I read Brian Jay Jones’ biography of Jim Henson when it first came out and found myself captivated. Jones conveyed Henson’s passion for his work and his joie de vivre. When I saw that Jones had written a book about George Lucas, I was cautiously optimistic. I was interested to see what somebody with Jones’ talent could do with one of the most influential filmmakers in history. On the other hand, I wondered if the world really needed another biography of George Lucas.
After reading the book, I’ve concluded that the world probably didn’t need another biography of Lucas. Jones doesn’t bring anything new to our understanding of Lucas. In other words, if you’re an obsessive Star Wars/Lucas fan, have read previous Lucas biographies, and/or follow Lucas-related news, you probably won’t learn anything new in this book. On the other hand, if you don’t know much about Lucas and want to learn more, Jones’ book is a good place to start. This book is a useful single-volume account of George Lucas’ life.
To be sure, there are already enough books about the making of the original Star Wars films to fill a small library. Dale Pollock’s “Skywalking” is still widely considered the most authoritative biography of Lucas’ life up through the mid-1980s. J.W. Rinzler’s “Making of…” books are the definitive account of the making of the Star Wars films. There aren’t as many sources covering the later stages of Lucas’ career, including the Prequels and sale of Lucasfilm to Disney. Jones’ book does cover this period of Lucas’ life, but not in nearly the same amount of detail as the original trilogy era. So it’s admittedly hard for a biography to find anything new to say about Lucas, and Jones doesn’t really succeed in doing so.
Where Jones does succeed is in synthesizing the existing sources and knowledge about Lucas into a readable single volume. Unlike most books about George Lucas, Jones’ “George Lucas” is very much a biography of the man and not just an account of the making of Star Wars. The book covers everything from Lucas’ parents to “Strange Magic,” the last movie Lucas produced (as of early 2017).
Jones also has a gift for presenting Lucas as a human being, which is no small feat considering the extent to which the man who has been mythologized over the decades (in no small part due to Lucas’ own efforts). Jones’ Lucas is the same introvert familiar to Star Wars fans, but also a loving father and a helpless romantic. One of the most interesting parts of Jones’ account is Lucas’ relationship with Mellody Hobson. Jones conveys the romance in a way that seldom comes out in other sources.
That said, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed by Jones’ book, largely because my expectations were so high after reading Jones’ Henson biography. When Jones described the art of puppetry in his Henson biography, I gained a newfound appreciation for the art form. By contrast, Jones doesn’t seem to have as much passion for Lucas or Star Wars. I never felt excited when reading about Lucas’ innovations in filmmaking or digital art.
Ultimately, I feel like this book might have been written a bit too early. It can’t stand the test of time as a single-volume biography of Lucas if only because Lucas himself is still alive and his story is not yet over (he vows to make more movies, including Indiana Jones 5). Then again, perhaps I’m not the target audience. This book should prove very useful to new Lucas fans, those who only tuned in to the Star Wars franchise with the release of “The Force Awakens.” And, as an introduction to Lucas’ life, Jones’ book works well.
[Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]