My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What is fascinating about these annotated screenplays is that such an authoritative text actually deconstructs its own authority, the idea of canon/continuity (so important to so many fans), and even the idea of a core “true” narrative. Just as fascinating, I cannot determine whether Laurent Bouzereau set out to achieve this.
The screenplays in and of themselves are fairly straightforward, though even here there is ambiguity. Some descriptions, for instance, simply do not match the final film (the bounty hunters in Episode V, for example). Then again, what is the final film? With the original films, then special editions, DVD versions, and Blu-ray versions, the classic trilogy at least does not really offer a single definitive version of events to choose from. These screenplays, published in 1997, allude to the beginnings of these changes, with some blocks of text printed in parallel, original edition on one side and special edition on the other. These recurrent, sometimes subtle, challenges to a single primary text (and they are challenges, since even ignoring the special edition, these screenplays at times contradict the scenes in the films) feel quite…postmodern, whether that was the intent or not.
There are many excerpts from interviews with several creative personalities behind the movies, and interspersed throughout there are also summaries of different drafts of the screenplays. These blocks of text interrupt the reading of the screenplays, constantly encouraging the reader to step away from the script as pure narrative and to instead review it as a constantly evolving creative work, changed both by time and collaboration.
The summaries of older drafts are fascinating, to see how ideas were dropped and remixed–many dropped ideas could easily make interesting independent stories of their own, and I suppose there was an attempt to demonstrate this reality years later with The Star Wars comic series. The interview snippets can be just as fascinating, and not everything involves story development; as Bouzereau says in the introduction, while some non-story-development excerpts detail how production impacted design of creatures or could have impacted character development, “I’ll admit that some of the stories were just too good to be dismissed!” These interviews offer more challenge to the idea of authoritative Creation or Creator. There is some tension between different accounts of certain events, and perhaps most interestingly, one can see George Lucas himself fluctuate between honesty and the myth-building that he has always been prone toward.
I have had this book for many years, since childhood. I often skimmed through passages or looked up lines, but I never actually read it from front to back until now. On the one hand, I feel like I have really been missing out on a delightful pseudo-history; on the other hand, I wonder if I would have even recognized the most tantalizing tensions present in this meta-narrative at a young age. This book can be a fun way to “read” the films, but it can offer a lot more if you’ll let it. I would certainly recommend the latter.