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Saturday, 19 January 2013

ROTJ AT 30: CHRONOLOGICALLY CHALLENGED!



A classic blog from 2008 that's more intriguing than ever with the recent news of EPISODE VII...

I recently purchased on EBAY a copy of the 1982 Canadian quarterly film magazine TRIBUTE (Fall 1982 Volume 3, issue 1), a special issue devoted to the STAR WARS trilogy, primarily on STAR WARS and EMPIRE but with a special preview of REVENGE OF THE JEDI as well. It’s a lovely item for the collection, full of nicely reproduced images and very accurately goes behind the scenes of the making of the first two films, the history of the saga and talks about the stars and characters, and production team members that have graced them. Moving into the REVENGE section, the feature on the third film basically reveals, for it’s time, everything that the LUCASFILM press machine would allow it to, including their release of the film’s first official movie stills, the logo, and two of Ralph McQuarrie’s drawings (Threepio and Artoo meeting Bib Fortuna and one of the Sail Barge battle pieces-images that would also be released to the press, and all the magazines of the day (including STARLOG and FANTASTIC FILMS, at the same time period)). The information that caught my eye on the then upcoming third film, however, was at the bottom of the feature, which talked about the plans for the STAR WARS saga after the completion of REVENGE.

Here’s what it says….

Following REVENGE OF THE JEDI, the next picture to be filmed in the nine-part ADVENTURES OF LUKE SKYWALKER, will be episode #3, a prequel to the original STAR WARS. Episodes #2 and#1 will follow and back-track sequentially to the beginning of the story. After this history of the rebellion against the empire, the final sequels #7 through #9 will be filmed and released in chronological order.”

Now that’s very interesting...

Whether this magazine’s information is correct I can't confim-though I’m assuming it would have been keenly vetted by LUCASFILM beforehand (in the build up to REVENGE they were checking on everything-they were paranoid that they didn’t want too much info on the story being leaked out) - but this statement that the next STAR WARS movie to follow REVENGE OF THE JEDI would have been what would eventually become REVENGE OF THE SITH-showing the birth of Darth Vader- is new to me! As far as I was aware, before this magazine, I always thought the plan by Lucas was to eventually do 1, 2 and 3, at some point in the future, in chronological order. If this plan to have Episode 3 follow 6 was indeed part of Lucas’s first strategy for the next saga, then it poses some very interesting questions.

How would the general audiences have reacted if they had gone ahead with the strategy of showing the back story in reverse? Would it have confused them?  And would doing the third episode of the first trilogy first have upset the balance of the story telling? It’s no secret that everyone in the world, when the Prequels trilogy was announced after years of waiting, really wanted to see the fall of Anakin Skywalker above all else (and many fans would later wish that REVENGE OF THE SITH had been EPISODE ONE and that there had been nothing of Anakin’s plot line as a child or as a young Padawan), and Lucas himself has stated in the last few years that the main plot that he conceived for the first trilogy was basically just EPISODE THREE, with THE PHANTOM MENACE and ATTACK OF THE CLONES being sketched out a lot further from the very basic paragraph ideas he had for certain characters in that red-ringed binder of his. But just how would it all have been presented if there hadn’t been that twelve year break before going back into Pre-Production for EPISODE I? Back in 1981/2, were Lucas’s thoughts just like the fans-did he just want to get to the meaty bit of the story and then work it all out from there? But from that, after everything for EPISODE III, just how was he going to top it for II then I?

And can you imagine just how intriguing the universe of the Old Republic may have looked in a time before CGI, if it had been made say four or five or years after JEDI, and a few years before JURASSIC PARK changed the effects world forever (from the minds of McQuarrie and Johnston, both of whom were still around in the mid eighties-McQuarrie had been originally contracted for four STAR WARS films (eventually passing on THE PHANTOM MENACE when he saw all the great work that Doug Chiang was doing) and Johnston worked at ILM proper until at least 1987). Or even who, apart from IanMcDiarmid as Palpatine, might have played our favourite Prequel heroes and villains in the eighties? How different would Vader’s on-screen birth have been compared to what was devised and filmed in 2005? And just how old would Vader/Anakin have been in EPISODE III? Did the idea of a young Anakin on Tatooine even exist in the original plans by Lucas for EPISODE I if it was to have been done after EPISODE II? Was Luke still a four to five year old in those genesis plans as Lucas had mentioned in 1980? (Don’t forget that line, “Your father wanted you to have this (the lightsaber) when you were old enough, but your Uncle wouldn’t allow it” said by Obi-Wan in STAR WARS) Would we have seen Leia (in 1977, Lucas said Leia was younger than Luke)? And, on the production side, after his heavy involvement on JEDI, would Lucas have taken back the directorial reins for the important finale? And on the effects side, would the lack of CGI been a help or hindrance to the film-maker. With the use of models, go motion and matte paintings instead, it certainly would have had a different feel (could you imagine a Geonosian Arena with Go-Motion) or the EPISODE III opening space battle with traditional model-work. With the lack of CGI in the eighties, we may have had several major effects scenes each film rather than many, and the restrictions may have led to a greater emphasis on plot structure and an extension of characterization? (Please don’t think I’m denigrating the Prequel Trilogy-I really enjoyed it- but the ideas that could have been done then, might have been equally inspiring as what was done now!!)

So the plan according to TRIBUTE, before the sad break up of Lucas’s marriage, was to continue making the films, perhaps after a planned break that was not as long as what eventually happened. And then, with said break up and his looking full time after his adopted daughter, Amanda, things went awry for George, his love for the Saga diminished (the nine part saga would become six instead –though, sorry George, I still don’t believe you when you said that, after VI, the story was finished once Darth Vader died-it became convenient for you to end it all after that rather than continue with Luke and Leia’s families). By the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI, he was tired and exhausted and had become fed up with it, his binder of ideas returned to the top shelf of his study and the important real life considerations of maintaining a business and raising a family now became a reality until 1995.

That nether world of Lucas’s plans, thoughts and ideas between the end of REVENGE OF THE JEDI and the birth of THE PHANTOM MENACE has always been intriguing, and this new information I’ve read makes me want to discover the truth about Lucas’ hopes for the original Saga, back in the eighties, even more…

Let’s hope that, one day, he decides to open that binder of his and let out a few more secrets...



Check out Scott Weller’s in-depth feature on THE ALTERNATE REVENGE OF THE JEDI in the comprehensive STAR WARS AFICIONADO: MAKING OF JEDI special issue, available here:


The Return of Return of the Jedi: Special Edition - YouTube

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