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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

Look as good you will not by Sam M. '07

Some summer reading for the nerds out there. Which means all of you.

DID YOU KNOW? The Tick was created as a mascot for the newsletter of a comics shop in Boston.

In my daily perusal of Wikipedia I came across STARKILLER: The Jedi Bendu Script site, which purports to. Now, hopefully it’s not just some well-known internet hoax that I’ve been taken in by, like Bonsai Kittens. But I really can’t imagine why somebody would want to fabricate really bad, fake narratives loosely based on the characters in Star Wars, so I’m assuming that they’re genuine. And since, hey, this is an MIT blog, I figured that my general readership would be nerdy enough to appreciate it.

Not that everybody at MIT is a Star Wars fan. I know some people who haven’t seen any of the films at all. According to my archives, Nicola ’07 rented the entire trilogy from our dorm last year (Burton-Conner has a free rental movie collection) to brush up on the plot of the original trilogy before seeing MTG’s fall production of Star Wars: Musical Edition.

But, yes, Revenge of the Sith did come on during finals week and we did get into a heated debate about the and the relative power levels of various Jedi. My own position was that if Darth Sidious were really that much stronger than Mace Windu, he would not have had expended so much energy in holding him back that he turned his forehead into a butt. Jeremy ’09 argued that Sidious was only pretending to be weak to lure Anakin to the dark side, but really, couldn’t he have done that without turning his forehead into a butt?

Anyway, when you start to look at George Lucas’s original scripts, you start to understand how the prequel trilogy could have turned out the way it did. The five drafts leading up to A New Hope show a vast improement in quality, suggesting that Episodes I, II, and III just could have benefitted from a little revision to remove.

For example, take this original introduction to Darth Vader:

Vader raises his arm and as a sudden pain grips Leia, she doubles up unable to continue. Vader raises his arm and a flask on the table mysteriously jumps into his open hand. He casually drinks from the flask.

I understand that it’s just a device to show Vader’s command of the Force, but I imagine “casually drinking” from a flask is one of the less threatening activities Darth Vader can engage in. But even better is this Woody Allenesque dialogue upon the introduction of Ben Kenobi.

BEN: Good morning!

LUKE: What do you mean, ‘good morning’? Do you mean that it is a good morning for you, or do you wish me a good morning, although it is obvious I’m not having one, or do you find that mornings in general are good?

BEN: All of them altogether.

Maybe if that had been left in, they wouldn’t have lost Best Picture to Annie Hall.

But these are just from the third draft of the script, when they had the plot pretty much in place (except that it involved something about Obi-Wan searching for a “Kiber crystal” to amplify his Force powers). Just seven months before that, the plot involved Owen, Beru, Biggs, Windy, Luke, and Leia Starkiller all living together on the desert planet of Utapau and Luke receiving this message from his older brother Deak:

DEAK’S IMAGE: Whippersnapper, I didn’t make it…I’m sorry. The forces of the Bogan have become strong and deadly…I am lost. Father is in grave danger. He needs you and he needs the KIBER CRYSTAL. You must find a way to get to Ogana Major on your own. He is waiting for you there. Be careful, though. Ogana Major is under siege by the Imperial Legions of Alderaan. You must hurry for the force of the Ashla grows weak, and I don’t know how much longer father can hold out. The enemy has constructed a powerful weapon to use against him. Warn Uncle…

…forget Obi-Wan, but they do eventually come in contact with Luke’s father, “The Starkiller,” who uses the Force (and the Kiber crystal) to hold off evil influence just long enough for Luke to hit the famous exhaust port with his photon torpedoes. It’s hard to believe that things turned out so incredibly well just two years later.

But even after making A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, Lucas’s original conception for Return of the Jedi was not quite the Ewok extravaganza that we’re all used to. The climax involved Lando fighting two Death stars orbiting the imperial capital planet (actually, that would have been pretty cool), but also featured the sudden resurrection of Obi-Wan Kenobi. And how to explain this unlikely event?

LUKE: Ben…

Slowly, the hooded figure looks up, revealing his face. It is Ben Kenobi in the flesh.

BEN: I could no longer stay in the netherworld.

LUKE: But Yoda said…

BEN: …that I would become one with the Force and choose not to return to the material world? That your anger prevented me from…

LUKE: But I’m not angry… not anymore… I understand why you didn’t tell me about my father. I do.

BEN: I know. And I am here to help you destroy the Emperor, and… your father.

But Vader turns out to be old and weak in his battle with Obi-Wan, so the Emperor jumps in to take care of it with his force lightning. Luckily, Luke has an ace up his sleeve…

The Emperor turns his back on Vader and faces the old Jedi, raising his hands in the air, which causes lightning to strike at Ben.

LUKE: BEN, NO!

Luke leaps in front of his mentor, and raises his hand in defense. The bolts are deflected by an invisible shield. Wherever a bolt hits, the image of Yoda momentarily appears at the point of impact.

Now, granted that you can’t really get everything out of a movie by reading its scripts, and some lines that might look dumb on paper, like, say, “Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” were brought to the life by the incomparable acting of Carrie Fisher. But, really, after reading stuff like this, it’s easier to see how George got ideas like “Hey, I’ll have R2-D2 spray out an oil slick and then set these guards on fire with his jet propulsion.” or “Nobody remembers that dumb old line from Return of the Jedi anyway, let’s just have Padme die in childbirth.” or “Yoda fighting would be SO COOL!” or “‘I don’t like sand’ is just too great of a piece of dialogue to pass up.” or “I’ve got it! Jar Jar Binks!”

Pictures from Belgium later this week.

4 responses to “Look as good you will not”

  1. Jesse says:

    What do you mean by Woody Allenesque dialogue? That conversation is almost a direct quote from The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.

    “What do you mean?” [Gandalf] said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

  2. Sam says:

    Cool, thanks for the info Jesse! I have never actually read any Tolkien at all, and I just thought it sounded like something neurotic that Woody Allen might say in Annie Hall or something. Well, that makes Luke’s line out of place in a whole different way.

  3. Joanne says:

    I haven’t actually seen Star Wars (ducks before any chairs can be thrown at me)… yet. But your description and script makes me want to see it. BTW, do you reccomend the older versions or the newer ones?

  4. Kate says:

    I was so sure that the “good morning” quote was familiar! Thanks to Jesse for confirming, and to Sam, I can’t believe you’ve ever read *any* Tolkien! At least read The Hobbit if you don’t have time for the trilogy. It’s a great story.

    To Joanne, the first ones that came out (Episodes 4, 5, 6) are, in my opinion, totally classic and incomparable to the three more recent ones. 1, 2, and 3 have their good points, but as Sam said, uh, Jar Jar Binks.