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The Phantom Rewrite

Anything written can be rewritten. I've heard how P.G. Wodehouse would put manuscript pages on his office wall, and the happier Wodehouse was with each page's words as he rewrote, the higher on the wall he'd place each page. I've also heard how when George Lucas showed a rough cut of the original Star Wars to friends, Brian De Palma first teased him about the film's opening crawl, then worked with him and critic Jay Cocks to write the version we know, cutting it from 115 words to 83 words. I once wrote my own shorter crawl for A New Hope; I liked the writing exercise.

And though I like the prequels, I admit it's hard to get excited about the crawl for The Phantom Menace:

Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of
trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.

Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships,
the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small
planet of Naboo.

While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming
chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two
Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to
settle the conflict....

At the time, I said that I'd wanted Episode I's opening "to give us a sense of an entire galactic civilization about to crack." That doesn't do it. And two events (a tax debate and a blockade) isn't really a "chain of events," either.

So here's my try:

For the first time in a thousand years, political turmoil
in the Galactic Republic threatens to grow into war.

*Trying/In an attempt* to force the issue of how to tax Outer Rim trade
routes, the greedy Trade Federation has blockaded the small world Naboo,
and secretly plans to back up its action with an army of battle droids.

Fearing this unexpected escalation may lead to an entire world being starved,
and unwilling to wait while the galactic Senate struggles to debate the issue,
Supreme Chancellor Valorum has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights to defuse
the conflict....

Now I like that, but I'd also like that to be shorter: it's 94 or 96 words long, and the original films' crawls are from 75 (Revenge of the Sith) to 88 words long (The Force Awakens).

Trying again:

For the first time in a thousand years, political turmoil
in the Galactic Republic threatens to grow into war.

Trying to force the issue of how to tax Outer Rim trade routes, the
greedy Trade Federation has blockaded the small world Naboo, and
plots to back up its action with an illegal droid army.

Fearing this escalation may starve an entire world, and unwilling to
wait while the galactic Senate struggles to debate, Supreme Chancellor
Valorum has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights to defuse the conflict....

86 words. Maybe better, maybe not. I wasn't crazy about using "secretly" twice, so I rewrote it down to one use. I'd want to mention how important the Jedi are, but that'd add words. But. More writing exercise. And now I'm thinking more about Star Wars, and I definitely don't mind.

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