Review: STAR WARS FAQ is a detailed journey through the creation of a modern myth!

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EVERYTHING LEFT TO KNOW ABOUT THE TRILOGY is the subtitle for the newly released STAR WARS FAQ. That's serious word choice when you consider how knowledgeable the fandom is that surrounds the original Star Wars Trilogy. I'm 41 years old, so I grew up with these films as a part of my life...scratch that, the Saga has become such a part of me, it's burrowed down to conjoin with the very depths of my soul. So much so, I've watched, read, and collected just about anything that was available to my greedy mind and body. And I've got to say, much to my surprise, Mark Clark delivered a well researched, in-depth exploration of the creative exploits of George Lucas and so many of the others that played in his sandbox.

Clark began his writing career as a journalist, and it shows in his writing. The text cites multiple sources including: books, magazines, interviews, DVDs, etc. The author's love of the series is evident, but the chapters are strongly constructed around a set theme, and the text never descends into fanboy histrionics. Essentially, this is a historical account of the birth and maturation of a modern mythology.

As I mentioned, the structure is rather strong. The book starts with Lucas's youth, moves to his cinematic influences, his early career, then the long process of bringing the original film to fruition. Budget issues, John Dykstra's slow effects work, disastrous location shooting, Alec Guinness's annoyances, the FOX deal that ceded sequel rights to George, etc, it's all here. Then you move into similar chapters on the development of both THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI. I especially enjoyed the pieces on the script developments in the later chapters and exactly when George decided on Darth Vader being Luke's dad and the whole brother/sister deal.

That would make a pretty strong book on its own, albeit one where a true Star Wars geek, like myself, would've heard most of the stories before. What makes this book standout is the connective tissue! I love that Clark lauds the contributions of people like Gary Kurtz, Howard Kazanjian, Lawrence Kasdan, and Leigh Brackett. For without these wonderful ladies and gentlemen, the original trilogy would probably have been a lot more--if I could coin a term--prequely. You will also enjoy chapters on the awful STAR WARS: HOLIDAY SPECIAL, the finest of the novels, as well as the rip-off films that followed the cultural phenomenon that was the first film. Oh wait, there's more. There's in-depth coverage of the music, bios of the people that helped Lucas bring STAR WARS to life, the not-so SPECIAL EDITIONS, the goofs, the science, spinoffs, and neat explorations of the successes and failures of each film. Oh, I don't want to forget the wonderful forward provided by Alan Dean Foster, who ghost wrote the original Star Wars novel and the book SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE.

The best chapter is probably about how EMPIRE grew in esteem as the years went on. It was always pretty well received, but so many now view it as the finest film in the series. Clark makes an excellent argument about how the youthful audience wasn't quite ready for the deeper adult themes and the subtext in 1980. As they grew up, the film became better and better as they matured. The piece goes beyond so many fans simple "it's dark" explanation of why they like EMPIRE best. I don't agree with Clark, but his opinion is beautifully spelled out. Don't get me wrong, I love ESB, but the original film will always be my favorite.

The text isn't perfect, and some additional editing is required for spelling and fact checking. Still, that's a small quibble. Obviously, Mark Clark understands STAR WARS and gets to the root of what has made it a global force. There are lots of photos to help translate the narrative, which is a pleasant surprise considering many "unauthorized" books are lacking in that regard. Quite clearly, this isn't just a production diary or corporate pablum. This is a true account of the seed that was once George's alone, and how it bloomed into one of the greatest franchises the world will ever know.

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0