Book Review: Brian Jay Jones’ George Lucas, A Life (2016) does justice to the creator of Star Wars

Following on from documenting the life of the great Jim Henson, author Brian Jay Jones has given us another comprehensive biography, (and international best seller), this time of Star Wars creator George Lucas in George Lucas, A Life.

George Lucas, A Life opens in March 1976 with Lucas having a tough time filming in Tunisia with robots, R2D2, C-3PO and other cast members from Star Wars (SW Episode IV). This mini prologue shows how this could have been the end of Star Wars, but Lucas, ever the sedulous person, kept persuing his dream and this book takes us along that journey.

The book travels through sections that are marked by years, starting at 1944-1973. Growing up in Modesto, California, Lucas Jnr found comics a joy. He didn’t like school, his father was strict and their relationship was a little tumultuous until Lucas’s dreams paid off. He didn’t want to follow in his Dad’s footsteps by taking over the stationary company, so instead Lucas went to USC (University of Southern California) to study cinematography by chance. It was there Lucas flourished and discovered how much he loved editing and making movies, although editing is his main preference.

Jay Jones also details how Lucas went out on his own to create Lucasfilm, a pivotal point in his career (Lucas never wanted to engage in Hollywood). And by doing things his own way, he had enormous impact not only on directing, but also on cinematic sound as well, thanks to his special effects workshop, Industrial Light & Magic. You start to get a few glimpses of Star Wars early on in his career and maybe feel tense, as I did, reading about the issues Star Wars encountered, and how it affected Lucas’ health.

The creation of Skywalker lodge, Labyrinth, his up and down relationship with Coppola, Captain EO, Easy Rider, American Graffiti and Indiana Jones are just some more of the interesting reads along this book’s journey. Jay Jones brings this length book to a finish with Lucas selling the Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise to Disney in 2012 for 4.05 billion.

Jay Jones has spent three years researching, going through many old interviews and papers, spending hours in archives at various libraries to put together this book for us all to enjoy. And it’s one that covers as much about Lucas as Jones could dig up. It serves as a reminder to all, the size of Lucas’ contribution to popular culture.

I’m not a huge fan of biographies, I prefer autobiographies, but Brian Jay Jones seems to do Lucas justice, bringing forth a multitude of quotes and anecdotes either from Lucas himself, or from competitors, colleagues, family and friends. This is the only thing lacking with a biography, everything you’ll read is based of what Jones has researched and not of Lucas’s own words. But, this book is still an amazing effort, well put together and a fantastic starting point and insight into the beginnings of Lucasfilm. Jay Jones doesn’t just embellish the good points, he also displays the challenging, complicated and sceptical sides of Lucas. Lucas the recluse as well as Lucas the friend to Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Ron Howard (just to name few). There aren’t too many photos of Star Wars included so don’t buy it for the pictures, buy it instead for an insight into the man, the building of an empire and a comprehensive look into the legend of Lucasfilm. There will never be another George Lucas.

“Oh we’ve got a live one here”

George Lucas, A Life is available now through Hachette Australia at RRP $35.00.

RIP Carrie Fisher