STAR WARS, and what Might Have Been...
It’s 13 November 2015, and I wanted to get this out there, albeit hastily between the many projects. I wanted some sort of record “before” the next full downpour of soda cups, toys, dolls, and the newest must-have light-sabers! (My kids have a custom-built light-saber RACK by the way, from before the dark times… before the Empire.) Don’t forget the “new” conveniently scripted Darth mask, for our new "mysterious masked man!"
To set the record straight, I want you to know that I paid 43 times to see the original STAR WARS movie. I have seen it many more times than that, but 43 paid times to be blown away again and again, and experience it in various theaters just to measure audience reactions and the effects of differing sound-systems, etc.
Today's share excludes JOHN WILLIAMS! It is my opinion that if it were not for John Williams, and his mammoth talent, his vision, his homages to Erich Korngold and Gustav Holst, his Romantic, Operatic vision, STAR WARS would have dwindled long ago.
When EMPIRE STRIKES BACK hit the screen in 1980, I was in my first high school teaching job. When the band kids did something well, I would cup my hands over my mouth and say, “Impressive. Most Impressive.” It wasn’t until I brought the entire band to the movies to see EMPIRE that they even knew what I was talking about! The theater erupted in laughter when Darth Vader said it to Luke.
Thirty-Five years ago in 1980, at the height of my Romantic idealism and naivete, I wrote a letter to George Lucas. Handwritten, mind you! In it I praised him and all of the artists involved in STAR WARS. I was convinced they were making the masterpiece, masterwork of our Time! I try to describe to my kids the CHILL of hearing Darth Vader say, “I am your father” when no one knew in advance, on a huge screen, in a theater with an incredible sound-system. It was our generation’s BEN HUR, and a moment that cannot be recreated even with the most careful descriptions. You had to be there.
When posters for RETURN of the JEDI came out I began to explain to like-minded friends what the poster meant!
“I’ll bet you that at some point in the movie, the camera pans down from that image of the 2 hands on the light saber to reveal… Yes… DARTH VADER. He is the JEDI! You’ll see! What we will learn at the end of RETURN of the JEDI is that Ben Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker devised a daring plot… later revealed in the first 3 movies of the 3 part- 3 part- 3 part trilogy!”
Yes NINE Star Wars movies! I was so excited, me the guy who paid 43 times to see “A New Hope.” I was totally convinced of this!
“But Steve,” said my friends, “what do you mean that Darth Vader is the Jedi? They can’t do that. Darth Vader is a bad guy. Don’t you see?”
“Don’t you see? Luke goes to the DARK SIDE! It is the ultimate modern-day Opera! Then, we are literally shot into YEARS of Freaking Suspense-Limbo while we wait! Eventually, we are entreated to the backstory of the first trilogy of 3 movies. Get it? The first trilogy will be about HOW and WHY Ben Kenobi and Anakin plotted to go under cover and send Darth Vader into the Empire as a grand ultimate Spy of the Resistance!”
“Man, listen to me! These guys are GENIUSES! (Meaning Lucas and Williams, etc.) Who does Darth Vader kill? He kills his own Generals of the Empire, right? Apology accepted Captain Nido… and remember when the Emperor says… (In the version BEFORE they changed it!!!) … ‘Beware the Son of Skywalker.’ That is the Emperor sensing that Anakin’s son, Luke, who on the one hand could become a potential ally of the Dark Side, could ALSO wind up helping Ben and Anakin to overthrow the Emperor!”
But it also carried a delightfully layered set of potential meanings. “It also meant that there was a yet-to-be-revealed dangerous game played by Ben and Anakin. It was a plot-precursor to Luke’s Son, Anakin’s Grandson in the 3rd trilogy, setting things straight, films 7-8-9! See it now?”
Like you probably, they just thought I was over-the-top.
We went to see RETURN of the JEDI together. Luke shows up in black! “See? See!?” I poked at them! And right up to the scene where Luke saves his friends, I was CONVINCED that we would see Luke call in the Storm-Troopers with a wrist communicator. They would fly in over the sand dunes. The Storm-Troopers would salute Luke as "General Skywalker" and apprehend the new prisoners!
Remember that scene when Darth Vader says, “I see you have constructed a new light saber.”
Now imagines those SAME lines with the NEW acting and meaning… “I sense the goodness in you father.”
Only this time an apprehensive Anakin, wondering if his and Ben’s idea will fail answers, “Luke, it was never supposed to be like this. When Ben and I…”
“Ben!? Father, what are you keeping from the Emperor?” Etc. Etc.
Remember when Darth Vader blocks Luke’s lightsaber attack on the Emperor? Now imagine it the other way around. The profound, tragic, Shakespearian Irony when it is Luke who protects the Emperor with his block of Vader’s attack!
In absolute Operatic darkness, Anakin, our newfound Hero, the Jedi returned… is killed. We leave the theater in shock, and thoughts that will take years to fix! So much is left unsettled for us, the devoted followers of this story! Who will save Luke? Is salvation possible? What was Ben’s and Anakin’s original plan? Why did Darth Vader risk so much to go under cover, including his own son? All these questions were to be answered in SIX more films!
Alas. They instead made the RETURN of the JEDI we all know and still find it within ourselves to love, a movie for little kids.
Now… why am I so hurriedly telling you this boyhood story from 35 years ago and after the fact? The answer is simple.
STAR WARS 7 is brought to you with tons of money and PR from the new Empire. JOHN WILLIAMS will make it worth the exerience! Special effects will be glorious!, but let’s face it… if you haven’t figured it out yet, they are going to try to RE-release the cat out of the bag and have it both ways. Yes, Luke will be on the Dark Side (as it should have been in RETURN.) Or maybe not! Maybe they will keep Luke "pure," realizing that they can't suddenly undo the damage already done to the story line, and make Leia's son the new Darth. It'll be something like that. More "family" stuff where the entire forces of the Rebellion are mere backdrop for a small family problem. Perhaps the new bad guy is the nephew twice removed of an unknown impoverished uncle who was once a homeless victim of a yet-to-be-mentioned attack.
Might be something different... but really, for those of you who have been around the block and are not young enough for the new seduction, sisters and brothers and aunts twice removed only goes so far.
With HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars you can sell anything, even bad ideas. Frankly, I am amazed that they still expect an “ooh" and an “aah” from the audience. Kids they’ll get, as usual, but what of us, what of us? Like Kirk, “What of Lazarus? What of Lazarus?”
Brace yourself for the next X number of in-your-face-Star-Wars-is-just-so-cool years as your LIFETIME is consumed by a franchise that might have been epic, but is now just a lesson in what might have been and money-making. Then again, much is possible. When you rewrite History, even fictional history as we have seen before with the new STAR TREK movies, you can do whatever you want. It’s just like waiting for the remaining Survivors of the USS INDY to pass before you release your version of their story. Sad. True.
Imagine that we can go back in Time. STAR WARS 6 (the 3rd movie) is made as suggested. STAR WARS 1-2-3 is made with all the fine detail of the plot to assassinate the Emperor. Luke gets in the way. We then need STAR WARS 7-8-9 to complete the Story and set things straight. Skywalker’s Son.
Well, friends, I needed to get this out of my system more quickly than ever. SW7 approaches. I just wrapped on a new commission, perhaps synchronously entitled, “In the Darkest Darkness,” and SYMPHONY IIII will premiere just 8 days from now. As we speak, I am prepping ideas for a new film score, ironically for one of the friends with whom I had shared my ideas 35 years ago. He is directing! SYNC!
I do hope you've gotten the gist of my rapid-fire ideas, my twinge of frustration, and that your imaginations will run wild with what “might have been.”
In the meantime, if you’re like me, and you were a teenager when STAR WARS hit the big screen, you’ll still wind up bringing your family and maybe even buy some new toys just in time for Christmas! Wow! What a coincidence! ; - )!