Friday, November 04, 2011

Book Review: Star Wars - The Complete Vader

Last year I reviewed Star Wars Year by Year, which I indicated was a great book to pick up as a present for any Star Wars fan – and the bottom line is that The Complete Vader fits the bill as this year’s recommendation for the same thing. Much like Year by Year, The Complete Vader is the kind of book that will appeal to both the more casual fan and the more hardcore, with insights into the character that even I didn’t know before picking up this book.

One of the things that surprised me was the fact that George Lucas from the very beginning, in the outlines for the original movies, did plan to show Anakin Skywalker from a young age. His plan had been slightly older than portrayed in Episode I, but ultimately he changed it because he wanted the loss of having to leave his mother behind to be stronger than he felt it would be on a 13-year-old. Still, the plan was much younger than I would have expected, as I’ve long felt the problem with the first movie is that Anakin isn’t old enough (which would have allowed the romance to develop in the first film).

The book in general takes you on the complete journey of the character, not just what the character goes through on the screen (though that is a part of this book) but also what goes on behind the scenes. There are rare early sketches of the character, as well as his many appearances as a spokesman for various products. The book also talks about his growing popularity, and how the focus of the marketing shifted towards his iconic image. There is also plenty of coverage of the various toys made of Vader, from the ones you remember to the ones you never knew existed.

Behind the scenes you’ll also learn about the various men who played the character, and again I learned something new here, as I had no idea there was also a stuntman who played the character for the duels in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (not David Prowse). There is also a lot of talk about the casting of Anakin Skywalker in the prequels, and there’s some interesting commentary from the actors themselves as they talk about the difference between what they had thought they’d be bringing to the character and what George Lucas was looking for.

And of course, for a literature fan like myself, there is a large section devoted to his various appearances in both comics and books. The authors do a good job of not holding back any punches either in this case though, because the Star Wars Expanded Universe has mostly shied away from using Vader as much more than a secondary character and has tried to stay away from setting too many precedents for him that might later be overturned by something George Lucas decides to do with the character. Still, it’s fun to see where he is incorporated into the EU, and of course as more has been revealed through the prequels and The Clone Wars it’s gotten easier to incorporate Vader into the larger canvas.

The Complete Vader is a coffee table type book, and one area in which it does one better over Year by Year is in the inclusion of so many extras in this package. Whereas Year by Year showed many pictures of various collectibles, when possible The Complete Vader recreates them. So there are a number of places where you can unfold posters, detach the old Topps cards and place Vader stickers on your bedroom door (not that -I- did that… but my sons did). It’s a great book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading from start to finish, a fascinating look at every detail of the most important character from the Star Wars saga and a great book for any fan.

4 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds interesting. Vader is definitely a great character.

Bets Davies said...

No thanks for me. Sure, I create obsessive, lengthy, time consuming character studies for my characters, but that's my reference for how they act in the book. Yeah, a lot doesn't get in, but I don't want it studied. In Lit., Psychology and Lit, Creative Writing, and Film studies, I learned your artistic statement is what is on the page (or film). If it isn't there, don't try to explain it to someone. Once you have put that art into the world, you have no say in how people use it for themselves. People will each see it a little differently, because of who they are, and that is one of the great beauties of art. So offer no explanation. Just listen. I would be interested in a Vader book that interviewed fans across the age range and obsession quotient to hear about how many ways Vader has been envisioned. There is no "right". But that's my rant, and my personality feeding into the way I view the opportunity to read more about Vader. Shrug. Many are probably different.

Michael Offutt said...

Double nerd points earned for showing the cover of Alan Dean Foster's "Splinter of the Mind's Eye"

Silvestro said...

That sounds cool :D
To tell the truth I never wondered who is behind the mask, who is the actor behind Vader, I didn't have to because, well, Vader is an idea not just a role that is connected to one person's face like most of the villains out there.
But yeah this book seems to have tons of info on him...