30th May2019

‘Best of Star Wars Insider: The Original Trilogy’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Various | Published by Titan Books | Format: Paperback, 176pp

ST-Insider_OT-cover

Star Wars is of course the gift that keeps on giving. Since the release of Star Wars: A New Hope back in 1977, Star Wars has dominated popular culture like nothing else until the recent incursion of Marvel Studios, and possibly the ever present (and now owner of the previous two mentioned) Disney-Pixar. Hard to believe now, but on its release Star Wars became the little film that could. It was put together very haphazardly, had all sorts of problems with script rewrites, special effects failures, and many many production issues. Expected to bomb badly on release, it became first a cult hit, then a mainstream one, and finally a blockbuster success. Best of all? I was around to see the film in London, at the grand old age of 8 when it came out. That, and the original Superman film the following year, have had more of an impact on my love of film, comics, and books, than any other single thing. But I digress.

This bumper 178 page collection is a sort of ‘best of’ walk down memory lane, with the best of the articles and interviews from Star Wars Insider magazine back in the day. Star Wars Insider, which is the official Star Wars magazine, has been published by Titan since 2007, but it actually goes back a lot further than that. It began life as the Star Wars fan club newsletter in 1978, evolved into the superbly named Bantha Tracks quarterly, then the Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine, and finally Star Wars Insider. The remit has always been the same, to give the diehard Star Wars fans plenty of interviews, behind the scenes information, publicity stills, production secrets, all the usual fan service you would expect. This collection focuses solely on the first three films, which remain the best by far. So is it worth a read?

As you would probably expect, the films are covered in order, and with roughly the same page count. The Star Wars section starts with fun interviews with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, interviews that really convey the fact these were two very young actors who seemed to be having a lot of fun at the time. The enthusiasm jumps off the page, helped by the great page design work by the editorial team, with good use of publicity stills, sidebar sound bites and the like. The next feature is possibly my favourite, 100 facts about Star Wars you may not know, and there are some great bits in there. Ever wanted to know what’s in Chewbacca’s pouch he carries everywhere? Now’s your opportunity. The Star Wars section is then rounded out by features on the big stars, like Harrison Ford and Sir Alec Guinness, and the lesser names like Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and the downright obscure, like various rebel pilot actors and the guy who portrayed the cut pre-CGI Jabba the Hut. It ends with a great feature on the ‘Lost Cut’ of Star Wars, a discovery of many unused scenes in the Lucasfilm archive.

The Empire Strikes Back, the beast of the lot of course, starts with interesting features on the makeup and costumes aspect of the films, and the art of pre-CGI stop-motion. Interviews with C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels, and personal favourite Frank Oz, Yoda himself, follow. An ok piece on sound effects is followed by another ’50 things you didn’t know about Empire’, which again I really enjoyed. The next feature is on Lando Calrissian, or Billy Dee Williams as he probably prefers to be called. and is decent enough, but they saved the best for last. In ‘Confrontation in Cloud City’ we get to see the original storyboards by Ivor Beddoes for the iconic lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Luke. They are truly fascinating, especially the bits where the actual film diverge from the storyboards. Loved this feature.

Return of The Jedi manages to save some important features till last. The piece on the Lucasfilm archives, with rarely seen design work, publicity stills, photos of cast and crew at work, and original art is really interesting. Loved the half built Millenium Falcon. An interview with Warwick Davis, Wicket himself, is followed by a feature on the iconic Endor Chase Scene, the speeder bike chase through the forest. Some nice design insights into the Emperor’s Throne Room, and Coruscant, round out a nice section, though one that feels a little skimpier than the two before. Bit like the film then.

This is a great collection of articles and interviews, nicely balanced to give you a bit of everything. The fact they are ‘classic’ (old, to you and me) doesn’t really affect their quality and relevance apart from references to some actors ‘current’ work which is now very old work. The design work throughout is excellent, the format works nicely, and it all made me want to go back and start watching the films all over again.

And that, I would imagine, is exactly the point of this magazine. A great read.

**** 4/5

Best of Star Wars Insider: The Original Trilogy is out now from Titan.

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