Star Wars – BLUE’S BEATS SPECIAL EDITION
Blue’s Beats is a blog series where we break down various feature screenplays by identifying and discussing their important beats.
Over the past several decades since the first Star Wars film was released, the franchise has transcended to become a powerful force of global popular culture, spawning cartoon specials, television shows, comic books, hundreds of novels, and much, much more. Many thought that George Lucas’ prequel trilogy, released from 1999 to 2005, would be the last we would ever see of Star Wars on the big screen. But, in late 2012, it was announced that Lucasfilm, the company created by Lucas, would be acquired by the mega media conglomerate, The Walt Disney Co. As part of the announcement, it was also revealed that Disney would begin to produce more films within the Star Wars canon. Many fans, myself included, were elated. Many others feared a watered down, Mickey Mouse version of Star Wars. Only time would tell.
When JJ Abrams was announced to direct the next installment, I couldn’t have been more excited and relieved. Around the release of his 2009 reboot of Star Trek, I recall hearing him in interviews tell of his adoration for Star Wars as a child. I could relate, as I have since grown fond of Trek, though it didn’t quite inspire within my seven year old self the same wonder and fondness as Star Wars. Production has since wrapped, trailers have been released, and the marketing has begun. My excitement has not once waned.
Friday, September 4th, 2015 has been dubbed Force Friday, basically the geek equivalent of Black Friday. Disney and Lucasfilm have unveiled a plethora of new merchandise and content to promote Abrams’ Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which will hit theaters December 18th, 2015. For those of us who can barely wait to see the new film, Force Friday is something of a holiday unto itself and an occasion to be celebrated. It is a milestone indicating just how close we are to returning to that galaxy far, far away….
So, in honor of Force Friday, I am taking a trip back through the script of Lucas’ first Star Wars film, Episode IV: A New Hope, in a special edition of Blue’s Beats. Lucas wrote several distinct drafts before settling on what we would eventually see on the screen. I will break down the unrevised fourth draft, the draft produced and shown in theaters in 1977.
To read the screenplay, click here.
Accompanied by a princess, a hotshot pilot, and two bumbling droids, a farm boy from a desert planet finds new purpose after meeting a Jedi Knight, sending him on new and exciting adventures, as well as a path to become the galaxy’s greatest hero in the war against the evil Empire.
Star Wars opens with one of cinema’s most iconic scenes, as an immense and terrifying Star Destroyer battleship flies into the frame in pursuit of a much smaller spacecraft. The stakes have been set. The Star Destroyer represents the Empire, a tyrannical and oppressive galactic government, and the smaller spacecraft represents the Rebellion, a ragged band of freedom fighters.
We are introduced to four of the saga’s primary characters, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), the villainous Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), and the droids, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). Leia bestows upon the two droids the stolen design plans for the Empire’s feared battle station, The Death Star. The droids escape with the plans to the desert planet below as Darth Vader takes Leia into custody.
The final version of the film cuts between the droids and Vader, but in the screenplay we are introduced to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) much sooner. Amidst the action in space, Lucas wrote a scene featuring Luke and his friends. Here we are also introduced to Bigg’s Darklighter, who is reduced to a small bit part in the film’s final cut. This scene feels as if it would have hindered the flow of action, and the film is probably better off without it.
The two droids find themselves captured and sold to Luke and his uncle. R2-D2 manages to escape and leads Luke to the old and wizened, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guiness), one of the galaxy’s last remaining Jedi Knights.
It is somewhat difficult to identify what could be THE inciting incident. There are several specific moments that set Luke on his path to become a Jedi. Is it when he and his uncle buy the droids? Perhaps when he meets Kenobi? It is arguable that the death of Luke’s aunt and uncle, his only family, is the ultimate inciting incident. With their deaths, he has nothing left to lose.
PLOT POINT ONE
Along with the two droids, Luke and Kenobi enlist the service of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his loyal co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to help them deliver the stolen plans to the Rebellion. After a brief scuffle with the Empire’s Stormtroopers, they blast off of Tatooine and begin their journey. Meanwhile, Leia bares witness to the destruction of Alderaan, her home planet, proving the Death Star’s ultimate power and raising the film’s stakes.
Luke and company arrive at what was Alderaan, finding only the planet’s remains. They are captured and taken aboard the Death Star. Their mission turns from delivering the plans to escaping the Empire’s clutches, along with Leia, whom they have learned is also aboard the battle station.
PLOT POINT TWO
After several chases and firefights, not to mention a trip into the garbage compactor, Luke, Han, and Chewbacca manage to rescue Leia and make their way back to Han’s ship, the Millennium Falcon. Kenobi goes his own way to disable the Death Star’s tractor beam, vital for their escape. On the way, he is confronted by his former pupil, Darth Vader. The once master and apprentice draw lightsabers and duel in a battle to the death. Kenobi sacrifices himself so that the others may escape, altering Luke’s newfound quest to become a Jedi.
CRISIS AND CLIMAX
Our heroes escape aboard the Millennium Falcon, devastated by the loss of Kenobi. However, they have little time to recuperate. The Empire has tracked them to the Rebel base, and the Death Star approaches, intending to crush the insurgents once and for all. Utilizing the stolen plans, which reveal a structural weakness, Luke suits up and pilots an X-Wing starfighter in a desperate attack on the Death Star. After several failed attempts, and with the insistence of Kenobi’s presence from the afterlife, Luke opens himself to the Force and successfully destroys the Death Star.
Luke, Han, and Chewbacca are celebrated as heroes, and Luke is set on the path to learn the ways of the Force.
Despite having seen Star Wars countless times, it was still a joy to read Lucas’ words on paper, and I highly recommend it for any Star Wars fan. You can also read his previous drafts for A New Hope, including his first, considerably different rough draft, here.
Founded in 1998, the BlueCat Screenplay Competition seeks to develop and discover unknown screenwriters. For 2016 BlueCat Screenplay Competition submission information, click here.