Now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out on home video, it's a good time to look back at where the series has been and also to look ahead at where future episodes might be going.
Fans are well versed about the first film in the series, originally known simply as Star Wars before it was retitled Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. In recent months, however, we've gotten a new look at the movie thanks to Peter Mayhew, who portrayed Chewbacca. Via social media, the actor has been sharing pages from his copies of the original and revised screenplay, written by George Lucas.
In the movie as we know it, Ben, aka Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), duels with Darth Vader as he and his fellow rebels are seeking to escape from the Death Star. The fight comes to a shocking, extremely dramatic conclusion that leaves Ben dead, yet the distraction provided by the fight also allows the rebels to escape. In his latest message, Mayhew notes: "Obi-Wan lives through his fight with Vader. Check it out."
The original script describes Ben "cutting a safety lock" in order to bring down a heavy blast door and trap Vader behind it. That ends the fight between Ben and Vader, and Ben appears to escape along with the other heroes. Would Ben have survived to the end of the movie? If so, how would that have affected the next two installments? How would other characters have changed, most notably Luke Skywalker? We may never know.
J.J. Abrams participated in a panel discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival and talked extensively about the influence of the 1977 original on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as reported by The Playlist, starting with the script.
Abrams was convinced that "the audience needed to be reminded what Star Wars is, but it needed to be established with something familiar, with a sense of where we are going to new lands," which Abrams says will happen in Star Wars: Episode VIII and Star Wars: Episode IX. The filmmaker also stated: "We very consciously -- and I know it is derided for this -- we very consciously tried to borrow familiar beats so the rest of the movie could hang on something that we knew was Star Wars.”
The approach initially taken by screenwriter Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) featured Luke Skywalker in a much larger role alongside Rey (Daisy Ridley). Once it was decided to reduce Luke's role so that he wouldn't distract so much from the introduction of Rey and other new characters, however, Abrams said that Mark Hamill "was a little resistant. … He was so kind to do it, and at first he was like, 'Will it seem silly, will it be a joke that he is standing there?' I said to him, ‘I don’t think it will.’ I said because the whole movie is about that, it could be a great, fun drum roll, up to seeing this guy.”
We know that Hamill will be returning as Luke Skywalker and will be sharing more scenes with Rey; now we have a firm hint that the story will be going to "new lands." Star Wars: Episode VIII will open in theaters on December 15, 2017.