A Star Wars question for Star Wars Day!
May 4, 2020 2:44 AM   Subscribe

Hi all, I have recently, over lockdown, finally watched all 9 of the Star Wars movies (and will be watching the spin-offs in coming weeks). I was wondering if there are any really good critical commentary (books, podcasts, videos) that would add to my enjoyment of the franchise?

Whenever I like a thing, I like to go quite deep - read about how it was made, what problems arose during the making, what original versions looked like, etc. What are some books/podcasts/online articles I would enjoy? Who's writing, or otherwise producing, the really good Star Wars commentary? I'm not as interested in fanfiction or fandom-specific databases.

I am also interested in things which looks into cultural significance, why a thing works (or doesn't), the cultural context of the creation of the work. (That sounds terribly abstract, but I just mean commentary like, for example, Lindsay Ellis - she did one video on the Ideology of the First Order which I enjoyed, but that's the extent of her Star Wars content).

I am sure there is tons of good Star Wars-content out there, but where would I start?

I am an absolute Star Wars noob, so anything goes.
posted by unicorn chaser to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
As a Star Wars noob the podcast The Newcomers might be right up your alley.
posted by saladin at 5:06 AM on May 4 [2 favorites]

Well, as to why a thing works or doesn't, Film Crit Hulk's writing on the Star Wars films is much much deeper and more insightful than one might expect, particularly if one had not had previous exposure to Film Crit Hulk.
Couple quick examples:
Hulk on the response to his praise for Last Jedi
Hulk's negative review of Rise of Skywalker
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:22 AM on May 4 [3 favorites]

for the cultural significance as it unrolled: https://store.nytimes.com/products/history-of-the-force

from the site: "Four years before the first "Star Wars" movie was released, The Times signaled that the sci-fi film was approaching our world. In a 1973 feature on director George Lucas, Judy Klemesrud wrote, "George is currently working on another science fiction screenplay, 'The Star Wars,' which he describes as a 'real gee whiz movie' in the Flash Gordon-Buck Rogers tradition."

The movie title was later shortened and when it opened in 1977, Times film critic Vincent Canby knew he had seen something special. "Star Wars is the most elaborate, most expensive, most beautiful movie serial ever made," he wrote.

"In a Galaxy Far, Far Away" is the ultimate anthology of Times coverage of the "Star Wars" franchise. Packed with more than 85 reprinted Times pages, it takes you on a fantastic journey from the 1970s to 2019's "The Rise of Skywalker" and "The Mandalorian." "
posted by alchemist at 8:45 AM on May 4

Samuel Delany's long review of the original movie is very interesting and extraordinarily prescient in the way it looks at the cultural aspects of the film.
posted by crocomancer at 9:12 AM on May 4

This might not be highbrow enough for you, but I really enjoyed the parts I've heard from The Ringer's Binge Mode podcast treatment of the entire SW extended universe. I've only listened to about a third of it, and it's definitely a pop-culture take on the whole thing with lots of swears and a jocular tone. But it was fun!

When you hit that link, go back a few pages because there's a lot of content there.
posted by mccxxiii at 10:25 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]

Absolutely recommend Mikey Neumann's How We See Star Wars (and Part 2).
posted by lantius at 10:26 AM on May 4

Some low-hanging fruit for anecdotes on how they got made: the DVD audio commentary tracks in episodes 4/5/6 have some good material, though you have to wade through some Lucas being self-important. All the bits from Ben Burtt (sound designer) are delightful and Carrie Fisher (.) is appealingly weary and wary. My favorite by far is the Irvin Kershner (director of ESB) commentary, as he’s hilarious and zero parts reverential fanboy in talking about his approach and problemsolving. (Paraphrased example: “I don’t fucking care if R2’s a robot on wheels, figure out how to make him stand on tippy-toes so he can peek through that window! He has to stand on tippy-toes!”)
posted by miles per flower at 1:19 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]

So this is a maybe, for a couple reasons, but it's one of my favorite Star Wars related pieces of media and criticism: Mr Plinkett's review of Attack of the Clones.

The idea is this character, a shlubby recluse with marbles in his mouth, is reviewing the Star Wars prequels. There's some weird and problematic meta-story stuff (he makes a sex worker watch AotC, for instance, and is clearly a misogynist serial killer) but it's very skippable.

The important part is that his criticism is really, really good and is illustrated at great length by showing clips of the movies side by side to show themes, attempts to call back, commentary by Lucas himself, and other stuff.

For me, I didn't like the prequels but apart from saying that they just sucked, I couldn't really explain why. He explains why in great detail and in retrospect it felt extremely validating to me, when he would go into some issue or another and I'd be like, "yes! yes! that's exactly it!" His juxtaposition of the way the new movies treat the force (as a superpower with sci-fi justification) versus the old ones actually brought tears to my eyes (though as much because I love Yoda as anything else).

If you can get past the theatrical nonsense these reviews are highly entertaining and insightful. The ones for the other prequels are good, but the AotC one is the best.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:43 PM on May 4

With Star Wars being the cultural behemoth it is, there's so much out there, much of which was created to make a quick buck, so I'm going to recommend just two items of traditional media that have enhanced my enjoyment of it. I have thoroughly enjoyed J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars. It's a huge, exhaustive behind-the-scenes book full of pictures and narrative. Rinzler was executive editor at LucasFilm Ltd. He's also done similar books on the other two original trilogy films, though I've not looked at them.

I also recommend Skywalking: The Life And Films of George Lucas by Dale Pollock. The most recent update, which I haven't read, was over 20 years ago, just as the first of the prequel trilogy was coming out. The book covers in detail Lucas's life and the development of his early films and the original trilogy. It's "authorized" at least as far as Pollock had direct access to Lucas for information and quotes, but it's not a whitewash of Lucas as a person or director...though it ends before what many saw as the betrayal of Lucas reworking his original Star Wars films.
posted by lhauser at 7:18 PM on May 4

Seconding Rinzler's book, if you want to know about the making of the original movie, from conception through release, it's the definitive book. Just fantastic.

His other two books on the original movies are good, but not as detailed. Still worth reading if you like that type of book.
posted by beowulf573 at 7:57 AM on May 5

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