'Star Wars' Fan Trailer Brings Ralph McQuarrie's Concept Art to Life
You can never have too much Star Wars. While the world is getting excited about the long-awaited release of The Last Jedi, some fans of George Lucas' space saga have been wondering how this franchise would look if it had taken a very different turn at the initial pre-production phase.
A lot of the designs that we've come to know and love originate in concept artwork for the movie from legendary movie artist Ralph McQuarrie. In fact, it's safe to say that without McQuarrie's artwork, there might never have been a Star Wars in the first place - George Lucas loved telling the story of how, in order to get a movie studio to greenlight his ridiculous Flash Gordon homage, he commissioned McQuarrie to create a series of paintings to show off what the film would look like when it was finished.
Now, students at the Digital Animation and Visual Effects (DAVE) school in Orlando, Florida have taken it upon themselves to recreate McQuarrie's iconic work in live-action, creating a look at what Star Wars might have been if George Lucas had gone with that earlier version of his story:
It was McQuarrie who first thought that Darth Vader ought to wear an imposing black helmet rather than just having his face on display, and C-3P0 actor Anthony Daniels has stated that the first time he really got a feel for how important Star Wars would become was when he was looking at a forlorn golden robot crossing a bright desert in one of McQuarrie's paintings.
A lot of elements from McQuarrie's original artwork didn't make it into the final cut of the movie, and these paintings represent a snapshot of an earlier point in the film's development. Pictures show off a female Luke Skywalker, and a Han Solo who was also a version of Chewbacca, big and hairy. Obi-Wan was less of a wise teacher and more of a washed-up old military general.
The movie lacked a lot of its iconic Hero's Journey monomyth archetypal story, and as such, McQuarrie's paintings give a tantalizing look at a Star Wars which features characters and a plot that are almost unrecognizable, even if a lot of the visuals on display ultimately made it into the final movie.
The special effects in this fan trailer aren't perfect - this is a student piece, after all, and is designed around learning to work with green screens and computer composites - but nonetheless, the trailer catches the essence of McQuarrie's work, and shows just how much extra meat there is on these bones that haven't yet been exploited by the endless stream of sequels and spin-off movies.
Of course, plenty of elements from McQuarrie's paintings that are on display in the trailer will probably look very familiar to fans of the wider Star Wars canon. Artists and storytellers working on official Star Wars media have been mining these pictures for decades now.
The trailer's brash, bearded lightsaber-wielding hero bears more than a passing resemblance to Kyle Katarn, the hero of the Jedi Knight video games. McQuarrie's original Han Solo design was also used for the character of Garazeb "Zeb" Orrelios in the Rebels animated series, and the original Millennium Falcon became the basis of a red Republic cruiser that gets blown up at the beginning of The Phantom Menace.
For those who really love this art style, Dark Horse even created a miniseries of comics titled The Star Wars which marries McQuarrie's art style with George Lucas' original script for his space opera. The storytelling in the comic isn't perfect, but the artwork looks utterly gorgeous.
Ralph McQuarrie casts a long shadow in the world of Star Wars, and looking at the trailer from the students at DAVE, it's hard not to get wistful when thinking about what amazing stories could have been told, had the original sci-fi blockbuster adhered a little more closely to its concept art.