In 1973, a young filmmaker named George Lucas scribbled some notes for a far-fetched space-fantasy epic. More than 40 years and $37 billion later, Star Wars-related products outnumber human beings, a stormtrooper army spans the globe, and “Jediism” has become a religion in its own right. Lucas’s creation has grown into far more than a cinematic classic; it is, quite simply, one of the most lucrative, influential, and interactive franchises of all time. Yet until now the complete history of Star Wars - its influences and impact, the controversies it has spawned, its financial growth and long-term prospects - has never been told.
In How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, veteran journalist Chris Taylor traces the series from the difficult birth of the original film through its sequels, the franchise’s death and rebirth, the prequels, and the preparations for a new trilogy. Taylor provides portraits of the friends, writers, artists, producers, and marketers who labored behind the scenes to turn Lucas’s idea into a legend. He also jousts with modern-day Jedi, tinkers with droid builders, and gets inside Boba Fett’s helmet, all to find out how Star Wars has attracted and inspired so many fans for so long.
Since the first film’s release in 1977, Taylor shows, Star Wars has conquered our culture with a sense of lightness and exuberance, while remaining serious enough to influence politics around the world and spread a spirituality that appeals to religious groups and atheists alike. Controversial digital upgrades and critically savaged prequels have actually made the franchise stronger than ever. Now, with a new set of savvy bosses holding the reins and Episode VII on the horizon, it looks like Star Wars is just getting started.
An energetic, fast-moving account of this creative and commercial phenomenon, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe explains how a filmmaker’s fragile dream beat out a surprising number of rivals and gained a die-hard, multigenerational fan base - and why it will be galvanizing our imaginations and minting money for generations to come.
©2014 Chris Taylor (P)2014 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
When I first heard about Chris Taylor’s book, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, I was hesitant to pick it up. After all, I’d read just about all the biographies on George Lucas I could find and considered myself an amateur expert on the history of the film franchise. Ever since my brother and I sat on the floor of the Portland Public library and watched a behind the scenes documentary on the making of the original movie, I was fascinated by the world building behind the movie that’s my earliest memory. What could this book possibly tell me I didn’t already know? It turns out, quite a lot.
Taylor’s book opens up with a trip he took to a reservation where Star Wars is about to be screened for the very first time dubbed in the Navajo language. This is one small glimpse of the effort he’s gone to get the true story of the film franchise. Taylor doesn’t just reprint old answers to questions. He digs deeper, sometime uncomfortably pestering people – such as the case of Darth Vader actor David Prowse (now suffering from dementia) – in order to reconcile lingering questions about what really happened.
Taylor painstakingly traces the evolution of Star Wars script in its many, many iterations; the earliest of which are barely recognizable. For aspiring writers or creators it’s worth reading the book for this alone. Seeing how truly bad the greatest narrative franchise could have been (and never reaching the screen), reinforces the fact that great works don’t come from sudden flashes of brilliance, but is an agonizing process of reiteration after iteration.
Unlike Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs that felt like it was written by a very reluctant writer who never really understood his subject and glossed over pivotal points in his life because they didn’t fit the narrative he’d predetermined, Taylor’s story is genuine. While at the onset we know it’s about Star Wars, and really Lucas, our understanding of the man grows deeper as we follow the creation of his empire. Lucas’s strengths and flaws are on full display, but we come away loving him all the more for what he achieved. He’s not a mythic god that conjured up Star Wars at the snap of his fingers. As Taylor shows, when Lucas tried to capture that magic again, with his heart a less into it and without the enthusiastic help of his peers, we got the prequels.
The story that unfolds isn’t just a play-by-play of how the films were made. Besides Lucas’s journey, Taylor reveals the cultural impact and tells the stories of fans who walked out of the theaters changed by what they’d seen. For example, we get an inside look of the 501st, one of the largest costumed organization in the world, that’s gone from being a lone man in a Stormtrooper suit to a global organization that’s been ambassadors for Lucasfilm and appeared in everything from car commercials to escorting their spiritual creator, George Lucas in parades. We meet R2D2 builder clubs and find out how a couple of fans found their way to working on the set of Episode 7.
Taylor analyzes why Star Wars fandom is special. While Harry Potter devotees (such as myself) may feel the same way towards Hogwarts as our own alma maters, there’s something about that galaxy far, far away that draws us back again and again.
He covers an impressive amount of ground in the Star Wars universe: Everything from the Alan Dean Foster Splinter in the Mind’s Eye novel in the 1970’s that could have been the movie we got in an alternate universe where Star Wars was a mediocre success, to the launch of the new Star Wars cartoon series, Rebels. Taylor digs up the fullest accounting of the Star Wars Holiday Special I’ve heard to date (It was originally conceived as a backdoor pilot for a television series!).
I recommend this book with the utmost amount of enthusiasm. Even if you have no interest in the Star Wars, but consider yourself a creator, it’s a wonderful biography of one of the most successful filmmakers of all time with a detailed behind the scenes analysis. As a historical biography, it’s probably the most well-written, originally researched one I can recall. It’s one thing to dig up interviews from old copies of Starlog magazine, it’s another level of dedication entirely for an author to put on a Boba Fett suit and stroll through a convention and see the fan reaction firsthand.
I’m excited to see what Chris Taylor writes next, even if it has nothing to do with wookies or galaxies far, far away.
Nick Podehl's reading is fantastic.
The small, small print…My one tiny note, and it’s a very minor one at that, is a chapter towards the end. Taylor mentions George Lucas’s wish that Star Wars would inspire a generation to want to explore space and claims that it fell short of that. While he explains NASA’s malaise of purpose, he overlooks the exciting things happening in the private space industry in conjunction with NASA. When Lucas expressed his hope that a young Star Wars fan would grow up to colonize Mars and “try to find a wookie,” I was expecting Taylor to mention SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk. Musk, is a huge Star Wars fan, not only has he expressed a desire to colonize Mars and dedicated his fortune to that purpose, the rocket he currently sends to resupply the International Space Station is called the Falcon, as in the Millenium Falcon. Think on this for a moment: Elon Musk is a privateer doing cargo runs with a ship called the Falcon. Two weeks from this writing, Musk plans to try to land the first stage of the Falcon on a barge, making it reusable. What does he call the four stabilizers that pop out for landing? X-Wings. You can’t find a greater example of fandom than a man naming his billion-dollar rocket fleet after the Millenium Falcon and developing X-Wings to make the dream of reusable spacecraft a reality. This is just a footnote I’d add to an amazing book.
I really enjoyed the content of the book and the performance as well. Lots of information I had heard or read previously but there was also a lot of new content. Loved the fan input about the 501st the R2 builder club.
I know this is a strange title for a non-fiction book, but there is definitely a sense of suspense that precedes you in the entire book. If you've ever been curious about who George Lucas really is and how he works, this is a good taste without having to dig into a serious biography. The rest of the book is focused on Star Wars and how it became what it is, both good and bad, and the author keeps a fairly neutral point of view for fairness sake.
Great job Chris, and incredible narration Nick!!
The introduction to this chapter is very telling. This is not a book about George Lucas, this is a book about a cultural phenomenon. Taylor gives as much reverence to the fans, the co-creators and the John Does who just happens to pass in the way as to George Lucas himself.
Sometimes it's clear that Taylor gives voice to his own subjective opinions but since they equally gives praise and criticism I found it welcome.
I was raised with Star Wars during the 80's but never expressed my fandom in an organized way. As many other fans of the original trilogy I started to loose interest after the prequels. This book helped me gain some perspective on my own feelings and opinions about Star Wars.
Excellent history and good companion piece to the Secret History of Star Wars. As it was written recently it also includes information updated regarding the recent sale to Disney. Very nice storytelling that keeps you engaged.
It exceeded my expectations. The author does an amazing job of making it into a story, instead of the feel of a textbook. You can tell it is something that he loves.
The narrator is just as outstanding as the author. You feel like you're talking with a friend
"The story telling is strong in this one"
I somewhat expected a much more dry description of dates and facts, and was very pleasantly surprised by the great story telling in the tale of how a novice filmmaker, ended up creating the cultural juggernaut that Star Wars has been for the last 30+ years
The performance was exceptional...providing a little theatrics when appropriate, but not so much as to detract from the storytelling. The story was well-read and the performance added to the tale.
If I were on a road trip, this would definitely be an audiobook I would listen to in one go.
The book is a very entertaining and informative read on the history of Star Wars
I should preface my comments with the fact that while somewhat a fan of Star Wars (primarily of the original trilogy), I am by no means a 'fanboy', although I often walk in fanboy circles ( I work in the tech industry and there are any number of desks of my friends and colleagues that are covered in Star Wars paraphernalia)
That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, from beginning to end. To be honest, far more than I expected to. In terms of the history and creation of the movies, the book confirmed some things I had long assumed about the movies and George Lucas' concepts about them, however it surprised me about other things I didn't know about both how the movies came to be (and how big, or not so big a part Lucas, noted as "The Creator", played in what finally ended up on screen) has certainly cleared up a lot of my 'wtf?' questions about those darned prequels.
Best of all, it was very entertaining and well-written read. It took the details and gave them context and managed to put all of the disparate parts into a narrative that was as enjoyable to read as it was informative. I started off expecting to learn a little bit by reading what I assumed might be a somewhat dry tome of dates and factoids and by the end I was thoroughly entertained (um, maybe even more than I was when I watched "The Phantom Menace" - at least this had an interesting storyline and characters I could relate to..) as well as informed. When I finally finished and put the book down, I was very well satisfied and felt I had read a good story, well told.
I'm not a Star Wars fan but I heard this was highly recommended....it was great to learn the history of how the story became and how it changed the world ...
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
The story of Star Wars from the beginning, its flaws, its characters, and its struggles up to the Disney acquisition made watching the trilogy starting from Episode 7 an even more delightful experience. Definitely a journey I would recommend. I just hope they do an updated version of the book a few years after the sequel trilogy is over.
"Wow wee......what a ride! & most enjoyable"
Great insight of the universe that is star wars.....facts and fun aside a true learning experience thanks
Thoroughly enjoyable and listen. Great narration. Thought I knew everything about Star Wars but was delighted to find out I didn't.
"Absolute must for Star Wars fans"
I downloaded this not expecting much. Most behind the scenes stories or histories of film making tend to be a bit dull. This was not dull.
Lots of hype, disappointment, and some unfriendliness are all highlighted in this story.
It is a fantastic listen with some cleaver voice interpretations of people along the way.
"Incredible story of how Star Wars came to be"
The incredible story of how George Lucas came to father the greatest space saga ever and fight to forever change Hollywood's studio system in the process. This Audiobook also takes an in depth look at the legalities which plagued Lucas throughout his career and how he overcame to become the most successful independent film maker to date. The book also covers the making of Lucas early film projects, the original Star Wars trilogy, the prequels and a look at the fan community.
"extraordinary...to a layman. To a fan? mesmerizing"
A wonderfully fascinating potted history of the movies the world has come to know, whether it wants to or not. for the first time the magnitude of the Star Wars universe here in earth is described in words and jaw dropping figures.
To a fan this book is utterly compelling, i smiled at old memories that are now shared with a billion others and grinned inanely at the rising anticipation the book gently builds up to for the forthcoming episode 7.
"The history of Star Wars in 20hrs! Great value for money"
This unauthorised history of The Star Wars franchise and its creator George Lucas. Taylor's look at how Lucas rose to fame and in doing so created the greatest movie franchise in history comes across as more subjective than the authorised 'Making of..." books which in itself makes for an interesting read. The book covers everything from Lucas' formative years through both star wars trilogies, divorce and selling of franchise lock, stock to Disney.
The story covers alot of the motivation behind Lucas' decisions with historical referencing as well as accounts from friends, colleagues, cast & crew creates a varied and in-depth picture as the story unfolds. The novel gives alternative views and explanations compared to Lucasfilms own accounts and also takes alook at the whole of Fandom. Including the formation and motivation of fan groups such as the 501st, and the controversy behind the fans reactions to the release of the Star Wars prequels.
Keeping in mind the books running time is 20hrs Podehl's narration keeps it interesting, at times adding extra emphasis and emotion into his delivery to get the authors (and contributors) thoughts across helps to get the intended tone of the prose across.
It was a very interesting listen and one i hope to revisit. Loads and loads of facts
This is the most up to date recount of Lucas, and Lucasfilm and an interesting look at all corners of the star wars franchise.
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