Nov/Dec 2005 Issue

Writing a book about but a single arm of George Lucas' Lucasfilm production company would seem to be a reasonable enough task, but in the case of DROIDMAKER, author Michael Rubin has to trace not only Lucas' early film career and the formative events that caused him to construct a well-defended fortress far outside Hollywood, but also Lucasfilm's Computer Division, the development of computer generated imagery, and its ultimate impact on the entire spectrum of entertainment from movies to videogames as well as advances in medical imaging, communications... all that just so the director could finally get Jar Jar Binks up there on the big screen where he belonged. Rubin's book is incredibly detailed, discursive and eye-opening, making Lucas' shadow loom large over the world of contemporary media whether you liked Star Wars prequels or not. The author involves Francis Ford Coppola, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, Michael Crichton, Atari, Sun Microsystems, AOL, Pixar and more while occupying a middle ground between the Lucas-sanctioned hagiography of Marcus Hearn's The Cinema of George Lucas and the no-holds barred approach of Dale Pollock's Skywalking. Surprisingly, the three Star Wars prequels, seemingly the raison d'etre for Lucas' groundbreaking push into the world of digital filmmaking in the first place, only rate a brief epilogue in the book: for Rubin, the real story is the paper trail of events and technological developments that led to their being possible in the first place.

(Four and a half stars) - J.R.