Thursday, February 04, 2010

Contentious Statement of the Day

No matter what George Lucas says in interviews, I believe that Darth Vader was not originally meant to be Anakin Skywalker; in fact, I think he was basically an afterthought in the first "Star Wars" movie whose role was greatly expanded based on fan response to the character. If you watch the original film without the dubious benefit of the Expanded Universe backstory, he's clearly meant to be a minor thug compared to the real villain, Grand Moff Tarkin.


Matthew Johnson said...

If you take a look at some of Lucas' early treatments (onlime at can see that Vader was a composite of several earlier characters. I totally agree that there was no notion in the first movie that he was Luke's father, though.

Fred said...

I think it was a good idea, but agree that it wasn't one that occurred to Lucas at any time until after the original first movie.

Otherwise, Obi-wan did a really lousy job of hiding Anakin's kids from him.

Michael Penkas said...

Yeah, I've always wondered that myself.

Leia is hidden on another planet, with a couple that she assumes (and I'd guess everyone else in the galaxy would also assume) to be her biological parents. Even if Anakin did know that his children had survived, he'd have no idea where to start looking.

Luke, on the other hand, is dropped at the doorstep of Anakin's only living (that he knows of) relatives. He's told he's adopted and must have met any number of people who knew his father when he was a boy. Chances are that Darth Vader wouldn't even have to go looking for Luke in order to find him. He'd probably just bump into him if he ever visited Owen and Beru (not that that was terribly likely, but still ...)

As far as not being Luke's father in the first film, I'm not sure. I certainly can't imagine that Leia was meant to be his daughter in the first film. Even in Empire, there's that groan-inducing incest-kiss that suggests that George Lucas hadn't yet worked out who was related to whom.

All in all, the first three films worked out pretty well in the end, whether or not the scripts were written on the fly.


Unknown said...

I think you're overstating your case by going with the "two-bit thug" comment.

1) Vader's got way more screen time than Tarkin.

2) He's the one who directly threatens the Princess and kill's Luke's mentor.

3) Obi-wan tells him that Vader not only killed Luke's father, but that he also hunted down the rest of the Jedi Knights.

4) He gets away in the end. Meaningless muscle dies before the main villain, and never gets away alive except in action-comedies where no one dies.

Clearly he's a much more significant character than you're describing him, and frankly, more significant than Tarkin, regardless of who's nominally in charge.

Now is he intended to be Luke's father in Star Wars? No, clearly not. After all, Lucas had no reason to believe he'd ever get a sequel. Indeed, it was nearly a miracle that he managed to get the film made at all. Anything he could do, he put in the movie and only after the success of Star Wars did "No, I am your father." come into play.

And no, he didn't plan on Leia being Luke's sister until Return of the Jedi, for that matter.

Unknown said...

...or if he DID, the whole kissing in the medbay scene is really creepy.

I'd prefer to go with the "he doesn't plan that far ahead" idea, myself.


John Seavey said...

Oh, they absolutely worked well--not despite the revisions, but in many cases because of them. Good editing is an essential element of making any story better, no matter what the medium, and I whole-heartedly approve of Lucas' ability to find what worked in the first movie and make it better in the second.

What bugs me is that Lucas continually tries to paint himself as a master planner, a genius visionary who birthed the entire six-movie saga in one great burst of imagination and then waited to produce it until technology had caught up with his searing, white-hot vision. Which is, frankly, patent BS.

martin said...

For the most obsessive and in-depth analysis of the origin of Star Wars,
have a look at the:

Based on this site, (and its quite convincing), George Lucas is either an incurable liar or has brainwashed himself into believing a complete fantasy about how he created Star Wars.

E. Wilson said...

"4) He gets away in the end. Meaningless muscle dies before the main villain, and never gets away alive except in action-comedies where no one dies."

Considering the ignoble way he gets away (he just kind of...leaves), I wouldn't be surprised if he was originally scripted to be killed in a dramatic fashion, but the idea was nixed at the last moment.

Otherwise, his departure at the end of the Death Star battle makes little sense, from a dramatic standpoint.

John Seavey said...

When I say "two-bit thug", I don't so much mean that he's a minor character so much as he's a clear henchman to the main villain, Tarkin. He's fulfilling a pretty common role in stories like this; with a main villain who's primarily a calculating, cerebral type, he needs someone to do the physical dirty work of beating people up, killing people and the like.

I think that Vader's survival really was an afterthought, probably just one of those fortuitous bits of insight that sometimes strikes smart creators. And having left him alive and seeing how popular he was with audiences, Lucas greatly expanded his role for the sequel.

Andrew McCarthy said...

All of these comments are quite spot on, I must say.

Lucas originally wanted to kill Vader in the space battle at the end of the first movie (and he *did* do so in the second draft script), but of course that didn't last.

And the "I am your father" idea came up only when Lucas was revising the script for Empire. In the first draft, written by Leigh Brackett, Vader and Luke's father were still separate characters: Skywalker Senior shows up alongside Ben Kenobi as a Force Ghost who talks to Luke.

The problem of course was that Luke now had three mentor characters: Yoda, Ben Kenobi, and Skywalker Senior. (This would have been less of a problem if Lucas had stuck to his original plan of letting Obi-Wan survive the first film, eliminating the need for Yoda as a flesh-and-blood mentor.)

Leigh Brackett died after writing the first draft, and Lucas had to do the next revision himself. He realized he had to cut down on the number of Force Ghosts, and he solved the problem by combining Vader and Luke's father. Never mind that this changed the nature of the plot completely...

Oh, and yes, the Luke/Leia sister-brother thing only came about in Return of the Jedi, as a way to resolve Yoda mysterious "there is another" comment in Empire. (Which was originally not meant to be significant, but only to suggest that it was a real possibility Luke might die fighting Vader.)

magidin said...

I generally agree with your take, except Vader escaping in Star Wars being an "afterthought" or a late decision. It actually makes sense if Tarkin is going to buy it at the end of Star Wars. Having the menacing, somewhat mysterious, violent henchman survive to become the nemesis of the next film when the major villain dies is reasonably common. Eddings has done that (way too many times, granted) in his book series. It would mean a sequel would have a clearly recognizable villain, and one who was distinctly different from the previous villain.

E. Wilson said...

Except that Vader just kind of disappears during the fight; a viewer could be forgiven for assuming he died off-camera. If it was always an intentional decision, it was done very poorly.

Kate Holden said...

I get the feeling that Lucas has become caught up in his own story. People do tend to exaggerate or misremember details of their lives naturally. Perhaps if every day people are saying "Wow, you're so great, you came up with this awesome story with this shock twist in the middle! Did you always plan it that way?" it's easier to say "uh, yeah" than to answer truthfully, but over time perhaps, you'd start to believe that story yourself through reinforcement.

Personally, I think that organic 'made this stuff up as we went along' quality is one of the charming things about the original trilogy. The lack of neatness in the narrative, full of loose ends and illogical bits, somehow gives it more credibility. It feels like a very old story that's evolved over time.

I wish they'd realise that Lucas is a broad brushstrokes guy, and there's no shame in being that way, but they should get in other people to do the detail and plotting. When you do that, you get really great things, like 'Empire' or the game 'Knights of the Old Republic 2' teaming up Lucas' big vision and wild, epic ideas with a writer and/or director with attention to detail.

magidin said...

Yes, he slinks off; yes, the viewer may think he died off-camera. That's exactly how you set things up if you are considering bringing in the erstwhile hechman to be your main villain in later episodes. If you change your mind, you never mention him again, but otherwise you are perfectly set up to bring him back with a vengeance. While I agree that the whole "Vader=Anakin Skywalker" thing was likely conceived later, I think there was certainly an idea of "we can bring him back to be the major villain if we get the sequel" while making the final decisions for Star Wars.

Anonymous said...

I think you are all forgetting one crucial fact:

Luke Skywalker was originally a female character.

A lot of what happens in the films apropos Darth Vader and Leia and Han Solo would have been radically different with a female Luke Skywalker.

Also, one gets the impression that George Lucas actually believes the lies he makes up. And that means we will never find out the actual history of the creation of the Star Wars film and its franchise, because even Lucas has no idea what the truth of the matter is any more.