September 22, 2011

[Unfulfilled Hopes] The Early Drafts of Star Wars, Part 1

Previously published at Hope Lies.

Discussion of the origins of Star Wars must, of course, begin with Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, the tale of a bearded General and a young Princess, both in the guise of peasants, trying to sneak across enemy lines while pursued by the clan who overthrew their kingdom and having to work with a bumbling pair of lowly goons who keep shifting between helping the leads and trying to sell them out and make off with their gold. It's very common to hear comments along the lines of "Star Wars is totally a ripoff of The Hidden Fortress!" but these are overblown and are often made by people who haven't even seen Kurosawa's film. There is a bearded general in Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a feisty young princess, Leia, but not only has the plot of them fleeing across enemy lines together been removed, they never actually meet on screen, and Leia is never disguised as a peasant (these elements would, however, pop up in The Phantom Menace). The scene of the droids R2-D2 and C3P-0 arguing as they wander through a desert is almost identical to the two goons in the opening of The Hidden Fortress, and both pairs are quickly rounded up by slave traders and then freed, but they otherwise have no connection in terms of persona or story. There's also a duel between old allies and the frequent use of wipe cuts, but the point I'm making here is that the influence of The Hidden Fortress was so diluted by the time Star War came to be that claims of how much the final film owes to the earlier work can seem a little unfair.