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Star Wars: Mythmaking - Behind the Scenes of Attack of the Clones

by Jody Duncan

(Del Rey/LucasBooks, 224 pages, trade paperback, $19.95; November 1 2002.)

Back in the farthest reaches of the literary wastelands of pygmy journalism, there exists a sub-subgenre of entertainment-related cover scannonfiction known as the "press-kit book". These glitzy hardback and trade issues differ from most other publishing endeavours in that their primary purpose is to please the licensor of the subject movie (television shows rarely have press-kit books written about them) by putting it in the most appealing light possible, rather than confronting and addressing the entire package, including and especially the warts and blemishes the movie possesses. (And, of course, to make a few bucks for the studio and the publisher in the process.) These tomes are aimed at the movie's core fandom, usually pre-teens and teenagers, and they are written at that level, and from an insider's viewpoint. Their authors, who are sometimes commissioned for the job directly by the studios themselves, typically have had experience as editors or writers for what are known as "press-kit magazines"; i.e., periodicals whose stock-in-trade is covering impending skiffy and horror movie releases virtually from the press kits issued them by the movie studios involved in producing the film. Through this "apprenticeship" they have earned the trust of those in studio publicity departments, for they have demonstrated an awareness of -- nay, a dedication to -- their true mission in writing the book.

Star Wars: Mythmaking -- Behind the Scenes of Attack of the Clones is, in some ways, a superior example of a press-kit book. And in other ways it's just, er, typical.

Because, while the artistic design and layout, along with an abundance of high-definition photographs (I counted twenty before the start of Chapter One) make it one of the most eye-appealing books I've encountered to date within this sub-subgenre (which is like calling it one of the tallest ... well, you get the idea), there is a certain journalistic anemia that permeates author Jody Duncan's narrative. About the nicest thing to be said for it is that it's easy to get through. The plentiful saccharine of anecdotes and reportage presented concurrently with a rehash of the sequence of events in the film, although lovingly written, will be of interest only to those Star Wars devotees with the attention span to sit still long enough to read it and who haven't already reached their fill of "behind the scenes information" from the hours and hours of bonus material contained in the movie's DVD package. But not to many others.

And the reason for that is because SW5: Episode 2 was a bad movie in the eyes and ears of most, and a mediocre one at best to most of the rest, including many of the loyalest members of the Star Wars Defenders of the Realm and Marching & Chowder Society. And, if there's one thing this book proves, it is that it's damn' near impossible to make an interesting press-kit book about a patently uninteresting movie.

The thought occurred to me that, had a book been done in the same manner by the same writer about SW1: Episode 4 (or, more likely, SW2: Episode 5), it might have been a tolerable read. I would have been somewhat interested in learning about any relationship that might have developed between, say, Alec Guinness and Mark Hamill, as opposed to the one between Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen, "elucidated" in the book by the following quote from Mr. Christensen:

"Ewan was a great guy and we got along well; and I think that dynamic was evident in the Obi-Wan-Anakin relationship. As an actor, I looked up to him, and that helped created a sense of Anakin looking up to Obi-Wan."

Oh my. Poor Lee Strasberg must be flopping in his grave.

Here's another bit of tat I learned from reading this book: Did you know that George Lucas brought an "OK" stamp with him to his Friday afternoon meetings with the concept design team? He even had a code worked out for the number of OKs he would stamp on each drawing: one OK meant that it needed more revisions and might not find its way into the movie, while three OKs meant that "Lucas loved the design as it was and definitely intended to use it in the film". I don't know if detail like that says more about Lucas or about the writer and readers who think it's fascinating.

I will admit that I found some of the technical information somewhat interesting, including the well documented blue-screen set-ups, as well as the photographs of the models and costumes. Also, the attempts Lucas made to connect this film with the classics he made twenty-plus years ago, as illustrated by the one or two side-by-side "then and now" photos.

But, in spite of all the efforts made by the Head Cheese to rekindle the affection once widely held for the Star Wars franchise, there seems to have developed a curious correlation between the Lucas Empire's intense increase of control over every creative and economic aspect of its property and the loyalists' decrease in interest in same. That control is evident on the spine of this book, the logo at the very top of which reads, "Lucas Books".

Come to think of it, "press-kit book" doesn't quite describe this sub-subgenre completely enough any more. Would "self-hype movie drivel book" be too cumbersome to use? "Fluff" just seems so inadequate.


Review by Randy M Dannenfelser.


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