Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Star Wars

The first draft of the Star Wars screenplay was famously different from the final film. J.W. Rinzler and Dark Horse Comics recently adapted that original screenplay as an eight-issue comic miniseries, The Star Wars. I read it yesterday; here are my thoughts.

First of all, it cannot be overstated just how different The Star Wars is from Star Wars. The plot barely even resembles the movie, and while many characters' names are similar, the actual characters themselves are completely different. Here's a quick list of some of the major differences:

-Versions of Luke, Anakin, and Leia are in the story, but they are all completely unrelated to one another.
   -Luke Skywalker is an older, gray-haired, battle-hardened war general.
   -Anakin Skywalker is Annikin Starkiller, a young hotheaded Jedi.
   -Leia is more spoiled and stuck-up than in the film, and she is princess of the planet Aquilae rather than Alderaan.

-The film character of Anakin/Darth Vader is actually four separate characters in The Star Wars:
   -Annikin Starkiller, the young Jedi
   -Darth Vader, the non-Jedi brutal war general
   -Prince Valorum, a Sith Lord
   -Kane Starkiller, Annikin's father, who is revealed to be more machine than man

-The Jedi and the Force are all very different
   -The Jedi-Bendu are actual knights, not spiritual monks. No philosophies of non-violence are ever mentioned.
   -The Knights of Sith, a rival sect of Jedi, are villains, but not pure evil as in the films.
   -The Force is always referred to as "the Force of others," and is never explained.
   -The Force is never said to have a light or dark side, and no morality is ever applied to it.
   -Jedi don't display any supernatural abilities other than being unusually good with swords.

   -Coruscant is named Alderaan
   -The film versions of Alderaan and Tatooine seem to be combined into the desert planet Aquilae, which somewhat resembles Arrakis from Dune.
   -Yavin is the homeworld of the wookiees, and their story is near-exactly the same as the Ewoks' story in Return of the Jedi.
   -The Death Star is merely named the Space Fortress.

   -There are echoes of the Skywalker family relationships from the films. Kane Starkiller, whose more-machine-than-man body echoes Darth Vader's, has two children, his oldest son Annikin and his younger son, Deak. Leia has two younger siblings, a boy and a girl, who are twins.
   -Leia and Annikin have a relationship very similar to the Han/Leia romance from the films, but with the added bonus of the romantic scenes from Luke's rescue of Leia in the Death Star.
   -Han and Chewbacca don't meet each other until late in the story. Also, Han is a green alien.

I could list more and more differences, but it would take entirely too long. Suffice it to say that while plenty of names are the same between versions, virtually nothing about the story or who the characters actually are is the same.

When I first began reading the story, I was completely engaged in it. It felt familiar, but a lot closer to Flash Gordon or John Carter of Mars than Star Wars ever was. It was... older; a bit more gritty. Less concerned with moral platitudes and more concerned with epic science fantasy war storytelling. As I read along, a thought crept into my head: could this story actually end up being better than Star Wars? After I finished the book, I mentally responded: Pfff, no.

The Star Wars is fascinating reading, but it has no actual story, at least not one worth telling. Two movies' worth of plot is crammed into a single story, with endless amounts of action and adventure, but absolutely none of it means a blasted thing.

Star Wars is the story of Luke Skywalker: it means something because he means something to us. Watching him grow up over the course of three movies is powerful and relatable; it gives the entire saga meaning where it would otherwise be the tale of a bunch of random people no one cares about running around and blasting each other. And that's what The Star Wars is.

There are entirely too many important characters in The Star Wars (at least 21 by my count, over Star Wars' ten) and none of them grow or change in any way whatsoever. The only development of any kind is the fact that Annikin and Leia suddenly decide they're in love with one another—not too long after he punches her in the face. It's a whole thing. Additionally, the fact that the Force almost doesn't exist is a problem. Without the Force and its literalization of good and evil, the story loses a profound amount of meaning.

So yes, I'm very glad that The Star Wars was never made in its first draft form. Epic battles and a vast universe paint a wonderful canvas, but without the character and meaning to fill it out, it's an empty canvas.

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