Star Wars: Mythmaking - Behind the Scenes of
Attack of the Clones
(Del Rey/LucasBooks, 224 pages, trade paperback, $19.95; November
Back in the farthest reaches of the literary wastelands of pygmy journalism,
there exists a sub-subgenre of entertainment-related dedication to
-- their true mission in writing the book.
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
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
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.