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Thread: Star Wars Screenplay Daily Reading

  1. #1

    Star Wars Screenplay Daily Reading

    I was thinking it would be interesting to take a kind of "Bible Study" approach to the scripts for the movie: just excerpt a passage here every day chronologically and discuss it with as much or as little depth as I want. We'll see how long it takes to get through the whole script. And it's an exercise for me just to see if I can keep it up everyday.

    So here we go with day one...


    Episode IV


    From the

    George Lucas

    Revised Fourth Draft
    January 15, 1976


    A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away...

    A vast sea of stars serves as the backdrop for the main title.
    War drums echo through the heavens as a rollup slowly crawls
    into infinity.

    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...
    So that's the start. It's interesting that there is no screen description of the now-iconic "A Long Time Ago.." title card. It's just simply the first line in the script.

    I chuckle to read the line "war drums echo through the heavens..." doesn't quite match up with the symphonic splendor of the John Williams score.

    The crawl is missing any of the COMPLETELY CAPITALIZED names and titles. Also the ellipsis at the end only has three periods.

    As for the crawl itself, what can you say? It's a great intro, setting up the black-and-white universe we are about to enter. the Empire is "evil," Princess Leia is tasked with nothing less than "Saving her people (spoiler: she kinda won't) and restoring freedom to the galaxy (spoiler also: I guess if you take the timeline up through TLJ, she's still working on it.)

    But there are also some shenanigans afoot. The script is dated January 1976, and yet it also includes "Episode IV A NEW HOPE" in the titling which weren't added until the '79 rerelease. This is clearly a later revision than the one dated.

    Feel free to chime in. And we can discuss the next scene tomorrow!

  2. #2
    Day 1 had 101 views, not bad!

    On to Day 2...

    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.


    An explosion rocks the ship as two robots, Artoo-Detoo (R2-
    D2) and See-Threepio (C-3PO) struggle to make their way
    through the shaking, bouncing passageway. Both robots are
    old and battered. Artoo is a short, claw-armed tripod. His
    face is a mass of computer lights surrounding a radar eye.
    Threepio, on the other hand, is a tall, slender robot of
    human proportions. He has a gleaming bronze-like metallic
    surface of an Art Deco design.

    Another blast shakes them as they struggle along their way.

    Did you hear that? They've shut down
    the main reactor. We'll be destroyed
    for sure. This is madness!

    Rebel troopers rush past the robots and take up positions in
    the main passageway. They aim their weapons toward the door.

    We're doomed!

    The little R2 unit makes a series of electronic sounds that
    only another robot could understand.

    There'll be no escape for the Princess
    this time.
    It is interseting to see Tatooine described as "awesome," I suppose it is more for the FX people/matte artists. It's also just interesting that Tatooine is named here at all, since we never learn the planet's name during the course of the movie (It isn't mentioned until the final scene of "Empire.")

    The description is apt, pointing out the disparity in spaceship sizes that is the first visual cue in the movie that we are getting something new and special. The language is already extremely pulpy too--"hundreds of deadly laserbolts" indeed.

    And we meet Artoo and Threepio. Lucas's template here is the Kirosawa film "The Hidden Fortress," where the first two characters we meet are a pair of bumbling slaves and we spend a good deal of time focused on their adventures and escapes before being linked up to the "main" characters. Droids are presented as slaves without the hand-wringing guilt.

    Most importantly, they are specifically described as old and battered. This key phrase, right there in the opening descriptive paragraphs before a single line of dialogue has been written, comes to set the Star Wars universe apart from all the gleaming sci-fi that came before it. This is the lived-in look that makes everything that follows plausible.

    Threepio's dialogue keeps the crawl in our head, and clues us in (as if the David and Goliath spaceships didn't already) to the droids' allegiance, servants of the Princess mentioned earlier.

    More tomorrow...

  3. #3
    the interesting thing about this scene is the way it was shot.

    look at it frame-by-frame: when the rebel ship first appears, it occupies ~1/3 of the frame, and it very quickly recedes away from the camera. the rebel ship 'shrinks' on the screen, as it moves far away from the camera's point of reference, until it becomes just a tiny speck on film -- then the imperial ship enters the frame, FIRST as a "tiny speck" at the very top of the screen (as the nose of the ship enters the frame) and then it spreads downwards-and-outwards, to slowly fill the ENTIRE frame.

    the "composition" of this shot is telling a story: it is revealing information about the 2 factions -- the rebels are a small force in the galaxy, which is growing smaller, at the risk of disappearing altogether; the Empire is spreading across the galaxy, getting larger all the time. the rebels are a very-small force in the galaxy; the empire is HUGE -- we watch the large ship physically 'swallow' the small ship. etc. this all serves to create a visceral response in the audience.

    through simple "visual storytelling" , GL is telling us all we need to know about the galactic civil war: we know who the underdog is; we are given a sense of scale (empire vs rebellion); we are given a sense of the Empire "spreading" across the galaxy (spreading to fill the screen), while the Rebels are "receding" into nothing. in the first 12 seconds, we KNOW who to root for. and why. (if only on a subconscious level).

    on an artistic level, it's like studying a painting, or a still-photograph. the "composition" of this shot is telling a story, all by itself. you could write an entire essay/article, on JUST the first 12 seconds of this movie -- and it hasn't even gotten started yet. wow. good game.
    "Is there anyone on this ship, who even remotely, looks like Satan?" -- James Kirk, U.S.S. Enterprise.

  4. #4
    137 views, quite a fall off for the second day...

    Great analysis of the scene, Cobalt. Though Lucas was writing directing and editing, he compartmentalized so much of it. It's entirely possible the visual plan was mapped out in his head when he wrote the script, but he didn't feel the need to spell everything out since he had enough to give the visual cues he needed for himself.

    But here we are at Day 3...

    Artoo continues making beeping sounds. Tension mounts as loud metallic latches clank and the scream of heavy equipment
    are heard moving around the outside hull of the ship.

    What's that?


    The Imperial craft has easily overtaken the Rebel Blockade
    Runner. The smaller Rebel ship is being drawn into the
    underside dock of the giant Imperial starship.


    The nervous Rebel troopers aim their weapons. Suddenly a
    tremendous blast opens up a hole in the main passageway and
    a score of fearsome armored spacesuited stormtroopers make
    their way into the smoke-filled corridor.

    In a few minutes the entire passageway is ablaze with
    laserfire. The deadly bolts ricochet in wild random patterns
    creating huge explosions. Stormtroopers scatter and duck
    behind storage lockers. Laserbolts hit several Rebel soldiers
    who scream and stagger through the smoke, holding shattered
    arms and faces.

    An explosion hits near the robots.

    I should have known better than to
    trust the logic of a half-sized
    thermocapsulary dehousing assister...

    Artoo counters with an angry rebuttal as the battle rages
    around the two hapless robots.
    Reading through this scene is quite a different experience from watching it play out on the screen. You never really lose the droids in the scene here, whereas in the movie the entry battle removes them from the scene for a little while until we see them zip across the hall.

    The intro of the stormtroopers calls out the fact that they are wearing spacesuits, which in my mind brings back the McQuarrie designs (especially for Vader, who was given the facemask because his first appearance was after crossing through space to board the Blockade Runner.)

    If anything this scene highlights how the editing style of the film will create a different experience between it and reading the script. With all the quick-cutting it's just not possible to have a shot-for-shot plan ahead of time. There's too much spontaneous creation in the editing bay to allow that.

    We end today with a deleted line by Threepio that tells us Artoo's job on the Corvette. The description here keeps us firmly in the land of Kirosawa's "Hidden Fortress" again, the slaves who are totally ignored by the warring factions around them.

    See you tomorrow!

  5. #5
    thermocapsulary dehousing assister...

    Wow, try saying that 3 times! I thought technobabble like that just came out of Star Trek.

    Anyway, the old and battered descriptions were evidently ambient throughout the rest of the films as evident up to the final designs of the spacecraft (i.e. Falcon, X-wings, landspeeder, etc...) in constrast to the earlier pristine designs of Colin Cantwell as a visual medium to create conflict in assisting with the storytelling. But as GL has professed in his earlier days, attention to setting is so not as important as attention to plot (see my sig obviously).

    With that, I could possibly site the potential 'overvisualization' (if I could coin the phrase) that has been integrated later in the films and has become the subject of many discussion since the days of advanced computer technology However, for the sake of amicability as well as nostalgia, we'll simply leave it to OUR OWN imagination for now on this reading subject of the universe that is Star Wars.
    A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing. -George Lucas

  6. #6
    177 views, so that leveled off.

    Deak, when you mention "Overvisualization" I think of Lucas meeting with artists and designers while still coming up with the script for Episode I, getting them to draw stuff to stimulate his writing of the movie, rather than writing and coming up with designs based on that. What a luxury!

    Anyways, on to day 4...

    A death-white wasteland stretches from horizon to horizon.
    The tremendous heat of two huge twin suns settle on a lone
    figure, Luke Skywalker, a farm boy with heroic aspirations
    who looks much younger than his eighteen years. His shaggy
    hair and baggy tunic give him the air of a simple but lovable
    lad with a prize-winning smile.

    A light wind whips at him as he adjusts several valves on a
    large battered moisture vaporator which sticks out of the
    desert floor much like an oil pipe with valves. He is aided
    by a beatup tread-robot with six claw arms. The little robot
    appears to be barely functioning and moves with jerky motions.
    A bright sparkle in the morning sky catches Luke's eye and
    he instinctively grabs a pair of electrobinoculars from his
    utility belt. He stands transfixed for a few moments studying
    the heavens, then dashed toward his dented, crudely repaired
    Landspeeder (an auto-like transport that travels a few feet
    above the ground on a magnetic-field). He motions for the
    tiny robot to follow him.

    Hurry up! Come with me! What are you
    waiting for?! Get in gear!

    The robot scoots around in a tight circle, stops short, and
    smoke begins to pour out of every joint. Luke throws his
    arms up in disgust. Exasperated, the young farm boy jumps
    into his Landspeeder leaving the smoldering robot to hum
    Our (cut-scene) introduction to Luke. Not much happens here, and obviously not much of consequence as it got dropped out of the film pretty early. The stories say these pre-escape pod Tatooine scenes were only added to the script on the criticism of early readers (Lucas's film school friends) commenting on how long the story took to get to the "hero."

    As it is, we get a description calling Luke a farm boy with heroic aspirations. He is Jack minus the Beanstalk at this point.

    The introduction of the Landspeeder continues to build the "used universe" concept. As a kid I remember thinking it looked like a car I would see around town. Obviously we were not in the nice neighborhood. But it seemed "real." Here it is described so aptly. Its apologetically sci-fi.

    I do like meeting the Treadwell droid as a counterpoint to Artoo and Threepio. It helps sell the ubiquity of droids in the culture. (And I will never be able to get the Three Stooges-like "woop-woop-woop!" he does to close the filmed version of this cut-scene out of my head.)

    More tomorrow...

  7. #7
    In the 'Hero's Journey' interpretation, Luke is situated in what is called 'The Ordinary World' in the future hero is shown of his/her (ordinary) life prior to the 'Call To Adventure'. In the Wizard Of Oz for example, Dorothy is depicted in a black/white setting in Kansas as a visual metaphor of her life prior to the journey to Oz. This (deleted) scene would have portrayed Luke in much the same way with his curiosity pertaining to the space battle considered a sort of precursor to the 'Call To Adventure'.
    Last edited by Deak_Starkiller; 07-05-2018 at 08:00 PM.
    A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing. -George Lucas

  8. #8
    214 views, but to be fair I am getting a late start today...

    You know, Deak, I wonder how many copies of "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" were sold in the 90's based on Lucas's statements at the time. I know I had a copy I had to buy for a World Civ class in college that was one of the few books I didn't sell back at the end of the semester.

    Okay, on to day 5...

    The awesome, seven-foot-tall Dark Lord of the Sith makes his
    way into the blinding light of the main passageway. This is
    Darth Vader, right hand of the Emperor. His face is obscured
    by his flowing black robes and grotesque breath mask, which
    stands out next to the fascist white armored suits of the
    Imperial stormtroopers. Everyone instinctively backs away
    from the imposing warrior and a deathly quiet sweeps through
    the Rebel troops. Several of the Rebel troops break and run
    in a frenzied panic.


    A woman's hand puts a card into an opening in Artoo's dome.
    Artoo makes beeping sounds.


    Threepio stands in a hallway, somewhat bewildered. Artoo is
    nowhere in sight. The pitiful screams of the doomed Rebel
    soldiers can be heard in the distance.

    Artoo! Artoo-Detoo, where are you?

    A familiar clanking sound attacks Threepio's attention and
    he spots little Artoo at the end of the hallway in a smoke-
    filled alcove. A beautiful young girl (about sixteen years
    old) stands in front of Artoo. Surreal and out of place,
    dreamlike and half hidden in the smoke, she finishes adjusting
    something on Artoo's computer face, then watches as the little
    robot joins his companion.

    At last! Where have you been?

    Stormtroopers can be heard battling in the distance.

    They're heading in this direction.
    What are we going to do? We'll be
    sent to the spice mine of Kessel or
    smashed into who knows what!

    Artoo scoots past his bronze friend and races down the
    subhallway. Threepio chases after him.

    Wait a minute, where are you going?

    Artoo responds with electronic beeps.
    Two iconic scenes today. Maybe that's all we've got here, iconic scenes and infamous cut scenes. Vader entering the Blockade Runner is described perfectly, and was shot incredibly faithfully. Of note, he is described as a Dark Lord of the Sith before even being named in the script. And the word "Sith" is absent from the filmed OT completely. Even crazier is in 1978 I knew Darth Vader was a "Dark Lord of the Sith" though I had know idea what it meant, and I wouldn't read the script until 1992.

    We also have Rebel Fleet Troopers running from Vader in terror 40 years before "Rogue One" put it on screen.

    And as soon as we meet the Dark Lord we meet the White Princess, described as ethereally as Lucas's pulpy style can muster. Also of note--Leia is said to be sixteen here while her twin brother Luke was 18 in yesterday's scene. And yet, if Alderaan takes a little longer to do a full orbit of its sun than Tatooine, these facts might be correct all the same. Let's not get bogged down in the details.

    Threepio famously mentions the "Spice Mines of Kessel" here, which brought us some early 90's EU and the second act of the "Solo" movie.

    More tomorrow...

  9. #9
    Reminder that Luke and Leia weren't planned on being twins at this point. That's something Lucas came up with later to the grimace of a certain kissed farm boy.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
    Last edited by toadmeister; 07-05-2018 at 05:40 PM.

  10. #10
    Even hearing the word Sith can invoke a certain fear, particularly when its connected to other sounding words like 'slither', which can invoke an archetypical image like a snake, or perhaps even the biblical devil.

    GL felt changing to a bloodline relation for Luke/Leia would provide the highest tension possible, particularly during Luke's darkside temptation and the thought of Vader swaying his attention to Leia to create an even higher elevated response from Luke as the storyline evolved.

    On a subtle note, the change from Threepio's visage from bronze to gold could be considered a visual change to possibly fit his etiquette demeanor.
    A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing. -George Lucas

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