Friday, May 25, 2007

A Long Time Ago…


Exactly 30 years ago today, Star Wars was released in only 32 theaters.

And subsequently
changed the world.

In celebration of not only the 30th anniversary of Star Wars but also the
Star Wars Blog-A-Thon, which is being hosted by our very good friend Edward Copeland, I thought I’d have a little fun and talk about the early drafts of Star Wars.

Thus, I tried my very best to read all six drafts -
May 1974, July 1974, January 1975, August 1975, January 1976, and February 1977. Yeah, that was a bit much. Each one of those suckers is filled with about 30,000 words.

So I’d like to concentrate on the very first draft, which was titled simply The Star Wars. (Lucas would go on to title later drafts Star Wars: Adventures of the Starkiller, God help us all, but thankfully, he came to his senses and in the end stuck with Star Wars: A New Hope.)

Let it be said, my friends, that the early drafts of Star Wars should be a rich source of encouragement to every aspiring screenwriter the world over - because they royally sucked. They are of the same low, amateurish quality that may be found in many first screenplays written by newbies on
TriggerStreet. (Thus, many scripts and new writers have the potential to reach Star Wars heights.) Had Star Wars never happened, had Lucas uploaded his first draft onto TriggerStreet, and had he theoretically asked me to review his script for him, I’m not sure I could’ve even finished reading the darn thing.

His first version only vaguely resembles the final film that we all know and love. There is an Empire. There is a rebellion. There’s a princess. There are themes of tyranny verses democracy, which are mostly verbalized through somewhat preachy dialogue. There are characters who are called Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, etc, but the similarities end there. It is one thing to create from scratch a magnificent fictional universe, and it is quite another to create an effective story that sucks an audience into that world and makes them care about those characters and the conflict.

Let’s compare the opening scenes of the 1974 draft vs. the 1977 draft.

The 1974 draft opens with a shot of space and “the vast blue surface of the planet, Utapau. Five small moons slowly drift into view from the far side of the planet.”

The main titles roll-up:


“Until the recent Great Rebellion, the Jedi Bendu were the most feared warriors in the universe. For one hundred thousand years, generations of Jedi perfected their art as the personal bodyguards of the emperor. They were the chief architects of the invincible Imperial Space Force which expanded the Empire across the galaxy, from the celestial equator to the farthest reaches of the Great Rift.

Now these legendary warriors are all but extinct. One by one they have been hunted down and destroyed as enemies of the New Empire by a ferocious and sinister rival warrior sect, the Knights of Sith.”


And then:

A small silver spacecraft emerges from behind one of the Utapau moons. The deadly little fightercraft speeds past several of the moons, until it finally goes into orbit around the fourth moon.

Now consider the 1977 version:

First, the roll-up:

“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy...”

And then the action:

The awesome yellow planet of Tatooine emerges from a total eclipse, her two moons glowing against the darkness. A tiny silver spacecraft, a Rebel Blockade Runner firing lasers from the back of the ship, races through space. It is pursed by a giant Imperial Stardestroyer. Hundreds of deadly laserbolts streak from the Imperial Stardestroyer, causing the main solar fin of the Rebel craft to disintegrate.



The first is just setting and backstory. And it’s boring. The second is setting, backstory, establishes the conflict, and then we’re thrown right into action with this little spacecraft being chased down by a giant Imperial Stardestroyer. It also sets up better the expectation of the thrills to come and makes a very clear visual statement.

Of this statement, I loved what Barry Toffoli said at
Scanners:

“Star Wars" opens with a shot of space and the soft sound of John Williams score, then the shot shifts to a planet. So right away we know we’re in for adventure on foreign soil, in outer space no less. Then a small vessel comes from the top of the screen. This is quickly followed by a series of blasts as the score turns into that famous booming on sound, akin to Gustav Holst’s ‘Mars’ [from "The Planets"]. This is all quickly followed by the enormously famous and copied shot of a behemoth star cruiser coming in from the top of the screen and going on forever. It doesn’t take long to figure out that this story is a tale of good versus evil, the little guy getting bullied by the big guy. Even the planet in the shot plays into the theme, representing a new undiscovered world a new hope for freedom and life. But we know the journey will be hard as the star cruiser looms over everything from the rebel ship to the planet below to the audience watching it in the theatre.


Following the opening sequence (in the first draft), we find ourselves on the wastelands of the fourth moon called Utapau with an 18-year-old Annikin Starkiller (who would eventually become Luke Skywalker). He’s wearing a “breath mask” and “goggles.” He’s surveying something with his “electrobinoculars.” He runs home. We’re introduced to his younger brother, Deak, and his father, Kane Starkiller, who is a master Jedi. The three go out into the wasteland together to investigate a Sith spacecraft that had landed nearby. His father leaves the boys to get a closer look. While he’s gone a “sinister Sith warrior” attacks Annikin and Deak. “Laserswords” are drawn. The Sith kills Deak. And just when Annikin is about to die, he is saved by his father. (All of this business about Jedis and Siths and laserswords was just too much too soon.)

Darth Vader is just a “tall, grim-looking general.” We see the Emperor tell his troops about a forthcoming battle and the Empire’s intent to conquer the Aquilaean System, “the last of the independent systems, and the last refuge of the outlawed, vile sect of the Jedi.” It is a system that will bring them “more scientific wealth than that of any other House in the Tribunal.” They will easily “gain control of the directorship.” Oh. Nice.

The armies of Aquilae are led by an old Jedi – General Luke Skywalker. “He is a large man, apparently in his early sixties, but actually much older. Everyone senses the aura of power that radiates from this great warrior. Here is a leader: a Jedi general. He looks weary, but is still a magnificent-looking warrior. His face, cracked and weathered by exotic climates, is set off by a close silver beard, and dark, penetrating eyes.”

Kane and his son just sort of... show up. Kane’s old friends with Skywalker. He begs Skywalker to take Annikin as his Padawan Learner in order to be a complete Jedi, because he is too old to complete his training. Annikin’s already reached “the fifth stage.” Skywalker reluctantly accepts him. And then Kane takes off for “the spaceport at Gordon to visit an old friend, Han Solo, the Ureallian.”

And from here, the story descends into the seventh circle of screenwriting hell.

There’s this business about Skywalker desperately trying to get a “war code” in order to “start the war computers” and send his troops into space to be ready for an imminent attack by the Empire, but he can’t get it until there’s a vote about an alliance treaty. And then they say, “May the force of others be with you all.”

Skywalker learns about a death star, which we never see, but we see “a space fortress.” Maybe they were the same thing. I'm not sure. In any case, they’ll be attacking at sunrise. He sends Starkiller to get Princess Leia to bring her to safety.

And here’s the basic arc of their sordid relationship.


First encounter:

STARKILLER
Forget the cases - we've no time.

LEIA
These are my things. They must...

STARKILLER
I said forget them, and hurry...

LEIA
Just who do you think you are?

Starkiller grabs the princess by the arm, and hauls her to the speeder. Mina and the old women run after them.

LEIA
I will not be treated like this! You bring my things.... My father will have your head... (etc.)

Leia struggles to break away from the young warrior's grasp as he opens the door of the speeder.

STARKILLER
Settle down!

When the door to the speeder is opened, Mina starts in, and Starkiller stops her.

STARKILLER
You must stay. Here, take the Crest.

Starkiller rips the royal crest from the princess' neck, and hands it to the startled handmaiden. The old women gasp in horror. The princess starts hitting Starkiller with little result.

PRINCESS
Mina's not staying...I'm not leaving her. You can't....

Starkiller punches her square on the jaw and knocks her cold. Mina is panic stricken, one of the old women faints, and another starts for Starkiller with a large staff.

STARKILLER
She'll be all right. I'm taking her to safety...as ordered. You will wear the crest and continue as before.

Later as they are flying along in a landspeeder:

PRINCESS
You are such a barbarian. I'll have my father cut you into little pieces when we get back...and I'll take pleasure in feeding you to the Gonthas....a little bit each day. I may save your eyes though. I'll have them petrified and made into a necklace.

STARKILLER
Your sweetness is only surpassed by your beauty. Just try to remember, I'm only following orders.

PRINCESS
... to beat me and abuse me?

STARKILLER
I'm afraid I've only learned one way to treat wild animals.


And then, somehow, they fall in love:

LEIA
Will we make it? Is there any hope? Stay with me... I love you.

Starkiller is slightly shocked at this outburst. The princess starts to cry and clings to him for support.

STARKILLER
No-one is going to die...so stop acting like a child, and start behaving like a queen. What is this silly talk of love? You belong to the people of Aquilae, and my job is to return you to them, nothing more. Now straighten up and get into a lifepod.

She's deeply hurt by his callousness. She breaks away from him and runs down a hallway into a lifepod. He is tired, and angry at the whole incident.

And in the very next scene:

WHITSUN
What's going on with you two?

STARKILLER
We're in love. She loves me, and I just realized... I love her.

Pardon me while I heave.



There were two androids. They were annoying. "Artwo" could speak.

THREEPIO
This is madness; we're going to be destroyed. I'm still not accustomed to space travel.

ARTWO
The external bombardment does appear to be concentrated in this area. The structure has exceeded the normal stress quotient by point four, although there appears to be no immediate danger.

THREEPIO
No immediate danger! You're faulty. This is madness!



Because they’re losing the battle to the Empire, they decide to take the Princess and 33 of the greatest scientific minds to the Ophuchi system to be safe. But they don’t actually take the scientists.

The doctor moves over to a safe-like cabinet guarded by two attendants. The doctor gingerly picks up a small clear vial filled with grey fluid. It has a label which reads: Faubun, Astro-dynamics...In the background the scholar on the operating table is undergoing a form of mechanized brain surgery.

GENERAL
"Bloodory's distillation?"

DOCTOR
Yes. It has been greatly perfected. The brain is condensed into five ounces of fluid. Cloning cell samples are included so that a structural duplicate of the scientist can be reproduced. When the duplicate child reaches the age of six, he or she begins a series of injections of the brain fluid. By the age of ten years, they have received all the knowledge and memory of an experienced scientist: an old mind in a young body. We have prepared a special shock-belt to carry the vials.


I’ll bet that was fashionable.

Here’s the rest of the story, which was woefully inadequate:

- Skywalker, Starkiller and company try to flee with the princess (and scientists floating inside their special shock-belts).

- The escape attempt fails and they crash land on the planet Yavin.

- They lose the princess.

- They’re taken in by “Wookees,” whose colony is run by Chewbacca.

- The Empire captures the princess and takes her to the “space fortress.”

- Skywalker and company teach the “Wookees” how to fly a spacecraft.

- And then the “Wookees” fly the spacecrafts into outer space and attack the “space fortress.” Vader tells Leia, “I'm afraid I have no more time to deal with you. A senseless and futile attack by your friends has forced me to take a rather unpleasant course of action. Your execution will have to be expedited.”

- Skywalker and Starkiller board the “space fortress,” rescue the princess, take her to a spacecraft, and float away with the garbage, while the “Wookees” continue the attack and eventually blow up the “space fortress.”

- There is much celebrating in the end.

Okay, I should make at least one serious point here. Let me ask a question: why should we care about this kid, Annikin Starkiller, who gets pushed off onto General Skywalker? Here, I think we find some of the great lessons in the transformation of Star Wars as a story. It’s not just about special effects and being entertaining and being halfway intelligent (please!) about the relationships between these characters. This is about having a protagonist who
has a goal. In this first draft (and second), Annikin is just a young adult who has almost completed his training and seems likely to do so. And then we just watch him in action. Yawn. So what? He’s all set!

But consider the final version in which we’re given a young Luke Skywalker who not only has an inner goal to be a hero
Joseph Campbell style, but he’s also disadvantaged because of his circumstances, and they're holding him back from being what he really wants to be. Who couldn’t sympathize with that? When Luke stared at that horizon on Tatooine and those two setting suns and longed for something better, we longed with him and rooted for him to get it. When his parents were murdered we knew he was on a trajectory for a great adventure that we were very ready to go on with him. And so we were introduced to this great universe through Luke and his inner needs, which made all the difference in the world.

By the way, George, I am interested to know what the hell happened to those scientists floating around in those little bottles on Skywalker's shock-belt. I guess they're okay now.

May the force of others be with you all.

36 comments:

GimmeABreak said...

Fascinating!

(hope you've recovered from whatever took you away from the boards)

Mystery Man said...

Thanks, Pat! It was an exhausting whirlwind adventure. Hehehe...

I hope you're doing well, too.

-MM

Burbanked said...

What an excellent analysis of a little-known nugget of the SW universe! I love hearing about early drafts with stuff that never made it into the final versions of well-known movies. Hearing about these early drafts actually supports Lucas' stories of having all 6 (or 9 or 128) movie stories originally in his head, because one can see a bunch of stuff here that will inform the narrative beats of various episodes down the line.

Mim said...

The first draft was obviously written by an adolescent male struggling in a whirlpool of hormones. Boys get so starry-eyed for adventure that they either try to have one, or write one. It's probably better for us that George Lucas decided to sit down at a typewriter instead of taking off on a motorcycle.

Mystery Man said...

Hey Mr. Burbanked! How are you? Thanks so much for the kind words. We should have no reason to doubt that Lucas had well over 100 movie story ideas within this universe he created. And he should be praised, too, for his ability to just completely redo a story from beginning to end and write something radically different.

Mim - Yeah, I completely agree. "Immature" was a word I kept thinking as I read that draft. It's definitely the wishful thinking of an adolescent geek to have a story where a guy could clock a princess, treat her like crap, and then she'd fall in love with him.

-MM

wcdixon said...

cool...

Joshua James said...

Extremely fascinating . . . I'm gonna post and link to this tomorrow . . . when do you think the Campbell references kicked in, it didn't seem to be felt as much in what you've described in this first draft . . . perhaps he got influenced later on?

Did you notice, MM, the similarities between the first draft of A New Hope and that abomination called PHANTOM MENACE? Nearly everything wrong with this first draft also appears to apply to that as well, don't you think?

Ann Wesley Hardin said...

This is the perfect example of starting a story in the right place. The first draft was backstory, one, loooong info dump and probably the commonest newbie mistake.

In the book world the first thing we advise newbies to do is dump the first three chapters. Ninety-five percent of the time the info in those chapters is necessary only to the author, and can be fed into the story a paragraph at a time on a need to know basis.

Great post and nice to have ya back!

James said...

I've read them. Way back when.

If I remember right, there's really two totally different stories. There's all the Annikin stuff that make up the first 3 or 4 drafts.

And then there's the next 2 or 3 drafts which more closely resemble what we know today as Star Wars.

The thing I find the most interesting is that the early versions that are similar to the Star Wars we know now didn't have DARTH VADER.

Darth Vader makes that movie. He is the singular personification of the goals of the Empire.

There is a HUGE shift in Ben Kenobi's character in one of the drafts. From hardened ex-general Jedi to old hermit type.

Lucas was a big fan of the Lord of The Rings trilogy. The faceoff between Obi-Wan and Vader is very much the face-off between Gandalf and the Balrog.

What I find most fascinating is that I'm not so covinced Lucas had any deeper meaning behind Vader chopping Kenobi down, other than he has to die, because Gandalf "dies" here... like every Campbellian story has a death here.

Does that mean that the success of a movie changes the interpretation of the scenes? Or is the Campbellian Hero's Journey just that prominent that a seemingly unmotivated death still carries meaning if placed strategically?

I have no clue.

Mystery Man said...

Dix - Thanks!

Joshua - It wasn't until the Aug '75 draft that we had a protag (Luke Starkiller) who had a very clear goal. With respect to Phantom Menace, I agree. It was episodic in the way the early drafts were episodic and I never cared about any of the characters like I did with the first films. Of course, the heart of I - III is the Descension Plot of Anakin, which is some pretty tricky business. I've been studying Descension Plots lately for a story I'm writing. I'm thinking that we have to care somewhat about that individual who will plummet into evil (or be so completely fascinated by this character that we want to know what happens next regardless of whether we actually LIKE that person - like Hamlet), also feel a sense of tragedy about the whole descension, and at the same time, the downfall should be rooted in character, not gratuitous circumstances, ya know? I think Lucas was in the general ballpark of these principles, but Anakin needed more depth.

Ann - That's such a great comment, because essentially, that's what Lucas did here, wasn't it? He cut chapters one-three and started his story in chapter four. Great comment! And great to hear from you.

James - Once I got into Aug '75, I just started to skim the specs. Way too many words to read them all. I saw a slow transition over the course of those specs from the first story, which I blogged about, to the final version. What makes it really confusing are the radical, constant name changes. Lucas was not afraid to assign a name he like to characters with different roles in new drafts.

Watching Vader's transformation as an antagonist was pretty darn cool.

Kenobi - I know exactly what you're talking about! That's the transition from Aug '75 to Jan '76. I noticed that, too. I don't recall Campbell ever saying that a teacher like Kenobi has to die at a certain point in the story. All Campbell did was make the point that the hero usually has some kind of supernatural aid on his journey in the great mythologies of the world, which may have played into the reason for that change - to take Kenobi from a human aid to a supernatural aid. Or it was just a somewhat amateurish solution to convey to the audience how the force works - through voice over, which luckily caught on with people because he had Alec Guinness's voice.

Or it may very well have been because "Gandalf dies here." Hehehe...

That was a great comment, man. Thanks.

-MM

Ann Wesley Hardin said...

See, I have a different take on why Obi Wan dies. He NEEDED to in order for Luke to move forward.

Luke depended on him--like we depend on our parents and mentors. But The Force would never come to full fruition in Luke as long as Obi Wan was around. He was too powerful, and too connected to Luke's father.

Just my take.

Ann Wesley Hardin said...

*slaps forehead*

I didn't even realize that Star Wars was, in fact, chapter four until I reread your comment after posting! LOL. Yeah, it totally proves the theory and is probably the main reason why chapter one didn't captivate the way it could've.

Watching someone's downfall is a literary thig. NOT action/adventure. And Lucas lead us to believe, from chapters IV-VI that that's what we should expect.

Sure, everyone was hungry for Darth Vader's story (and I'm at a complete disadvantage here because I didn't bother to see any of the prequels) BUT, sometimes it's better to leave it to the imagination and go out on top.

Just sayin'...

Mim said...

"He NEEDED to in order for Luke to move forward."

Good point, Ann. That's what Dumbledore did for Harry.

Christian M. Howell said...

Wow, I could barely read the first three drafts.
That definitely does give me confidence that I can create good characters and stories.
My rewrites hopefully won't take that long. They seem to be going at a better pace.
Lucas did pull somethign out of his hat though. The prequels were even better.
Supposedly he had to do them in reverse because the technology wouldn't have allowed the visuals in Ep.1-3.

Check out www.supershadow.com for everything Star Wars.
SuperShadow - not his real name - is supposedly in charge of Episodes 7-10.

Mystery Man said...

Hey, Ann! I completely agree with both comments you left. And I think that your comment on cutting chapters I-III and starting with chapter IV is SO poignant when it comes to Star Wars. My surprise for you has to be put off for a couple of weeks, but I will certainly get to it. Hehehe...

Mim - Exactly. Wait, was this in the books? Oy... I never jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon, which was probably wrong, although I've seen all the films...

Christian - I'm glad it added a boost of confidence you, as well these early drafts should for every aspiring screenwriter. Of course, the idea that I-III is better is certainly open to debate. You'll never convince me. Hehehe... Thanks for the comments!

-MM

Ann Wesley Hardin said...

My surprise for you has to be put off for a couple of weeks, but I will certainly get to it. Hehehe...

I was trying to be a good girl and not nag you...

*whine*

A couple more weeks...

*whimper*

Mickey Lee said...

You guys are giving Lucas too much credit. He was largely making it up as he went along, there was not some "grand vision" encompassing the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy. Star Wars wasn't even called "Episode IV: A New Hope" until right before "Empire Strikes Back" was released.

Lucas has been playing the revisionist history game pretty much from day one.

Christian M. Howell said...

Christian - I'm glad it added a boost of confidence you, as well these early drafts should for every aspiring screenwriter. Of course, the idea that I-III is better is certainly open to debate. You'll never convince me. Hehehe... Thanks for the comments!

I rarely pay attention to character relationships, etc in those types of movies. The SFX were definitely light years ahead and seeing Yoda kick butt was definitely worth the ticket price - and then some.

Ep. III was perhaps the saddest movie I've ever seen. Sidious was the Devil incarnate.

Seeing the start of the Empire just had a little more zing, I think. But again, Lucas improved IV-VI enough times to make a new movie.

I guess you have to separate it into the times. Back in 1979, it was the best SFX, but comparing all of the movies I'd have to say that the story was borne out better with the better SFX.

I actually didn't like Ep.I when I first saw it but maybe it was lead male named "Annie."

Once I got past that it was actually more enjoyable. Ep. II was like the ultimate to me. The origin of the Storm Troopers, Yoda swinging a light saber, a growing love story that would lead to disaster.

All great stuff, but don't get me wrong. I wouldn't try to convince you that you don't have your own opinion.

I'm a SFX lover and that is why I gravitate more so towards I-III.

Mystery Man said...

Hehehe... And this is why I love having Mickey Lee around.

That reminds me of something Emerson said about that Opening Shot of Star Wars, which I'd like to quote. I couldn't agree more:

In some ways, this shot makes me a bit sad today, 29 years after it first wowed us on the big screen. First, it reminds me that Lucas meddled with one of the most successful and influential cultural phenomena of the latter part of the 20th Century when he released the tampered versions of Episodes IV - VI in 1997, though the good news is he's reportedly finally agreed to allow the originals on DVD for the first time (for release in September, 2006), after persistent demands from thousands of outraged fans. And when I see this shot now, it reminds me that this was the beginning of the end of Lucas's directorial career. He was so promising, with "THX 1138" and "American Graffiti" -- then along came the surprise smash of "Star Wars." And he immediately retired from directing. One could argue he's still retired after the lethargic direction of Episodes I through III, which lacked the sense of spontaneity and fun that made the earlier films so enjoyable. The enterprise felt over-planned and contrived, and the direction like that of somebody going through the (mostly CGI-generated) motions. Sure, the original "Star Wars" trilogy wasn't known for its performances (though Harrison Ford had swashbuckling charisma), but when your most noticeable performance (in the second trilogy) is the digitally enhanced Jar-Jar Binks (perhaps the most hated character in contemporary pop culture), you know you've got a problem. Still, this moment from "Star Wars" brings us back to a time -- a long time ago, in a world far, far away from today's -- when the franchise was fresh, the promise of the future was still before us, and the best (meaning "Empire") was yet to come...

Mystery Man said...

Hey Christian, we must've posted comments at the same time. I'd certainly watch Episodes II-III for the CGI-based FX, because it's cool, but certainly not for the story or because I cared about any of those characters. (The dialogue just grates on me. He really should've let me write it. Hehehe...)

And hey, man, if you plan to write scripts, you better pay attention to character relationships! You'll get slaughtered by movie-goers and critics if you don't.

-MM

Joe Valdez said...

This post might be even greater than your Indiana Jones post, Mystery Man. Outstanding work. Just reading those character names Lucas came up with made me want a beer. I can't imagine reading the entire script.

The description Peter Biskind gives in his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls about Lucas screening Star Wars in San Francisco for his friends - DePalma, Spielberg, Scorsese, Jay Cocks - and Marcia Lucas actually crying afterwards because it was such a disaster always strikes me as one of the great Hollywood stories of all time.

DePalma was bewildered by what Lucas showed them and didn't know what was going on. Spielberg thought it would make $100 million, back in the day when no movie made $100 million. Everyone thought Spielberg was a moron.

It defies belief that Star Wars ended up being so great. I still don't see how Lucas pulled it off.

GimmeABreak said...

I think the thing I hated most about the "enhanced" (read sacreligious mutilation of) IV-VI was the replacement of the Ewoks' dance music at the end of VI. The original captured the celebratory spirit of the good-over-evil triumph perfectly. When I saw the new crap on DVD I was so angry I went to eBay and found a collector set of the originals on VHS and spent $100 just to have my Ewoks back!

Mystery Man said...

Joe - I love that story! I could be wrong, but I recall once see Spielberg tell this tale and I think the number he quoted was about $30-$50 million. Or something like that, because I remember him saying, "boy, was I wrong," because it turned out to be so much more than that. That story's still the same, though, because no one thought it would make even that much.

Pat - I didn't realize they changed that portion with the Ewoks that much in VI. Crazy. It still kills me to have to look at Hayden Christensen at the end Return of the Jedi. Ugh...

-MM

Joe Valdez said...

According to the Biskind book, Spielberg told Lucas he thought it would make $100 million. Alan Ladd Jr. later called Spielberg and asked him whether anybody was going to come to see this movie. Spielberg told Ladd it'd be a huge hit, at least $35 million, maybe more.

I think that the visual effects, the stereo sound and the emotions the movie played on were what attributed to Star Wars being so mind blowing. I still get a kick out of the original versions of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back for those reasons. They're not played for camp, and as corny as a lot of it is, you can't help but get caught up in the fantasy.

Ann Wesley Hardin said...

We'd never seen anything like it! The score and the scrolling text in the beginning were brilliant because it immediately got your heart pounding. You knew you were in for something colossal. In terms of making a great first impression, it didn't come much better than that at the time.

It's hard to explain to the youngsters because it's all so old now. But it was truly electrifying when it came out. And man, I feel like my mother when she talks about Buck Rogers. LOL. I don't care how corn ball Star Wars seems now, it and Jaws ushered in a new age and as such, will always have a speshul pwace in my itty bitty heart.

Mickey Lee said...

Pat

The DVD releases from last year contain two discs for each film of the Original Trilogy: 1) the massacred (er, Special Edition) version and 2) the Original theatrical version. And I do mean Original. The Original Version of "Star Wars" does not say "Episode IV: A New Hope" in the opening crawl (see my above post).

So you can have your Ewoks in all their furry glory with that annoying "nub nub" song. ;)

Laura Deerfield said...

I remember waiting in line with my parents to see Star Wars. A theater was showing the first film for a limited time just before release of the second.

I was tremendously impressed by the line around the block, and the people selling buttons and t-shirts to the waiting crowd. My dad bought a "May the Force Be With You" button - which my parents explained to me as being "kind of a spiritual thing" - so that put me in the frame of mind to take the movie as something profound. The music... the scrolling text... I was spellbound.

Ann Wesley Hardin said...

Laura, spellbound is the perfect word. I went to see it with my brother and sister-in-law, who were much older than me. I even remember walking through the parking lot to the movie theatre with them. That's how much of an impact it made.

You have to remember that the world was still recovering from WWII and had just come out of Vietnam. The socio-political climate needed these wonderful, victorious stories. We needed to not only believe again, but to be shown how to believe in graphic, thrilling glory.

Rocky was in that era too. It was a seat-of-the-pants era in filmmaking , perhaps? One when passion and storytelling ruled structure and the bottom line?

I dunno. But it seems that way when I look back on it.

Wasn't Jaws the first movie to break GWTW's boxoffice--after approx. 40 years??

Ann Wesley Hardin said...

One when passion and storytelling ruled structure and the bottom line?

My bad. These stories had perfect structure. What I should've said instead was "format". Blame it on holiday cheer.

Mystery Man said...

Hey, Joe, thanks for that clarification. I really shouldn't have doubted that number, and I apologize for that. I had watched it again with friends over the weekned, and yeah, by today's standards, it really is campy, and yet, I cannot stop myself from getting sucked into it.

Mickey - I actually didn't know that story about him adding "Episode IV". I am NO Star Wars expert. That's really interesting.

Laura - I didn't get to see it in the theaters until it was re-released. I couldn't believe it. Somehow, I missed Empire and saw Jedi in the theaters. I was all confused. Then I saw Empire last on VHS. Oh yeah, Empire was my favorite and still is.

Ann - Such great comments. Not a word you wrote that I disagreed with and ya know, I'm heavily filled with "holiday cheer" at this very moment. It's some kind of red wine. With respect to the impact of Star Wars, Emerson’s article, which I referenced in the post, handled this topic far better than I could. He noted 4 Hollywood principles that had changed:

1. After decades of banking on marquee names, it proved you could have a blockbuster hit with no stars -- except for the ILM-generated ones.

2. It created the modern "franchise picture" -- a series of "event" films (usually with numerals in their titles) that either continued a particular story with some or all of the same characters, or repeated the concept with new characters (so the actors wouldn't have to receive star salaries from the start, unless the pictures became successful).

3. It created the model for the modern major movie trilogy.

4. Perhaps most significant of all, "Star Wars" showed that you could make even more from the merchandising rights on a movie than you could from the movie itself.


And he also wrote:

the "Star Wars" phenomenon had an impact on American popular culture like nothing else before, or since. A heroic celluloid myth based (according to auteur George Lucas) on Joseph Campbell's studies of cross-cultural archetypes, it was released early in the Carter administration when, as it happened, we really could have used something like that. But it was also a prescient, anti-imperialistic fable in an anti-imperialistic age, with scruffy insurgent freedom fighters (insurgents?) taking on a corrupt authoritarian Empire...

Exactly.

-MM

Mickey Lee said...

To get into the spirit, I watched "Star Wars" last night. Structurally speaking, it's an interesting script. Act I doesn't end until 41 minutes into the film, when Luke decides to go with Ben to Mos Eisley.

It seemed a little out of whack, until you realize that the first 15 minutes of the film is spent with the droids, basically setting up this whole new universe from scratch.

If you consider that actual beginning of the story to be Luke's first appearance (15 minutes in) then the act I break happens exactly 25 minutes after that. Which is perfect.

kjb said...

Great post, MM. The evolution of the first story has me thinking about a likely reason why Episodes 1-3 were so bad -- Lucas didn't go through the drafting process. Episode IV became a great film because he beat the hell out of the script. The last 3 felt like first drafts. They felt arrogant.

Mystery Man said...

Mickey - That's a superb comment. It reminds me of The Godfather in a way, where this world first gets introduced to us as well as the subplots before we're thrown into the main plot, which doesn't actually begin until later in the film. I don't see anything wrong with that approach so long as the introduction and subplots are engaging enough to suck us in.

kjb - They really did feel arrogant. I completely agree. This was a tough article. It was difficult to pinpoint exactly what was wrong in this one that made the later drafts better. So many things, really. All things considered, Lucas got lucky. Thanks so much.

-MM

Christian M. Howell said...

Hey Christian, we must've posted comments at the same time. I'd certainly watch Episodes II-III for the CGI-based FX, because it's cool, but certainly not for the story or because I cared about any of those characters. (The dialogue just grates on me. He really should've let me write it. Hehehe...)

And hey, man, if you plan to write scripts, you better pay attention to character relationships! You'll get slaughtered by movie-goers and critics if you don't.


I didn't mean I don't think they help carry a movie, but if I want to watch a war movie, I don't really care to watch a love story in between.

Sorry I took so long to respond but I visit so many blogs I couldn't remember which one this post was on.

Ann Wesley Hardin said...

Yeah. What Emerson said ;)

Mystery Man said...

- Hey Christian, I always watch war movies for the love stories! Are you kidding me? That's the best part! Hehehe... No worries, man.

- Yeah, what Ann said.

-MM