Monday, May 22, 2017

Another "Secret History" quote

Still fascinating reading, although I set it aside for a few days.  Picked up the narrative again after Star Wars is released and Lucas is starting the early approach to the sequel by writing an outline or pre-draft "treatment" for a script.
As you can see, the basic story of the film is fairly similar to what ended up on the screen; only the details changed, and until the last quarter the plot is exactly alike.  You will notice that there is no "I am your father revelation" in Lucas' outline. Nor would there be in the first draft screenplay.  This is the most crucial development in all of Star Wars' story history, and we will soon get to it. 
The style and tone of the story is also more like Star Wars rather than the sepulchral undertones that Empire would eventually be known for—the action is constant, the plot moves quickly, there is a much less pronounced darkness compared to the final film, and the story ends on a resolved and relatively light note, and could be said to be a self-contained adventure film like Star Wars.  However, a maturity had been introduced into the story, leaving behind the naivete and innocence of the original, and a foreboding atmosphere of danger hung over the characters.
It also mentions that—again—a Kurosawa film is mined; Dersu Uzala, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind (even some exact dialog) and a few recycled scenes bandied about for Star Wars that ended up getting cut in the first film were the foundation of the sequel's pre-draft outline.

A footnote notes that Hoth may have been inspired by Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe and that Lucas had some very early notes (1973) referring to an ice planet called Norton III.  Darth Vader, as befitting his unexpected popularity (and Lucas' own decision to magnify somewhat his role based on how much he ended up liking the visual design, becomes the main antagonist, although he's still more like the pulp The Lightning than he is a dark wizard.  The Emperor makes a brief appearance, but he's still a Nixon-parody; a manipulator and politician, not an even more sinister dark wizard.  There's even a scene in Lucas' treatment where Darth reaches out with the force and starts choking Luke as he leaves Hoth base; he only escapes by jumping to hyperspace.

And Yoda's full name is here given as Minch Yoda.  He always was a little critter (actually known as The Critter in early discussions, before he had a name) based on the main character from Dersu Uzala, including even the backwards speaking.  Lando is initially a clone surviving from the Clone Wars, which is why Leia doesn't trust him, and he may even be on a planet of clones.

In exploring how things changed, though, it's interesting to find a few things that came full circle.  In summer 1979 Bantha Tracks, we read:
Not much is known about Boba Fett. He wears part of the uniform of the Imperial Shocktroopers, warriors from the olden time. Shocktroopers came from the far side of the galaxy and there aren't many of them left. They were wiped out by the Jedi knights during the Clone Wars.
This became very similar to the origin of the Mandaloreans (which of course now no longer feature as the main antagonists in the Clone Wars—it's not clear here who fought with clones either; the shocktroopers or someone else) although curiously, Boba Fett became a not-Mandalorean who wore shocktrooper armor, most likely as a concession to protect someone's pet Expanded Universe ideas as Mandaloreans were later developed.  I like them better as they were initially envisioned.

After Leigh Brackett's death shortly after delivering the first draft, we get this interesting note:
Here we come to the first revelation: there was no prequel trilogy. Star Wars was not the fourth entry but the first, as noted earlier, with Empire Strikes Back being the second chapter. During story meetings between Brackett and Lucas, the film was identified as "Chapter II, the Empire Strikes Back," and by the time the second draft was finished, the familiar episode listing was in place.  However, it was not Episode V, as we now know the film to be—the opening crawl read "Episode II The Empire Strikes Back." 
However, after the second draft, the film would be know as Episode V. So, what was it that happened?  What occurred that suddenly made Lucas take a major step and add another three episodes to the Star Wars story?  Obi Wan Kenobi's tales were already in place, but they were not to be a "prequel" trilogy—they would either continue in the episode listing, which was not necessarily progressing in chronological sequence at the time of the first draft, as Gary Kurtz explained, or they would not be part of the "Star Wars" saga, perhaps simply a spin-off.  ... 
Some have tried to claim that Lucas came up with the idea of converting Father Skywalker into Darth Vader in 1977, between the release of Star Wars and the start of story development of Star Wars II, but there is no indication that such a process occurred, and in fact this argument is easily refuted.... In fact, we can pinpoint the exact month when the milestone event occurred... 
The most shocking piece of evidence of all is that in the first draft of Empire Strikes Back, Father Skywalker's ghost appears to Luke!  To repeat: The ghost of Luke's dead Jedi father appears while Like is training on Dagobah and gives Luke advice. Naturally, when Luke finally faces Darth there is no "father revelation"—he beckons Luke to join the darkside, Luke refuses, Vader attacks Luke and Luke jumps off the ledge; the point of Luke's confrontation with Darth is that he refuses the darkside.  Father Skywalker is described as "a tall, fine looking man," and is referred to only as "Skywalker."  Luke takes the oath of the Jedi from his father.
The structural problem Lucas faced following this draft, which in many ways closely resembles the final film already, was that Skywalker and Obi Wan were really quite redundant.  This is to be expected, as they were originally the same character in earlier drafts of Star Wars' scripts, and they never really had a chance to diverge much, other than that Skywalker was killed, and then his death was pushed back further and further into the backstory of the script as it evolved.

This new change was a dramatic simplification of the story; and was a dramatic twist; one of the most shocking of modern pop entertainment.  But, as it says in Secret History:
With this change in character and story, the Star Wars series would irrevocably shift from the Flash Gordon-type "serial" style to a more epic Dune-type "saga," from a storybook-like tale of good versus evil to a complicated chronicle of temptation and redemption....
Once Lucas brought Father Skywalker back into the series, he and Obi Wan became redundant as Obi Wan was essentially a copy of him (a noble elderly Jedi who is a father-figure to Luke and is betrayed by Vader), and suddenly Dagobah is full of old, noble Jedi ghosts who are basically the same character. To make matters worse, Yoda was created to replace Obi Wan—he was even based off an early version of him.  So really, he too is born out of Father Skywalker in a way—Father Skywalker is killed off and then turns into Obi Wan and Obi Wan is killed off and then turns into Yoda. You can see Lucas writing himself into corners and having to invent new story directions.  But once the characters were all brought together, the story did not work dramatically—perhaps the idea of a "Jedi Trinity" worked better in concept, but once actually implemented in script form it revealed itself to not be the success Lucas envisioned.
 Of course, it had other issues.  It also changed Obi Wan and the Jedi.  No longer could they be seen as paragons of goodness "from a more civilized age," if Obi Wan and Yoda could outright lie to Luke about his own father, then what other shady behavior could they be up to?  If Yoda could tell Luke to sacrifice his friends, how else could he fall from the noble and heroic?

This was actually the death of Star Wars as it was, and it wasn't always a good thing, because although it was a suitably dramatic moment, and a huge bit of suspense that endured for literally three years in the minds of audiences, it also became morally ambiguous, and made the whole saga more mythic and less adventurous—it bordered on ponderousness many times (especially in the prequels) because of this development specifically.

As an aside; this also ended up changing the nature of the emperor.  The original Star Wars novelization suggested that the emperor himself had lost control (echoes of which would reappear in the prequels: "Enter the bureaucrats, the true rulers of the Republic."  It also even references that there have been many Emperors, even good ones, in the past.
This has its roots in the first draft of Star Wars, where there is only the Empire, a benign one in which the Jedi served as protectors. In this version one of the Emperors became corrupted and brought fascism to the galaxy; the Sith Knights, basically a mercenary band of warriors and sworn enemies of the Jedi, joined this Emperor as enforcers and hunted down their nemeses, who opposed the new tyrannical rule. In this draft, the current Emperor is seen giving an impassioned Hitler-esque speech to a rally of troops and is described as "a thin, gray looking man, with an evil mustache which hangs limply over his insipid lip."... 
In the second draft there was now once a republic which turned into an Empire through the corrupt senate, with the citizens welcoming a police state due to war and terrorism. The Sith Knights then joined the Emperor, later revealed as a senator who was elected as supreme ruler, as minions.  This seems to have been carried over into the third draft, even though the background information was cut out of the script itself in an effort to streamline the pacing. In the fourth draft, the additional Sith were cut out of the film altogether (though not necessarily the story) and Vader is their all-purpose representative.  It is interesting to imagine that in the original Star Wars there are many other Sith servants of the Empire, as there were in the previous drafts, whom we merely aren't yet introduced to. With the neglect to show them in Empire Strikes Back as well, it seems Lucas decided that Vader was indeed the last of them.

No comments: