The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by J.W. Rinzler is truly an impressive book to behold. Within the 372 pages, the story of how Return of the Jedi was made is fully laid out in a wonderful format that’s thoroughly engaging. The book covers the entire process, from securing the funding for preproduction to the response of critics and fans after its release. There are summaries and passages from the early drafts of the scripts, behind the scenes stories from the actors and special effects artists, and a wide array of pictures and concept art throughout the book. If you’re a fan of the films, this is definitely a must read.

As a long time fan of Star Wars, I found this book to be very surprising. I haven’t read the other books in the ‘Making of’ series, so this was my first exposure to J.W. Rinzler’s chronicling of the films. With non-fiction books like this, it can be hit and miss with the subject matter. Sometimes it can be too dry and weighed down with facts. In The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, that doesn’t happen. Every paragraph in the book has some fun factoid that keeps things interesting. There was a ton of information I did not know. For instance, ROTJ producer Howard Kazanjian was second assistant director to one of my favorite westerns The Wild Bunch. Another fun aside was that the idea for the Ewoks (initially called Ewaks) was born from George Lucas’ work on Apocalypse Now and his desire to have primitives defeating a technologically advanced force. In fact the core idea for ROTJ was based on that with Jabba, Tatooine and Han all being afterthoughts. Other cool notes were presented in early drafts of the script where Obi-Wan and Yoda don’t come back as Force ghosts but actually come back to life fully in the flesh. One of my favorite discoveries in the book was the naming of Salacious Crumb, the little monkey creature in Jabba’s palace that hackles and laughs. One night creature designer Phil Tippett had one too many pints of beer and said, “Wait a minute guys while I tie my soolacious.” Those who heard that loved it, and thus Salacious got his first name. George added the Crumb after adult comic book artist Robert Crumb. Throughout the book there is an endless array of information, from the intriguing to the hilarious.

Beyond fun facts, the book also covers aspects that fans may never have thought about before. Things like keeping ILM alive between Star Wars sequels, their work on E.T., Dragonslayer and Poltergeist, and George’s work creating a Star Wars film in between Indiana Jones movies. I thought it was interesting that the Director’s Guild took George Lucas to court over the credits in The Empire Strikes Back. They felt that the appearance of “Lucasfilm” in the credits, which popped up before Kershner, was like giving George credit over the director, thus they wanted to fine him. Then there was the drawn-out negotiations with Fox for the rights of the movies. The behind the scenes details expanded my knowledge of the film in ways I never perceived before. It’s like exploring the movie on a whole new level.

One of my favorite quotes in the book is by ILM general manager Tom Smith.

We had developed the best talent, built up and tested the most powerful tools of the day, and every Academy Awards season we had won the Oscar for visual effects. We were the best in the world when George brought us Jedi.

There were so many talented people who worked on Return of the Jedi. In this book, Rinzler manages to cover quite a few of them, bringing them to the reader’s eye, and expressing their role in the film and the nature of their personalities. It was through the work of all of those people that the movie was able to be made. And while there was some criticism of the film, which the book does cover, it was still positively received by the majority of fans and went on to break several box office records.

The bottom line is that The Making of Return of the Jedi is the ultimate book on the story behind the film. Anyone who wants to know what went on to make the movie, what went on behind the scenes, and what could have been and almost was, well…this is the book to read to find out. It’s jam packed with information from cover to cover and filled with great illustrations, pictures and concept art. There are numerous quotes from George Lucas, the actors and the crew, there are tons of fun stories that happened on set, and there is a lot of insight on every facet of the film. There is only one bad thing about the book, and that’s its size. It’s a big book, and in hardcover, it’s heavy, so trying to find a comfortable position to read it can be an never ending task. However, the size is worth it as it covers every scope of the film. Plus the hardcover binding is really nice. Though if you have a full color eReader, it may be worth getting the enhanced digital version, especially with all the bonus features it comes with. Either way, this is a book you don’t want to miss out on.

I give The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi a five out of five metal bikinis. In fact I liked the book so much that I’m now going to pick up the rest of the ‘Making of’ series and I’m giving some serious consideration to J.W. Rinzer’s The Complete Making of Indiana Jones.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.
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