George Lucas’ statement that Disney is not using any of his treatments for The Force Awakens has set the fanbase abuzz with concern about the direction of the new trilogy. Does this mean the end of George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars? Or might we be overreacting just a wee bit?
A slightly different perspective on this after the jump.
“The ones that I sold to Disney, they came up to the decision that they didn’t really want to do those. So they made up their own. So it’s not the ones that I originally wrote.”
On its face, this would seem to indicate that Lucas’ vision for the sequel trilogy has been thrown out entirely in favor of something invented entirely by JJ Abrams and company.
But is this really what’s happened here?
Swank-mo-tron at Big Shiny Robot offers this bit of context:
“In my view, the use of the quote is definitely overblown. After George Lucas handed his handpicked screenwriter over to the process, JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took over the writing duties, which is something you’d expect when a director comes on board a project. Is the final version of this film going to be different than the one Lucas envisioned?
Undoubtedly. Is there anything here to indicate that they’ve thrown out everything Lucas did? Not one bit.”
This is an important point to bear in mind. I think we all knew long ago that the story was being changed, with the news that Michael Arndt was out and that Abrams and Kasdan were reworking the script. It was rumored that George acquiesced to JJ’s desire that the Big 3 — Harrison, Carrie, and Mark — get more play. There’s no big planet-shattering news as far as that goes. And looking back in the deepest pages of our Star Wars history books, I think we can all agree that every single Star Wars movie thus far has gone through a metamorphosis from its original draft to the final product.
Our friend at Big Shiny Robot points this fact out as well.
“It makes sense the story would be in flux a lot, too. Did you all read how Kasdan and Lucas collaborated for “Return of the Jedi?” If they used George’s original idea for Jedi, there would have been two Death Stars and Palpatine’s office would have been in a lava pit […] That they don’t use ALL the original ideas is completely normal for Star Wars.”
Look up at the banner at the top of the page here, folks. That’s from a production painting of this exact scene from the original concept for Return of the Jedi. The differences between the original story treatment and the final film are tremendous, and the result is, in my opinion, a far stronger movie. (For those of you who have never read it, the “Revenge of the Jedi” revised rough draft from June of 1981 can be found HERE.)
Allow me to add another wrinkle to all of this.
As those of you who have followed George Lucas’ career for a great many years can attest, his public statements about his Star Wars films have had a tendency to morph over time. Let’s take the example of Lucas’ claims from a decade or so ago that Star Wars was intended, from the very beginning, to be “The Tragedy of Darth Vader.”
Long ago, George Lucas filmed a movie called Star Wars in which his young hero learns that his father was “betrayed and murdered” by a young Jedi named Darth Vader. Though it is now generally assumed that this was always a red herring and that Lucas planned all along for Darth Vader be Luke’s father.
Fast forward to January of 1978, and let’s go back to the old script archive, this time to take a gander at Leigh Brackett’s first draft of The Empire Strikes Back. It can be read HERE.
Nowhere in Brackett’s script is there a single reference to Darth Vader being Luke’s father. Not only that, but in fact Luke’s father’s ghost appears to Luke and provides some of the same backstory that Obi Wan later provided in Return of the Jedi. Furthermore, Luke’s father (identified in the script only as “Skywalker”) gives Luke the “oath of a Jedi Knight” before fading away.
Granted, this rough draft was written by somebody other than George Lucas, but given the fact that he contracted Brackett to write it for him, it has to be assumed that Lucas provided her with at least the main points that he wanted her to cover – and that certainly did not include anything about Darth Vader being Luke’s father. That very obviously came about later in the rewrite process as Lucas and Kasdan rewrote the story.
And let’s also not forget that the original Star Wars novelization and the “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye” novel that followed were both subtitled “From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker.”
As adamant as George Lucas later was that Star Wars had always been “The Tragedy of Darth Vader,” it’s pretty clear that this is something he came up with much, much later.
We also heard for a long time that there was no sequel story, that he had nothing written for it, and that the story ended with Return of the Jedi. Then once the sale to Disney was final, we began to hear a very different story altogether, not only from Lucas but also from Mark Hamill, who has stated that Lucas asked him decades ago if he’d ever want to play Luke as an old man in Episode VII.
So there’s another story that changed over time.
Yes, George Lucas is now saying that Disney decided that they didn’t want to do the stories from his sequel treatments, so they made up their own. No offense to our old friend George, but I smell just the faintest whiff of “from a certain point of view” in all of this.
Back to the Big Shiny Robot article. Swank-mo-tron mentions an interview that he had recently had with Star Wars story consultant and spin-off screenplay author Simon Kinberg.
Me: How much of Lucas’ blueprint do you rely on or is it even in play anymore?
Kinberg: It depends from movie-to-movie, is the answer. But it’s definitely a part of the planning of all the different movies and it was something that I was exposed to from the beginning of the process.
To me, this very strongly suggests that Lucas’ treatment for The Force Awakens hasn’t been simply chucked in the bin as many of us may assume to be the case. We’ll find all of this out in years to come, of course, but I suspect that what happened is that JJ Abrams and company did exactly what has been done early in the conceptual phase of virtually every Star Wars movie to date: They kept what they felt worked, including the general theme and probably a number of characters and story elements, but went a different direction with the story.
And speaking of different directions, this segues nicely into the last aspect of this puzzle. When George Lucas spoke about selling Lucasfilm Ltd. to Disney back in 2012 he casually mentioned that he had written treatments for, “The final trilogy.” This, of course, seems to suggest that his plans were to finish the Skywalker storyline with Episode IX. But Lucas also said that he gave Disney enough material to make Star Wars for the next 100 years. If George’s intentions were to finish the current series at IX then how would Disney continue to make movies for a hundred years? This is purely speculation but part of what George may be referring to is Disney’s direction to continue the current saga beyond nine? Surely they would need to plan this trilogy to set up the next. For more on this particular speculation you can read Echo-07’s article that we posted back in June.
George Lucas may genuinely feel that this means that Disney and the TFA production team decided not to do his story, but that doesn’t necessarily make it so. My humble suggestion is that we try to keep all of this in perspective for the time being until we get a clearer picture of what has actually changed. The situation may not be quite as Lucas characterizes it, and it could even end up resulting in a stronger story and a more enjoyable movie for us this December. As always, time will tell.