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Book Review: The Art of Rogue One

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is currently playing in cinemas and is doing great things at the box office.

Directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters), with production design by Doug Chiang and Neil Lamont, Rogue One chronicles the adventures of a Rebel cell tasked with a desperate mission: to steal the plans for the Death Star before it can be used to enforce the Emperor’s rule. The all-star cast includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Jiang Wen, and Donnie Yen.

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I have seen it twice now and it is all the better on the second viewing. I had felt the first part was a bit disjointed and it didn’t quite work for me, but on the second viewing it all clicked and that ending is just amazing. Goosebumps. You can read our reviews of the film here and here.

The good folks over at Abrams very kindly sent me a copy of The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, written by Josh Kushins, and it is a beautiful book. The Art of Star Wars has always been one of the movie art books that all others are measured by. The art of Ralph McQuarrie is something that many of us out there are familiar with and this new book builds on what has gone before, becoming a worthy addition to the Star Wars Universe. In fact, Doug Chiang mentions McQuarrie’s work in the prologue for the Rogue One book, and how it had such an impact on his life and career.

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Here is a bit of the official blurb about the book:

This book is a visual chronicle of the Lucasfilm art department’s creation of new worlds, unforgettable characters, and newly imagined droids, vehicles, and weapons for the first movie in the Star Wars Anthology series.In the same format and style as Abrams’ The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the book gives readers unprecedented access to hundreds of concept paintings, sketches, storyboards, matte paintings, and character, costume, and vehicle designs.

What strikes you about these kind of things is just how many people are involved in the creation of a film. We all see the credits go by at the end of a movie, but there are so many aspects to bringing that film to the big screen. With the likes of a Star Wars films, once the basic story is laid down, the concept art and design work is the first major step in bringing the film to the big screen.

Dillon

Thousands of pieces of art are generated by many different artists. What the book stresses is that none of the artists are precious about their particular pieces of work. It is all for the good of the film and they riff off each others work, or paint over drawings and sketches of others to nail the final design.

It is an incredible process and the book does a great job of bringing that across.

The Art of Rogue One also shows how the film changed from the original idea of Industrial Light & Magic’s chief creative officer John Knoll – it was a seven page pitch called Destroyer of Worlds. It was a heist type of film – across between Mission: Impossible meets The Hunt For Red October. The original team featured a couple of aliens (one big, one small) and Krennic was on the Rogue One team, but was an Imperial Spy. We get to see images of that original team and the various incarnations they went through.

Dillon

Obviously, that changed for the final film, but we see the character sketches and development. The two aliens went through various looks and the larger one was still in the final film, but only briefly (the furry white alien with the face mask on Jedha) and as a henchman of Saw Gerrara (played by Forest Whitaker in the film). It shows how things evolve and are inspired by the many paintings, drawings and sketches that are produced.

Many of the sketches and concept art featured in the book did not make the final film, but they all added to the spirit of if an made it all the more Star Wars. I personally love how in the film, they give lots of the Rebels those 1970s style moustaches, beards and haircuts to tie it in all the more with A New Hope. One element that sounded cool, but didn’t make the final cut was how the U-Wing used a green laser grid to see through the mist and rain on Eadu. That was inspired by Gareth Edwards taking a journey out to Area 51. Real life events inspiring concepts for the film.

Even though many concepts were not used, they could well crop up in future films or cartoons.

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The book is a hugely fascinating read as well as just having beautiful art work. Even my problems with the beginning of the film on my first viewing tie in with the concept they were going for. Seen through the eyes of Jyn, the beginning would be murky and dark, due to the trauma Jyn went through. As she progresses her purpose becomes clearer, the settings become brighter and by the end her mind is clear. All of that was part of the initial design.

Of course, you get these books for the art work and it is stunning to see the concept art for Rogue One. The aliens, spacecraft, droids (K-2SO had so many different looks), planets and buildings went through various designs and you can see how elements from one draft were used in others. For example, we see how Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera went through many different looks and styles. It is just chock full of beautiful images and you yearn to see more them.

Highly recommended for all Star Wars fans and for people who just love to see cool art work.

More Rogue One Coverage

The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Josh Kushins, and Lucasfilm Ltd. © Abrams Books, 2016
(C) 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. And TM. All Rights Reserved. Used Under Authorization

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