Being a Star Wars fan requires occasional recalibration, whether that’s accepting the often terrible material of the Expanded Universe novels and comics and games, or accepting the sudden elimination of all of the previous Expanded Universe novels and comics and games, or the prequels, or the Last Jedi, or whatever thing from the larger saga doesn’t quite fit with your own personal conception of the franchise.
But there’s one thing which everyone agrees on, and that is that the first film – the one now referred to as A New Hope, then referred to as Star Wars – was perfect.
And so it’s a bit a surprise to discover that the original ending to said film was… well, kind of lousy.
The stories of how most of the actors that worked on Star Wars thought it was a load of arse are legion, and it’s not just because they couldn’t sense how the larger narrative worked with all the groundbreaking visuals, the stirring John Williams score and/or Ben Burrt extraordinary sound design.
It’s because the script was genuinely a load of arse. For example: the ending.
In the original screenplay the attack on the Death Star has a couple of big differences to what you see on screen including Luke taking TWO SHOTS at the trench run to blow up the Death Star. Suddenly the pod race sequence from The Phantom Menace seems like a masterpiece in narrative economy.
But here’s the biggest difference: in the original script, the one which was filmed, the Death Star wasn’t coming to blow up the Rebels. At all.
And you might recall that was a fairly important bit of the film.
That whole thing about the Death Star entering into orbit around the planet and moving into position to blow up the moon with the rebels on it? That was entirely created in the edit with some post-production graphics and overdubbed dialogue.
Watch the sequence again: at no point does anyone on screen talk about how the Death Star is coming into range. It’s all in overdub or in a long shot where you can’t quite see lips move.
The genius who put this in? Marcia Lucas, George’s then-wife and film editor.
She accurately noticed that there was zero tension with the rebels zooming off to fight a thing that wasn’t actually a threat, and that this also seemed a bit like bombing a bunch of people for no especially good reason.
So she got George to do some new dialogue to drop in, some nice graphics about Death Stars coming into range, and suddenly: we’ve got a race against time on our hands!
No wonder the editors got the only Oscar for Star Wars. Without them – and especially Marcia – things might have gone very differently, and now we wouldn’t have angry fanboys whining about how Rey is a Mary Sue. And who’d want to live in that timeline?