Behind every great story is obvious a story about that which never got told: namely the original tale. From the script to the screen is one thing, but what about from the writer’s head on to the initial page? That’s what makes THE STAR WARS – a retelling of George Lucas’s rough draft – honestly even worth the time of day. After all, there’d be zero interest in revisiting any number of forgettable films that come out of Hollywood, but this is STAR WARS! This is the film that shaped a generation of filmmakers and filmmaking itself! This is history! Do you really want to know what history looked like before it became – well – history?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “This is the official adaptation of the original rough-draft screenplay by George Lucas for what would become Star Wars. But this long-ago and faraway galaxy is unlike the one you’ve seen in the films. Strap yourself in for high adventure and lazersword duels, Jedi Knights and Knights of the Sith, a familiar Princess Leia and a very different Han Solo, and a battle to defeat an evil Empire!”
Let me just say this right off the bat: thank GOD for rewrites! Otherwise, if THE STAR WARS is any indication, it’s very unlikely that there would be a Star Wars franchise – the entertainment juggernaut that just keeps on giving to its billions of fans around the world.
Now, that said, don’t get me wrong: I’m probably as big a Star Wars fan that you’ll find anywhere. I’ve seen all of the movies. Read many of the books. Followed both the original Marvel series as well as the Dark Horse properties. Watched the TV shows. Argue about its merits online. Even enjoyed a good deal of the Prequel Trilogy, though I won’t split hairs on how it divided fandom. But the bottom line is that inspiration needs proper cultivation, and THE STAR WARS – this unblemished look back at what could’ve been – is full of blemishes.
Obvious inspirations rise to the surface right away. The work has a very Flash Gordon feel to it – there’s a big universe out there, but much of it seems to revolve around a single world or two, those being managed by Lucas’s version of Ming the Merciless (aka Darth Vader). The Jedi clearly draw similarities to Samurai warriors. And those opening panels have a very Western feel with the heroes being stuck out on the Wild Frontier. The bad guys show up with intent to do some bad things, and that brings our General Skywalker out of retirement, setting the whole tale into galactic motion.
However, it’s rare to find so many flat and dimensionless characters in anything other than two-D, but that’s what so very much of THE STAR WARS is: one heavy struggling for screen (or panel) time against the others. Vader’s basically a charmless thug; Yoga’s a fat guy with warts and pointed ears; and these castles and rooms look far too Earthly for me to accept them as anything other than belonging to this world.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take long before Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio to show up and – as they did with the films – give this story some life beyond the ink and page. They still end up second fiddle to a bunch of whiners who spout such heavy-handed gibberish about politics so much that I had to fight to turn the page. (It isn’t hard to see the Prequel Trilogy in this creation; everything from the Original Trilogy outside of the obvious was still several rewrites away.) In many ways, what plays out in these pages almost seems like some crackpot’s idea of what fanfic could be: take all of the elements of one cinema classic, stick it in a blender, and then pour it out in some new shape to see if it tastes the same. Well, the ugly truth is here: it doesn’t.
It’s hard to believe that such a heart-warming tale as STAR WARS (A New Hope) came from anything so grim, forced, and humorless as THE STAR WARS. Still, stranger things have happened.
THE STAR WARS is published by Dark Horse Comics. The script is written by J.W. Rinzler; the art (which is quite inspired) is by Mike Mayhew; the colors are by Rain Beredo; the lettering is by Michael Heisler; and the Cover Art (which is pretty fabulous) is by Nick Runge. For those of you who grew up on an island, STAR WARS is the creation of George Lucas. There’s a terrific last chapter that fleshes out some of the peoples, places, and things that way an illustrated companion book should. It comes with the cover price of $39.99, a bit steep for my tastes.
RECOMMENDED mostly as a curiosity than anything else. Seeing the kinda/sorta how it all began is definitely an interesting exercise for fans of George Lucas’s legendary STAR WARS, but so much of THE STAR WARS feels incomplete, rushed, and (dare I say?) forgettable from a storytelling perspective. There are obvious seeds of what was to come in here, but – by the time all is said and done – I found it hard to tell how much of that was due to Lucas’s eventual tinkering with his original script or scribe Rinzler trying to throw homage back to the Original Trilogy. All I can say is, “Thank God this isn’t the version which made it to the silver screen!”
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital reading copy of THE STAR WARS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.