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Sunday, 9 June 2013

AFICIONADO CLASSIC REVIEW: 'STAR WARS - BLUEPRINTS' BOOK



STAR WARS BLUEPRINTS: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION


Written by Ryder Windham

Illustrated by Chris Trevas and Chris Reiff

Published by Dorling Kindersley, August 1st 2008


Reviewed by SCOTT WELLER


I’ve always liked sci-fi blueprints. Ever since I was seven, when I opened up an early issue of the US science fiction magazine STARLOG MAGAZINE. Within its crisp new pages, the first blueprints that ever caught this seven year olds eye at that time were a special blue pages pull out spread of the SPACE:1999 Eagle Transporter vehicle, designed by British Special Effects wizard Brian Johnson, later to work in that position on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Intriguingly, both SPACE: 1999 and STAR WARS would have unusual ties to one another-not only hadJohnson originally turned down the first STAR WARS due to his commitments to the first series of that TV show, but also because of his visual design for the grasshopper like vehicle, in which Lucas would make the critical decision of changing his original design for the Millennium Falcon- his ILM completed craft being just too similar to the vessel that was already in the show that had been airing on television during 1975. The Eagle would be one of my favourite non STAR WARS spaceships and, looking back at those now moth eaten blueprints, I’m as still impressed now as I was then by them, and the way the ship was brought to believable life, the beautifully crafted schematics making logical sense and explaining how its systems would work if it was a real machine being used for everyday life on Moonbase Alpha. It was things like that that made me a fan of science fiction and when STAR WARS came along the look of it’s unique universe, it’s peoples, and most importantly, it’s amazing spacecraft, literally blew me away!! And it all seemed so real!!

When the film deservedly became a mega success, all of us STAR WARS fans hungered for more information on everything that saga had to offer, and that’s when DEL REY, with their keen foresight that the film would be a success, were quicker off the mark than most in releasing books and other tie-ins relating to it that soon struck good in the publishing world. When the JoeJohnston blueprints for the movie were put together in a lovely package from BALLANTINE BOOKS (well done Lester Del Rey!!) I, like thousands of other impressed fans, knew they were a required, downright essential purchase-not just at the chance to see drawings of the amazing ships in the film, but, like the Eagle of a few years before, to see where all the devices were within them and what they all did- extending my grasp and knowledge of things like the Millennium Falcon-surely the coolest vessel around-and it’s cockpit, deflector dish, engines, gun ports, even things like the landing struts appealed to me! And then there were all the other craft-the harsh and terrifying looking shape of the TIE fighter, the sleek beauty of the X and Y-wing  fighters, and the dirt trodden locomotive type vehicle that belonged to the Jawas. It was all such a fascinating universe. These blueprints were fantastic. Sadly, I never got the chance to get any more blueprints for ships and craft, not only in STAR WARS but in science fiction in general, so when I heard the news that there was going to be a special release from DORLING KINDERSLEY, taking a fresh new look at selected blueprints for vehicles and characters from the STAR WARS universe, I had a smile on my face as it brought back very happy memories of my youth-this was one new product I couldn’t wait to see. I’m very happy to say that my expectations for the blueprints have been more than exceeded with this premiere release, another terrific addition to a ton of newly released, and important, STAR WARS books over the last two years that have been, on the whole, superb.

Basically, once past the beautifully hardcover book like box, which is equally beautifully designed and printed, you open it up to find five lovely double side posters/blueprints of some of the most iconic characters, weapons and vehicles of the saga-THE DEATH STAR, DARTH VADER, R2-D2, C-3PO, THE MILLENNIUM FALCON, LIGHTSABERS and BLASTERS. All of the subjects presented have been beautifully rendered by artists Chris Trevas (we miss you and your SET PIECE features for the INSIDER terribly…please come back soon!!) and Chris Reiff, the pair have truly done their visual homework (working from some of the best material housed within the LUCASFILM ARHIVES)-all of their artwork for the project is amazing. And the detail is just incredible-just check out all the work on the mechanics of the DEATH STAR, or the suit that keeps Darth Vader alive. You’ll be going back and looking at these drawings again and again for ages. There’s also all the great ancillary blueprints around the main designs-loved that back cockpit shot of Artoo in the X-wing, the Tractor Beam Control booth in the DEATH STAR, and the Vader vision art shot showing him strangling one of his victims.. And as for thatMillennium Falcon schematic, well that is just AWESOME-l loved finding out where it keeps its missiles and all the listed controls on the cockpit. If the first film’s original Production Designer, the late John Barry, was alive today to see how his, Joe Johnston’s and Ralph McQuarrie’s work was being revisited and revitalized, and how it was still being loved by people the world over thirty years on, I think he’d be absolutely blown away and thrilled by it all!!

Added to the design beauty, the printing of the illustrations is on very nice high gloss paper and will prove durable with time. And they are perfect for framing as well! On the opposite side of the blueprints, the reproductions of the mammoth all encompassing main images for the poster are also nicely done, the stills reproduction holding up very well for that size, and the photo selections are good-there are even a couple of rare photos amongst them all that I hadn’t seen before…

Let’s not forget the text either, which has the all important task of bringing together the worlds of the filmed STAR WARS universe and that of the Expanded Universe into one believable mesh, and writer Ryder Windham does a fine job navigating and solving any potential continuity problems, presenting us with a straightforward carrying prose that is essential for such an epic project like this. Each poster and text also gets some of the best quotes from the movies as well…

With this amazing work, model replica builders now have the greatest research tools available to them in creating their beloved props, models and costumes-there’s no excuse not to build a perfect copy of Darth Vader’s Meditation Chamber now!! And I’m expecting someone to build a full size Millennium Falcon replica before I turn fifty! Again, no more excuses!!

Yep, this BLUEPRINTS collection is mighty fine-my only complaint, if you can call it one, being that I wish it had just a few more blueprints inside it. I hope it is successful enough to create further releases of this high quality, covering even more material on the other films. Well done to the writer and artists, and for DORLING KINDERSLEY /LUCASFILM, for bringing back to life an area of STAR WARS publishing that I thought had died out...

And don’t forget, to celebrate the books release today, head over to DORLING KINDERSLEY’s official website at http://www.dk.com/starwars and check out their stunning new blueprint from the book, free for download use, of the charming droid duo of Artoo Detoo and See-Threepio. You won’t be disappointed!!


AFICIONADO RATING: THE NEXT STAGE IN THE EVOLUTION OF STAR WARS BLUEPRINTS AND SCHEMATIC ARTWORK, THIS A BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED ITEM, AND A WORTHY ADDITION TO ANY TRUE FANS COLLECTION.  9 OUT OF 10.

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