Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Trilogy edited by JW Rinzler, Introduction by Iain McCaig (book review)

August 5, 2016 | By | Reply More

In the digitally-driven world of twenty-first century fantasy film-making, the role of the storyboard has changed and arguably diminished. Animatics and digital art packages have meant that film sequences can be staged, positioned, re-worked and edited before a single frame has been captured. This is what makes ‘Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Trilogy’ so interesting. Its storyboards and lack thereof by the time of ‘Revenge Of The Sith’ show the way film-making was changing.

StarWarsPrequelsStoryboards

With 1993’s ‘Jurassic Park’ showing George Lucas that the ‘Star Wars’ prequels he had considered were indeed feasible, work started on preparing episode 1, ‘The Phantom Menace’. As Iain McCaig, who writes the introduction to this book and worked on the storyboard team for the film notes, George Lucas would sit down every Tuesday with the design group: Doug Chiang, Ed Natividad, Derek Thompson, et al and they would work through the sketches they had created based on the shots that Lucas had described. This is where the storyboard comes into its own. The quick sketch, from brain to mouth to paper, that defines how a multi-million dollar product might look.

This process for ‘The Phantom Menace’ means that in ‘Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Trilogy’ there are more panels for this film than the subsequent two. It also means that you get more than one artist contributing their take on a sequence which may differ from one of their colleagues. Compare and contrast the work of Benton Jew and Jay Shuster on their approach to the Jedis infiltration of the Trade Federation’s blockade ship and fight with their droids. Meanwhile, Iain McCaig’s distinctive character artwork really brings the cast of the film to life. His realisation of Darth Maul is integral to the whole film.

Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Trilogy LucasFilm Ltd, introduction by Iain McCaig, edited by J.W. Rinzler (Abrams, £21.99) Copyright © 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd. and TM.

Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Trilogy
LucasFilm Ltd, introduction by Iain McCaig, edited by J.W. Rinzler (Abrams, £21.99)
Copyright © 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd. and TM.

‘Attack Of The Clones’ features very sparse material from the opening third of the film. In fact, it is only until the action moves to Kamino and Geonosis that there are more panels to consider. The droid factory scene is well-served with Industrial Light And Magic carrying out the storyboard work in post-production (yes, that’s right), Kirk Henderson provides the panels here to show our heroes making their way from one death-trap to another. Ed Natividad handles the Ray Harryhausen tribute sequence in the Geonosis Arena, channelling the work of classic monster movies.

COMMANDER – “THE DROIDS ARE IN FULL RETREAT”:The battle is won—so far. » Damaggio Rodolfo Damaggio (Artist) Episode II Copyright © 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd. and TM.

COMMANDER – “THE DROIDS ARE IN FULL RETREAT”:The battle is won—so far. » Damaggio
Rodolfo Damaggio (Artist)
Episode II
Copyright © 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd. and TM.

‘Revenge Of The Sith’, meanwhile, has the least content to see. By this point, animatics were being used more often at Lucasfilm. What we do have is very interesting. Derek Thompson and Iain McCaig came up with the idea of killing the Jedi Shaak Ti as a means of showing what an evil creature General Grievous is. However, the scene was cut, something that McCaig thought shouldn’t have happened. In fact, the whole opening sequence, often described as a movie within the movie, had a lot of work carried out on it. The only other two drawn sequences are Obi-Wan’s later duel with Grievous and Obi-Wan and Anakin’s fight on Mustafar.

Storyboards provide a fascinating insight into the production process, especially in terms of what might have been. Abrams have done a fantastic job of presenting those scenes in a large A4 hardback that does justice to the illustrations contained within. Strangely, there are no biographies of the artists like there are in the ‘Star Wars Art’ series of books.

Caption 3 (SW Storyboard 8) Grievous adds Shaak Ti’s lightsaber to his collection. » Thompson Derek Thompson (Artist) Episode III  Copyright © 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd. and TM.

Caption 3 (SW Storyboard 8)
Grievous adds Shaak Ti’s lightsaber to his collection. » Thompson
Derek Thompson (Artist)
Episode III
Copyright © 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd. and TM.

‘Star Wars Storyboards: The Prequel Series’ is a welcome addition to the making-of titles that Abrams have produced. A great deal of the artwork has never been seen before and offers a glimpse behind-the-scenes at Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic, especially regarding ‘The Phantom Menace’ and ‘Star Wars’ return to the screen for the first time in sixteen years.

John Rivers

July 2016

(pub: Abrams, 2013. 352 page hardback. Price: £21.99. ISBN: 978-1-4197-0772-8)

check out website: www.abramsbooks.com

 

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