also manages to not only make you appreciate the movie more, but will also leave you yearning to revisit it for yet another viewing.

Simply put, this is definitely the book you are looking for!

The Making of Return of the Jedi is now available and is published by the Aurum Publishing Group. 

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