"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, March 15, 2015

'The Star Wars': A Long Writing Process Ago

The Star WarsThe Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I apprenticed at a professional theatre company, I had the chance to observe script development. I watched other writers take their scripts through succeeding drafts. One character might disappear. Other characters might be combined. Lines spoken by one person in an earlier draft might be spoken by someone else in the next. It was sometimes frustrating when the writer changed something you liked, but the creative process remained intriguing.

The Star Wars is based on a rough draft screenplay by George Lucas which later evolved into Star Wars. I snatched a copy off a display of newly acquired graphic novels at my public library. This resulted in a highly enjoyable Saturday impulse read. Like my experiences with play development, I was struck by this comic book’s collection of familiar characters, settings, and dialogue—familiar, but often quite different.

I am giving this graphic novel a 3-star review based on story quality, but as a fan experience it was easily a 4-star excursion. Keeping in mind this is an adaptation of a screenplay, not a strict rendering presumably, I am not sure at whom my criticism is best directed. The story seems choppy, often jargon-laden for jargon’s sake. Yet the drama remains well-focused around the fate of Princess Leia. Some panels come with little or no context, feeling aggressively abrupt. Perhaps the roughness of Lucas’s draft was aggravated by the intentionally blocky nature of comic book storytelling?

Parts of the story feel underdeveloped or poorly supported--in particular, the love story between Annikin and Leia, who in this version are not related…hopefully (early draft indeed). Part of what made the romance element of Star Wars the movie work is it played mostly on swashbuckling sexual tension and schoolboy crush. We didn’t see full-on romance in the first outing. Things were allowed to simmer with entertaining results. Here the characters go from telltale antagonism to Romeo and Juliet melodrama in the blink of an eye. Not plausible, and exacerbated by Lucas’s rough attempts at lyrical dialogue (which we know from the film prequels can make it into a final draft).

Still, driven by the tension of a looming Death Star, The Star Wars makes for high energy space opera. It feels more violent and less funny than the finished cinematic product. Yet, as the fantastic cover art by Nick Runge portrays, this earlier draft contains the richness of Lucas’s vision, even if it lacks the charm infused by the movie’s cast and designers. I recommend The Star Wars for fellow fans of that galaxy far, far away.

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