Normally I’m not big on the “making of” books for pretty much any franchise, even Star Wars, but I had some extra credits on Audible a while ago and ended up purchasing the audio version of How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor. Although I ended up not actually listening to it at the time (it’s over 20 hours long and I never felt the urge to dive in). But recently I came to a point where I wasn’t ready to listen to the next book on my Star Wars list and so I turned on this one. I was instantly hooked.
How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is a “making of” book about Star Wars, but it is so much more than that. It isn’t just about Star Wars — it’s about everything around the movies, from the time of George Lucas’s childhood through the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney. Essentially, it’s a “making of” book that doesn’t ever really go into making the movies themselves, but rather covers everything around them.
In general, the book flows from Lucas’s childhood through and beyond the sale to Disney, but the author takes us on tangents throughout the process. Taylor will be talking about an interesting aspect of the movie creation from back in the ’70s and will follow that thread through to the present day, such as toy development, then he would jump back to the point he had left off at. This may sound jarring, but it’s not — the way Taylor does it, it flows with his narrative but also adds so much into the backstory. You get a lot of the book’s backstory too, such as how his interviews went — e.g. who was forthcoming and who might have been a little less than honest.
The degree of research that went into the book cannot be understated. Not every little nook and cranny of the making of the movies is discussed in the book but, like I said, there is a lot of information. He often glosses over the actual movie making process and just goes into the background around the film, like how the players on the field were assembled and moved around, how the story was written, when different drafts of each of the movies was ready, and what those drafts included at the time.
As someone who has been to three Star Wars Celebrations (the official Star Wars convention), has listened to countless podcasts by other Star Wars super obsessed fans, and read all of the ‘expanded universe’ (the books, comics, etc), I consider myself fairly well versed in the history of the movies. So, I was not all that surprised when Taylor mentions several of the common “behind the scenes’ knowledge that I (and many others like me) already knew, like how Marsha Lucas’ malamute Indy (who would get strapped into the front seat of her car) was the inspiration for Chewbacca. Taylor, however, also goes about dispelling several myths about the making of the movie, like what David Prowse really says and knows about Luke’s parentage during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back.
The first half of the book is entirely dedicated to the making of the original Star Wars. And this is by far my favorite part of the book. I feel like after that things started to shift. He spends less and less time on each of the movies and other things that take place during the in-between times. This is fine, however when he gets to the prequel movies I can hear a physical disdain that the author appears to have for those movies. As someone who rather enjoys the prequels, this was a bit off-putting. Once we get past these, he appears to brighten up again and we move on through the sale to Disney.
Now, since this book was published in 2014, he doesn’t have much in the way of post Disney stuff (where Disney purchased the empire at the end of 2012, and the first of the Disney Star Wars movies not having come out until the end of 2015). However, like I said, he does try and cover as much material as he can.
The title of the book seems to indicate that Taylor wanted to show how Star Wars went from this little movie, which barely got made, to this global phenomenon, and towards the end of the book I feel Taylor tries to bring it around to that. But generally the book didn’t really feel that way. Like I said before, it felt much more like a making-of book from the perspective of a chess master moving his pieces around the board in order to obtain a final product, then doing it again for the next movie. I liked that aspect of the book and I felt that was the strongest part.
Overall, I would definitely give a high recommendation for the first half of the book. 10 out of 10 by far. The second half of the book cooled that off for me a bit. I still enjoyed it (outside of his apparent disdain for the prequels) but it just wasn’t as well rounded as the first part. So overall, I feel he still pulls off a strong 8 out 10 and I definitely recommend it for any Star Wars fans who are interested in the “true” story behind the making of their favorite franchise.
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