If Jedi Master Yoda ambled into a Barnes & Noble right about now and saw the piles and piles of books spun out of Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, he might burble, ”Begun this cash-in has.”
Despite stories about how the Lucasfilm marketing machine is easing up on the gas pedal after overkill on Episode I three years ago, a search on Amazon.com shows that, at least in the print-tie-in department, it’s business as usual: There are at least 18 Clones clones available.
At their worst, the latest wave of printed Star Wars byproducts really are offal — and awful. Take the best-selling so-called novelization by R. A. Salvatore (Del Rey/LucasBooks, $26), which reads like a mawkish, masturbatory fan-website fever dream interrupted by cut-and-pasted, word-for-word swatches of the screenplay (by George Lucas and Jonathan Hales). It’s the worst of several worlds: The movie’s often flat-footed dialogue alternates with descriptions like ”There was no hiding the frustration in Obi-Wan’s voice.” Also in the Bantha-poodoo class are shovelware titles aimed at kids, from Scholastic — dreck like Boba Fett: The Fight to Survive ($9.95) and Jedi Quest: The Trail of the Jedi ($4.99).
Just as in 1999, the wretched written stuff is far outshone by lavish picture books that celebrate the real stars of Star Wars, the production designers. The Art of Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones (Del Rey, $35) makes for a good browse, though these days, digital effects are so good there’s little difference between the concept sketches and the finished film images, so there’s little developmental drama. The titles that rise highest above cross-promotional ephemera come from DK Publishing. Attack of the Clones: Incredible Cross-Sections ($19.99) lives up to its immodest title, with insanely intricate illustrations of battle-scene vehicles that feel like porno for Pentagon staffers. This is what Dr. Strangelove keeps on his nightstand. Even better, Attack of the Clones: The Visual Dictionary ($19.99) tidily sums up the movie’s murkier plot points with witty explications about warring factions in the crumbling Old Republic. If you don’t know Count Dooku from Mace Windu, this is your one-stop A to Z.