|Review: A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe, an essay Anthology
||[Nov. 23rd, 2015|01:07 pm]
A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe, an essay Anthology
Edited by Rich Handley and Joseph F. Berenato
• Publisher: Sequart Research & Literacy Organization (November 6, 2015)
• ISBN-10: 1940589061
• ISBN-13: 978-1940589060
For some time now, the Sequart Organization has been releasing high-quality essay anthologies and documentaries dealing with popular culture productions that have a fantasy or sci fi bent. They’ve especially excelled with collections exploring comic book series and artists, Star Trek, Batman on TV and film, and Planet of the Apes.
Now Sequart has released the first of a three book series diving into nearly every aspect of the Star Wars phenomena, A Long Time Ago focusing on the films and TV programs associated with the franchise. It’s a book for serious Star Wars fans, those who are devoted watchers and collectors, but especially those interested in almost scholarly critiques and analyses.
Naturally, an anthology of so many perspectives will be uneven in quality and usefulness, and gratefully the content isn’t a collection of tributes and accolades. Of course, many essays are syntheses of the countless publications that came before. Speaking of the past, the book opens with discussions of two predecessors to Star Wars; Ian Dawe connects George Lucas’s 1971 THX 1138 to Star Wars. Rich Handley deftly compares and contrasts Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz.
Then, Julian Darius explores why Star Wars “broke cinema” not only in terms of transforming summer films into blockbusters relying on merchandising for profits, but also set the stage for films that dropped logic and credible plots to become anti-intellectual special effects fests. Lou Tambone summarizes why many feel The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the original trilogy, and Joe Bongiorno reviews why Return of the Jedi was the result of compromises and concessions diminishing what the film could have been. For me, the most intriguing look into the original films is “The Ecology of Tatooine as the Epicenter of the Star Wars Films” by Matthew Sunrich which proposes that Luke Skywalker’s home planet might also be the world where The Force is centered.
In terms of TV efforts, Steven H. Wilson offers a pointless deconstruction of the pointless 1978 holiday special, and Kevin Dilmore and Jean-François Boivin delve into how Ewoks and droids came to television as childish films and animated series. Then, David Pipgras warmly praises the five plus seasons of The Clone Wars, and Nathan P. Butler reviews the potential of the new Rebels series. Fortunately, all these authors provide detailed plot synopses for those who missed or forgot these broadcasts. Somewhat related to the book’s scope is Alex Newborn’s history of Star Wars rides created for Disney parks, an example of how such collections try to touch all the bases.
Regarding the second trilogy, Joseph F. Berenato revisits his own 1999 review of The Phantom Menace which, strangely, details all the problems he finds in the film but still determines it’s a fine piece of work. Zaki Hasan, Keith DeCandido, and Rocko Jerome also examine the prequels, each providing viable reasons for some of the decisions that shaped them and discuss the could ofs, would ofs, and should ofs that might have improved the stories and characters. Everyone seems to agree the visuals were spot on.
Other essays underline why the Star Wars mythos resonates with the inner child in all of us, but A Long Time Ago was assembled for adults who know the Expanded Universe of George Lucas very well. If that’s you, there are essays here that are illuminating and insightful. For others, some chapters might tempt you to explore projects like The Clone Wars or Rebels. Stay tuned: Sequart’s own trilogy has just begun.
This review originally appeared Mon. Nov. 23 at BookPleasures.com: