Monday, 27 June 2011



Written by Simon Beecroft


Reviewed by Scott Weller
Just in time for the exciting release of the entire six film STAR WARS Saga set on Blu-ray this September comes the new and excitingly produced accompanying and celebratory visual/information release from long time publishing greats DORLING KINDERSLEY: the CHARACTER ENCYCLOPEDIA, presenting picture packed profiles and details of all your favourite heroes and villains, perfect for catching up on or re-discovering as STAR WARS continues to rule the waves of the world’s imagination. In a brand new size and re-design perfect for your coffee table, writer Simon Beecroft, a long time senior member of KINDERSLEY and friend to STAR WARS/LUCASFILM, whose work on the companies important books linked to the saga stretches back to the very first DK projects of the mid nineties onwards, gives us a noteworthy text that puts together everything you’ve ever really needed to know about the many characters of that Galaxy a long time ago, far, far, away, and their place in the history of the saga, either large or small, linked to the timelessly enjoyable and galaxy spanning adventures of Jedi Knight turned Dark Lord of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker and his redemptive son, Luke.

Rebels, Empire, Separatists, Republic, Jedi, aliens and droids of every creed and colour are here. Even the Asteroid Space Slug from EMPIRE gets a memorable page! From main characters to blink and you’ll miss ‘em extras, charting everyone from Admiral Ackbar to Zam Wessel, the best are all to be read about, in this, the most detailed and welcome fusing of the two film trilogy universes yet, easily accessible for readers in alphabetical form and full of facts, statistics and informative annotations, backed up with a selection of some of the best specially chosen old and new photographs (a mixture of stills, posed promotional images, and, in the case of the Prequels, some CGI renderings) from the LUCASFILM archives, with nearly a dozen or so from across the films that I’ve never seen published before.

Intriguingly, with so many thousands of stills from the treasure trove that is the LUCASFILM ARCHIVES to access for the project, its surprising to see that not every character has a colour shot, with some full length shots actually being specially colourized for the book (check out the Admiral Ozzel, General Madine and Ponda Baba sections for proof of this-obviously there were no existing or usable colour shots of the characters in full length available for use). Some, like Moff Jerjerrod, have even had costume feet/boots added onto them when the original full length images for cut outs haven’t been either available or in good enough quality to blow up for illustration and printing…
Also, and a very a good job has been done here, when full length shots of a character or costume haven’t been available at all, the books makers have worked with LUCASFILM in getting the original costumes from storage and having a model newly photographed in them-check out from RETURN OF THE JEDI the Rebel soldier/commandoes, and the A-wing pilot.

And look out for some little surprises, too. Presumably the deleted scene movie character, the Rebel General Cracken from JEDI: the crack Falcon gunner from an unseen portion of the finale space battle, has been included and named because he’ll presumably be finally seen on the deleted scenes section of the Blu-rays –these things aren’t put in to an important book like this without a reason!
Its also pleasing to see some of the lesser known characters in greater visual reference, like one of the creepy JEDI imperial dignitaries following The Emperor, and some of the strange and unusual creatures from the Prequels, as well as page sections for groups of characters like X-wing pilots. Such care to detail in this book is most welcome.

The only character the ambitious project has problems with is gravity chair using Tatooine Moisture Farm owner, and husband of late Shmi Skywalker, Cleig Lars: the main image used was probably the only full length visual available from a film frame long shot and looks very fuzzy. Additionally, a few of the EPISODE III characters from the Republic senate and THE DELEGATION OF 2000 are missing, presumably for space reasons. But these are very minor nit-picks for this quality book.
As the Encyclopedia’s press notes state, it really is everything you ever wanted to know about your favourite STAR WARS characters, who’ve now taken on an iconic life of their own over the last thirty four years, and are up there on a romanticized legendary fiction level with the likes of King Arthur, Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes.

Touring the CHARACTER ENCYCLOPEDIA’s encompassing pages is a terrific treat for fans of all ages, produced, as ever, to the usual high quality DK presentation, reproductions and printing, and is of a nice purchase price that won’t damage your wallet…

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