On approximately the same day that The Force Awakens returned cinematic Star Wars to the world, a slew of The Force Awakens merchandise hit the shelves, virtual and real across the world. One such product was the Star Wars: The Force Awakens the Visual Dictionary, authored by Pablo Hidalgo and published by DK Children. It’s one of a series of DK produced guides to the Star Wars universe, such as the Ultimate Star Wars and another TFA timed released, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections. In the Visual Dictionary, the worlds, characters, ships and more from the film are displayed with varying lengths of information, some brief and some a bit more. It’s also truly indispensable for those who need to know everything they can about The Force Awakens universe from the opening crawl to the concluding credits.
For approximately 80 pages, the Visual Dictionary packs a hard informative punch concerning both major characters and characters who failed to even make it into the film, such as Constable Zuvio, the closest to law enforcement one can find at Niima Outpost on Jakku. For the major characters, such as Kylo Ren, Rey, or Finn, they are often the recipients of at least two pages or more. The less relevant to the greater story, obviously, the less space given on a page, such as dignitaries who were killed on Hosnian Prime, members of the New Republic Senate (including the chancellor) don’t find much attention. At the same time, both the gangs who showed up on Han Solo’s ship and became potential rathtar chow, are provided two full pages to offer insight into their past and present operations. The two major powers from the movie, the Resistance and the First Order, are given several pages each and provide everything from ranks and insignia to common droids employed by each. There are also the weapons and ships.
If you can shoot it or wield it, including food preparation tools, then it’s probably given at least a name if not a little information about it. The big star, in terms of weapons, is Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, which is given a splashy display and provided such details as to the origin of its design and why its blade is jagged and seemingly a bit unstable (it’s all in the crystal). There is also information about Rey’s staff to the cobbled together weapons of the Kanjiklub, which reflect their own rise to power out of an enslaved service to the criminal syndicates of the Hutts. The crafts and ships of the movie are provided their own spaces, though obviously, more time and space is set aside for them in the aforementioned Cross-Sections publication.
One might ask, well, are you going to share the information provided in your review? The answer is no, disappointing perhaps, but as a matter of practicality, there’s simply too much. The Visual Dictionary does provide some helpful background and answers to questions that come up when you start analyzing events and characters from the film, but then, so does other Expanded Universe materials, such as Before the Awaken or the novelization of the film. For those who want these answers, they most likely are already at a point where they would enjoy reading and owning the Visual Dictionary, rather than simply read a distillation by someone else. There are no major complaints to be fielded from the publication, though some tidbits appear intended to fill up blank space, such as describing Finn’s face as “Fierce devotion to newfound friends,” or information that Poe Dameron’s hair is messed from him having worn his flight helmet. Do they detract from the enjoyment? Not at all, but their presence do make you wonder what the point of their inclusion is.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens the Visual Dictionary, by Pablo Hidalgo, is a must read for anyone who wants to explore the people, events, and worlds of the film beyond what a viewing allows. It will broaden an appreciation for the movie, but is not necessary to enjoy it, either. Another fantastic aspect is the price, which generally floats between $12 to $16 from a variety of vendors, making it not just an affordable must have, but a steal for the amount of content for the price. If you are interested in the Expanded Universe in the least and want to scratch the surface of The Force Awakens, then the Visual Dictionary is a must buy, and one well worth the money.