The Fog Of War(s): The Media And The TFA Script

Earlier this week, it was suggested in the June issue of Vanity Fair and on The Atlantic’s website that the TFA script junked all of George Lucas’s treatments for the sequel trilogy. Lucas himself had stated Disney had not used his treatments and had gone “in a different direction” in an interview this past winter. Recently at an interview during the Tribeca film festival , Lucas said he had “no idea” what was in TFA and was “excited” to see the results.

I took the Vanity Fair and Atlantic pieces as proof that Disney was basically making it a $200 million piece of fan fiction. It would be similar to Alexandra Ripley’s 1991 novel “Scarlett,” a sequel to “Gone With The Wind” officially-sanctioned by the estate of Margaret Mitchell except that Mitchell had been dead since 1949 while Lucas remains alive. On the SWPAS Facebook page, I noted it would be like J.R.R. Tolkien turning in a manuscript for a sequel (not “The Simarillon”) to his LOTR trilogy in 1965 and the publishers deciding, “Meh, let’s just get Jacqueline Susann to write her own sequel instead.” They could’ve called it “Valley of the Hobbits.”

This did not make me happy. It’s one thing if the creator is dead (Gene Roddenberry for example) or incapacitated. It’s another if the creator simply retired. I was okay with the saga ending with ROTS and had long accepted the idea of Star Wars not continuing beyond ROTJ, at least not the Skywalker family saga. I’d figured if Lucas ever wanted to return to the same universe, he could do so in other media or with a whole new story set in the same galaxy. I was interested in more only if Lucas had anything more to say. I didn’t like the idea of somebody doing the cinematic version of the expanded universe without Lucas’s involvement. The only hope I had for new movies was that they would be Lucas’s last will and testament, just with more polishing up and details added. Worse yet these news stories blamed the prequels for what Disney did, claiming Lucas wanted “kids” in his treatment.

But hold on…it comes out that Lucas told Stephen Colbert in an interview recently that “it wasn’t The Phantom Menace” all over again, and that his original protagonists were in their 20s. Which is consistent with what was in ANH…Luke and Leia were around 18. Lucas always favored young heroes and it makes sense that this emerging generation of heroes would be around the same age, since there may not have the same separation issues that Anakin had (which was why he was that young in TPM). The crazy part is it looks like those are the results we got, at least with regard to Finn and Rey, who both look under 25. (Lucas also noted in his comments that this trilogy is supposed to be about Anakin’s grandchildren.)

More confusing yet is Kathleen Kennedy’s vague comments that “some departures” of those treatments were made. What the heck is going on?

Michael Arndt was the first screenwriter hired in 2013 to write the script based off of Lucas’s treatments. He was kicked from the project because he was unable to finish on time (joining Gary Whitta and Josh Trank in Lucasfilm’s Kicked To The Curb pile) so in November 2013, Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams took over screenwriting duties. They were finished in January 2014. Unless they spent the holidays on cheap speed writing a whole screenplay in just two months or it was really a slapdash effort, they had to have used a lot of the basic ideas of Arndt’s script. The question is, just how much of Lucas’s ideas were in Arndt’s script that carried over to the final version? Up until the movie comes out and Lucas has seen it, we just won’t know.

If Disney really did pull this out of thin air it could chip away at the film’s perceived authenticity if it was widely known. I’m sure if you ask any random person on the street about TFA, chances are good that person believes Lucas is still involved in some way or that the story came from him. There’s only one way to clear the air and reassure filmgoers and that is to clarify the process, which can be done without giving anything away. That they are not doing so, even with misleading stories in the press, makes me that much more suspicious.

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3 Responses to The Fog Of War(s): The Media And The TFA Script

  1. Keith Palmer says:

    The depressing thought about this for me (yet also annoying for how easily it comes to mind) is imagining those who’ll cluck and smirk that George Lucas only has himself to blame for this and then keep pushing The Force Awakens as “the franchise liberated.” Mentioning Gene Roddenberry, too, reminds me of hearing how he had been “pushed upstairs” after the difficult production and criticism on release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and then he was “pushed upstairs” again after criticism of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation…

    However, if Michael Arndt had been “working from Lucas’s treatments,” and was replaced not because JJ Abrams thought he could appeal to the self-proclaimed online tastemakers better but just because Arndt was having trouble finishing the script, that might be something else. I don’t know how much and what kind of “spin” is out there.

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    • lazypadawan says:

      It’s hard to get a handle on what’s really happening, that’s for sure.

      A few weeks ago I watched on t.v. a documentary about Gene Roddenberry and it mentioned the problems Roddenberry had with the writing staff of Next Gen. Over time Roddenberry had become more of a utopian than he had been at the time of the original series and wanted to present a future where not only the problems of the ’60s had been solved, most of the basic problems plaguing humanity since time immemorial had been solved. It drove the writing staff crazy because conflict drives drama but conflicts were hard to come by with most of society’s problems in the bag. Or so it went. The writers began introducing elements like the Borg after Roddenberry died.

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  2. Eduardo Vargas says:

    I’m also confused as to what exactly happened with this story.

    I’d be OK if the story changed somewhat from George’s original treatments (how much of a story George had even remains a mystery). However, if they really did pull the plug on George’s ideas, then it really doesn’t make me interested in the film whatsoever, since it would be like, as you said, someone did a continuation of LOTR and it wasn’t JRR Tolkien.

    I remember around the time that Arndt was pulled out of the project that Clone Wars writer Brent Friedman had said that they where following George’s treatments “very closely”-So unless they pulled a 180 and created a completely new story in a mere 1-2 months, then I don’t think the final product will be a very significant departure.

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