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Review: Star Wars: Empire of Dreams (2004)

Star Wars: Empire of Dreams (2004)

Directed by: Kevin Burns

Premise: A documentary about the making of the original Star Wars films.

What Works: The film starts by historicizing Star Wars in American culture of the 1970s and this helps an audience that is now saturated with science fiction films to understand how Star Wars was significant. It also explores the behind the scenes business deals that George Lucas made with 20th Century Fox. This is very important to understanding how the studio system works and the kind of controls studios continue to exert on productions. In addition we do get to see alternate takes, behind the scenes footage, and special effects tests. These things are all presented in a narrative form that keeps it entertaining.

What Doesn’t: When the film discuses the legacy of Star Wars it occasionally comes across a little too pompous. Compared to the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes (available on the thirty-fifth anniversary edition of Planet of the Apes) or the documentaries on the Alien Quadrilogy box set, there is a reluctance to discuss some of the faults of the series, particularly in Return of the Jedi, or the controversy of the 1997 special editions.

Bottom Line: For Star Wars fans who have closely followed the series over the years there is not much here that is news, but the film does summarize the making of the saga very well. There is a dramatic structure to this documentary that makes it both entertaining and informative.

Episode: #20 (September 26, 2004)