Book Review: ‘The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005’ (Taschen 40 Edition, 2023)

Image Credit: Taschen Books. (C) 2021, 2023 Taschen Books)

The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 – Taschen 40 Edition (2023)

By: Paul Duncan, with Colin Odell and Michelle Le Blanc

Publisher: Taschen Books

Filmmaker and retired Lucasfilm CEO George Lucas wrote the foreword. Image Credit Taschen Books

Reviewer’s Note

“Look at the size of that thing!” The Collector’s Edition of this book on the kitchenette table on the day I received it. The “Star Wars Archives: Episodes IV-VI, 1977-1983 (Taschen 40)” hardcover looks…well, puny next to it. (Photo by the author)

In January of 2021, I purchased, purely on impulse, the original Collector’s Edition of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005, a hefty 600-page tome about the making of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars prequel trilogy and George Lucas’s efforts to nudge Hollywood out of the celluloid/chemical process of filmmaking and into the digital era. As is often the case with me, I bought this oversized and expensive book (it weighs over 15 pounds once it’s unboxed, and it cost me $200) because I was depressed, and purchasing “cool” Star Wars “stuff” is often my coping mechanism, albeit a costly and often impractical one.

I reviewed the original version of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 in January of 2021. In that review, I covered the major features of the book, including its weight, dimensions, and organization of content. I don’t want to regurgitate all of that stuff here, and I don’t want to “copy-paste” the entire review here. Plus, I’m tired and I don’t feel up to re-reviewing the content bits that are common to both the super-duper-sized edition and the more portable 2023 Taschen 40 hardcover. So if you want the straight dope about the writing and its approach to telling the story of how the still-controversial Prequel Trilogy was made, I suggest you check out Book Review: ‘The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005.

“Look At the Size of That Thing!”

Image Credit: Taschen Books. (C) 2021, 2023 Taschen Books & Lucasfilm Ltd. (C) 2021, 2023 Taschen Books)

In the 20th century, cinema was celluloid; the cinema of the 21st century will be digital. George Lucas, in the foreword to The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005

If you were to visit me in Lithia – or at my future domicile in nearby Brandon, Florida – and check out my book collection in the various rooms where I have coffee tables, bookshelves, and living room reading nooks, you’ll notice that scattered throughout my personal library I have multiple editions of the same book.

For instance, back when I started reading the late Tom Clancy’s novels, I often would buy a hardcover edition to read at home, and, when the paperback edition was published a year later, I’d buy that so I could read it on the bus on my way to Miami-Dade Community College’s South Campus instead of lugging a big, heavy, and pricey hardcover around in my backpack to and from school.

Later on, I got into the habit of buying multiple copies of my favorite books as “insurance” in case I loaned a copy to my half-sister (who is notorious for borrowing books and not returning them in a timely manner) and never got it back, or if some unforeseen disaster occurred and the books in question were damaged or destroyed.

And, of course, there’s the rare occasion when I impulsively buy a book that is both irresistible because of its topic and/or content and impractical due to its size and weight (not to mention its price).

A cool book this is, yes. But drop it on your foot you must not. – Master Yoda (probably) (Photo by the author)

That’s what happened to me a little over two years ago when I ordered the massive original edition of Taschen’s The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005, Paul Duncan’s oral history of how George Lucas ushered in the age of digital cinema with the Star Wars prequel trilogy (Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith between 1999 and 2005.

The original oversized edition of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005, which Duncan co-wrote with Colin Odell and Michelle Le Blanc, is hands down the biggest, heaviest book in my personal library. As I wrote in my review of that tome:

The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 is, at $200, the most expensive book in my library. It’s also the biggest and heaviest single-volume work that I own, and because it is a limited First Edition (my copy is # 6970), reading it is more of a challenge than the 40th Anniversary edition of Duncan’s The Star Wars Archives: Episodes IV-VI, 1977-1983 which is a downsized but unabridged version of the 2018 book about the Original Trilogy.

Printed and manufactured in Italy for Taschen, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 is a large-format (it measures 19.09 x 2.87 x 13.39 inches) “coffee table” book. It weighs 15.21 pounds and is made from top-quality materials, including a red clothbound hardcover with the book title done in what looks to be gold leaf. It has 600 pages, but not all of them comprise the main narrative of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005.

From the Book’s Publisher’s Blurb

The Taschen 40 edition contains the same text and graphics as the 2021 Collector’s Edition. (Image Credit: Taschen Books)

From the moment Star Wars burst onto the screen in 1977, audiences have been in equal parts fascinated and appalled by the half-man/half-machine hybrid Darth Vader. In 1999, creator George Lucas began the story of how Anakin Skywalker grew up to train as a Jedi under Obi-Wan Kenobi, found love with the Queen of Naboo, Padmé Amidala, before turning to the dark side of his nature and becoming more machine than man.

After driving the development of nascent digital technology, George Lucas perceived how he could create new creatures and new worlds on a grander scale than ever before. He created the first digital blockbuster, and met fierce resistance when he pushed for widespread digital cameras, sets, characters, and projection – all of which are now used throughout the industry. He essentially popularized the modern way of making movies.

Made with the full cooperation of George Lucas and Lucasfilm, this second volume covers the making of the prequel trilogy ― Episode I The Phantom Menace, Episode II Attack of the Clones, and Episode III Revenge of the Sith ― and features exclusive interviews with Lucas and his collaborators. The book is profusely illustrated with script pages, production documents, concept art, storyboards, on-set photography, stills, and posters.

Coolness vs. Practicality

A video review of the Collector’s Limited Edition from Sideshow Collectibles’ YouTube channel.

I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I have a hard time reading a book that weighs 15.21 pounds and is way bigger than your average coffee table-type volume.[1] I have quite a few of those books in my collection, and even though they’re larger than your run-of-the-mill hardcover book, they don’t require you to have the musculature of Arnold Schwarzenegger to lift it or to wear good, solid footwear in case it slips from your fingers and lands on your toes – hard.

Do you want to know how many times I’ve perused the original Collector’s Edition of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 since I wrote my review? None.

That’s right, none. As in “zero,” “zilch,” “zip,” “naught,” and “nada.”

You could, of course, argue that I wasted $200 on a book that no one ever reads, but then again, I’m the kind of person who buys Star Wars The Black Series action figures and – with rare exceptions – keeps them in their original packaging.

A Rare Exception: My Star Wars The Black Series 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack display stand. It came with the 40th Anniversary figure of Darth Vader; I had to buy the other 11 figures to complete the display.

Fortunately, Taschen often offers more compact hardcover editions of its “premium” collector’s edition titles; before I ordered the Death Star-sized (okay, it’s not that big, but still…) edition of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005, I bought – on Amazon, of course – the Taschen 40 compact edition of the previous volume, The Star Wars Archives: Episodes IV-VI, 1977-1983 as a “Christmas present from me to me” in my first post-breakup holiday season in that anno horriblis that was 2020.  

When I realized, lo, two years ago, that I wasn’t going to browse through the biggest book in my collection as often as I was doing with the handier Taschen 40 edition of the book about the original trilogy from 1977-1983, I swore that I’d buy a similar compact edition of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005 whenever Taschen published one.

Well, on January 27, 2023, Taschen did just that – it rolled out a smaller but more accessible edition of a beautifully-designed, well-written book that covers every aspect of the making of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith at a price that many readers can afford.

Further into the book: a look at digital production paintings done for Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Image Credit: Taschen Books

Since I am a Star Wars nerd – I’ve been a fan of the franchise since I was 14, after all – and because I have enjoyed the compact edition of The Star Wars Archives: Episodes IV-VI, 1977-1983, I purchased the Taschen 40 edition of the book about the prequels in late February. I hesitated at first; it will be one more thing to pack in the inevitable exodus from my current abode to my new “digs” in Brandon, and it did cost $27.99 (plus Florida sales tax), but my 60th birthday was looming in the horizon. I have a habit of buying stuff that I’d have gotten from my late mother as gifts on special occasions, and I had promised myself I’d buy it – if only to be able to read it without giving myself a hernia or dropping the BIG BOOK on my foot.   

Trust me on this. A book that measures 6.5 x 1.4 x 8.8 inches and weighs ‎ 2.56 pounds is easier to carry (and read) than one with the same content but is 19.09 x 2.87 x 13.39 inches in size and weighs 15.21 pounds. It’s easier to handle, you can read it anywhere – even on a bus, if necessary – and, of course, it’s far more affordable than its larger, older Taschen Collector’s Limited-Edition precursor.

[1] In all honesty, though, sometimes (mainly when I’m not at my best, emotionally), I will go to Amazon and “window shop” at the product page of Taschen’s Collector’s Edition of The Star Wars Archive: Episodes IV-VI, 1977-1983. If I wasn’t on the brink of moving to Brandon, and if I wasn’t on a fixed income, I might consider treating myself to a copy. Then I remember that I will move sometime in 2023 – which means packing, which means more stress – and that I am on a fixed income….


Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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