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Thursday, December 27, 2012

If I'd Written Star Wars II, Part I

Like most other kids who were lucky enough to see Star Wars during its original theatrical run, I fell in love with the film. I was enthralled by the space battles, intrigued by the exotic aliens, frightened by Darth Vader and, most of all, utterly captivated by the fictional universe George Lucas and his team crafted. In the beginning, it was a world of infinite possibilities - until succeeding films closed off those possibilities one by one. Sometimes I prefer to pretend that Star Wars was the first and last film set in Lucas' expansive universe, so that I can continue to imagine how the story of Luke, Leia, Han, Darth and the others may have turned out differently...

Though most critics identify The Empire Strikes Back as the strongest film in the series, Star Wars remains my favourite. Empire may feature stronger direction and editing, a more complex story and actors who have grown more confident in their roles, but it also marks the point when Lucas' universe started to contract rather than expand.

When I watched Star Wars though eight year old eyes, Luke Skywalker was my avatar. His trials were mine; his joy and sorrows shared. Like Luke, then, I fell in love with Princess Leia, and grew jealous when Han Solo showed an interest as well. And like Luke, I wished that I'd known my father, and felt hatred for Darth Vader, the dark warrior who'd killed him.

When the final credits rolled on that summer day in 1977, I speculated eagerly about what might happen next. Darth Vader had escaped, so naturally he and Luke would eventually wind up in a face-to-face confrontation. Luke and Han would jostle for Leia's affections. The Empire would launch some kind of counterattack in response to the loss of the Death Star. When I played with my Kenner Star Wars action figures on the sand dunes of Leaf Rapids, all kinds of possibilities raced through my mind. While my fantasies were never as coherent as I'm about to relate, here's what a sensible outline of my thoughts might have looked like...

The opening narrative crawl - sans "Episode V" - would inform the audience that after the destruction of the Death Star, a host of new worlds had joined the Rebellion, fortifying the forest moon of Yavin and turning it into an impregnable fortress, the seat of a burgeoning new provisional government. Empire and Rebellion are now at about equal strength, and the as-yet-unseen Emperor has ordered his forces to fall back in an effort to keep any other potentially rebellious star systems under the heel of the Empire. With the fighting at a lull, Luke Skywalker returns to Tatooine with the droids, Chewbacca and Han Solo to tie up some loose ends...

As the narrative crawl disappears into the starfield, the camera pans down from the Millennium Falcon, coming in for a leisurely landing at Mos Eisley. While Han and Chewbacca use their reward from the last film to pay off Jabba the Hutt - without incident - Luke and the droids return to Anchorhead. Here Luke visits the graves of his aunt and uncle, learning that neighbours had to make arrangements for the burial after Luke's abrupt disappearance. He's reunited with his old friends, unseen in the first film: Deak, Windy, Camie and the rest. They hold a memorial for Biggs Darklighter, lost in the battle of Yavin. Luke reflects on how much has changed in his life in so short a time. As his friends depart - some proud of Luke, some angry that he couldn't save Biggs, some not knowing how to react to seeing a boy they called "Wormie" return home as a galactic hero - Luke is left feeling more alone than ever. He rents a landspeeder - the same, it turns out, that he sold in the first film, but Luke fails to recognize it thanks to a new paint job - and drives to the Lars farm to sift through whatever ruins remain. Finding nothing of value from his old life, he wills the farm to the neighbours who cleaned up the smoking ruins and makes one final stop - Ben Kenobi's small home. Intending only to secure Ben's home from Jawas and other scavenging intruders, he discovers that Ben had left a holographic message for him, perhaps foreseeing his own death and Luke's return:

"Luke," the hologram says, "If you're seeing me now, I can only assume our mission to Alderaan succeeded, but that I didn't survive our quest. I knew that you would return here if you could, so I left this message behind to tell you all that you need to know, all the things I didn't have time to share in our race to save the princess. I told you what happened to your father...but we never talked about your mother."

Luke, wide-eyed and shushing the interrupting droids, listens as Ben reveals that as far as he knows, his mother, Laurel Sundiver, still lives. She was an astromech, and she met Luke's father Anakin while servicing his starfighter. Unfortunately, Darth Vader, a rival Jedi, also loved Laurel, and betrayed and murdered Luke's father just as Ben claimed in the first film. In a jealous rage, he slew Anakin only months after Luke was born. Ben - or Obi-Wan, as he was then known - arrived just in time to prevent the sadistic Darth from killing Luke and Laurel as well. Obi-Wan maimed Darth horribly in the ferocious battle, but ensured that his former friend received the very best medical that put Darth in the awful black metal armor and life support system so familiar to audiences of the first film. Darth should have served a long prison sentence, but he escaped medical custody, vowing revenge on Kenobi and the Skywalkers. Growing ever stronger in the dark side of the force, Darth became a constant threat to Laurel and Luke, and Obi-Wan arranged to send Laurel to one side of the galaxy and Luke to the other, to Tatooine.

Ben, via hologram, expresses his hopes that Vader is dead and that mother and son might be reunited. He cautions Luke to attempt reunion only after the war is over and Vader is vanquished, but Luke, still young, impatient and without mentors, vows to find his mother and protect her from Vader and the Empire.

Meanwhile, back on the green moon of Yavin, Princess Leia and the Rebel leadership continue to use diplomatic channels to bring more worlds to the side of the rebellion. Everyone knows the lull in hostilities can't last forever. That's why, aside from diplomatic initiatives, the rebels are working on a doomsday weapon of their own, a Life Star, a huge moon-sized ion cannon designed to render technology useless without harming life forms. A convoy of battleships leading the Life Star to the Imperial capital could end the war once and for all, with relatively minimal loss of life.

But a spy has stolen the Life Star plans, and prepares even now to make her escape...

Tomorrow: Act II!


Totty said...

"Nice work, Mr. Woods, but the studio has a few notes for you. Does the rebel weapon have to be called Life Star? Marketing doesn't like it, they think there will be backlash from pro-choicers. And can we make Yavin a desert world like Tatooine? It will save on location moves."

Coincidentally, Paul & I just re-watched the original trilogy over Christmas. Mine are the first release on DVD, with the new effects. This includes, unfortunately, Hayden Christenson in the ghost trio at the end of Return of the Jedi, but at least there's less "Jub Jub" furby party too.

"Jeffmember Me" said...

Earl recently turned me on to "Star Crash", the infamous SW rip-off, or at least one of a number. The fan who wrote the jacket liner in breathless prose points out how he loves SC much more than SW. Having seen the film firts on crapvision VHS, I could not make the comparison. On Blu-Ray, however, it's magnificent! Loopy, broken, flawed, bizarre, yes, but a real triumph in space opera adventure. Almost what SW should have been...

Not that my parents would ever let a Stella Starr Kenner action figure into the house.

Point is, now I am coming to grips that perhaps SC really is better than SW... too bad they couldn't work up a sequel.