Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

Moriarty reviews the script to STAR WARS EPISODE ONE

A few days ago I saw a posting by Moriarty on the page where I had posted the opening crawl, and he sounded down about the whole Star Wars thing. His soul seemed to be... wearing thin. For lack of better words, "I found his lack of faith disturbing". So I detached the can from my wall with the admantium alloy wire running straight to Moriarty's labs and I called. He was grumbling about how depressed he was. How the world sucked, and he was going to just destroy it. You see, he had twice now gone into the future and has been unable to attend a screening due to the sold out performances. That's when I told him to seek out the script, fully illustrated at the local bookstores. The old gaslamp above his noggin began to glow.

There are only 3 people I personally know currently, that have read the entire script to STAR WARS EPISODE ONE: These are MILO, MORIARTY and Myself. And only Milo and Moriarty have copies. But I want to say right now, I am in complete agreement with Moriarty on his assessment of the script. He called me about 9 hours ago... breathless... fevered... And in awe. He had watched the trailer 20 times since reading it, and he was mirroring my feelings upon seeing it the first time. Knowing the context to every frame... it produces a complet feeling of JOY. Pure unadulterated JOY.

George Lucas did it on the written page, and I haven't seen anything that would make me believe he didn't do it on the big screen. In fact, every frame of the trailer was better than the written version. (Jar Jar's zapped with electricity shot... originally it was his... posterior) So without further ado, I turn you over to MORIARTY. Unlike Jeffery Wells, this report is based on FACTS, it is based on the opinions by a person who has in fact read the material he is judging. Jeffery brainfarted that article on MR SHOWBIZ, and I for one will not hesitate for a second calling him on it this May. There are a few spoilers below... but not many. And now... here's Moriarty....

Hey, Head Geek...

“Moriarty” here.

Let me start off by saying that Jeffrey Wells had better watch out. He just bumped Sherlock Holmes himself off my the top slot of my enemies list. The last thing you want to do is piss off an Evil Genius with unlimited resources and an excellent long-term memory, but that’s just what Wells has done with a column of his on the Mr. Showbiz site called “Murray Flurry.”

I’ll give him credit for the conceit behind his article... he acts as if it’s the beginning of the year 2000, and he’s writing his “look back” at 1999. That’s a great way to lay out what the year has in store. The problem is that he then hands out negative reviews to films that aren’t finished. In particular, Wells picks THE PHANTOM MENACE as the year’s biggest disappointment. He cites the weak script and kiddie tone as big problems, with giving a grudging nod to the pod race scene.

I understand that what he’s doing is fiction, but it’s irresponsible and confusing. Already I’ve come across plenty of people on Usenet who are asking when Wells saw the movie. “What, are they showing it to critics now? What’s wrong with it? Why is it bad?” Let me make something perfectly clear to everyone -- Jeffrey Wells has not seen the movie.

In fact, I’m willing to bet based on his comments that he doesn’t have any knowledge about the film beyond what’s readily available to the rest of you on this site and DARK HORIZONS, JEDI.NET, COUNTINGDOWN, COMING ATTRACTIONS... I mean, let’s face it. Anyone with a good web browser and a little free time can find out pretty much everything there is to find out about the film. The Virtual Edition does a nice job of laying out the major story beats (although there’s some very glaring sequencing orders, Roderick... we should talk). Even with all the details out there, though, Lucas has managed to keep his secrets.

All these details taken out of context have had an interesting effect on the fan community. It seems to me that people are seizing upon this detail or that one and becoming fixated, and they have started to focus huge amounts of negativity at the film as a whole, and I find it puzzling. I will confess to you, Harry, that I’ve seen more than I’ve let on up till now. You’ve had other spies that have covered the film and I’ve been happy to stay silent about hearing John Williams’ “Naboo Theme” or the voices of Watto and Jar Jar or sifting through stacks of Doug Chiang designs or hearing Ben Burtt’s thoughts on editing the film’s action scenes. I figured I’d see it here soon enough, and that people were enjoying the trailer and why spoil things?

But these last few weeks have changed that for me. It seems that fans are on the verge of a backlash towards the anticipation for the film, and I want to warn against it. Still, without seeing the film, my voice is just more speculation, right? For that reason, I got my time machine out of the research lab, where we’ve been trying to eliminate some of the trauma involved with the actual moment of transport. The date target system has also been refined somewhat, and I was able to set it for “May 22 99”. I figured opening day would be a zoo, and later in the weekend would still allow me the maximum experience.

The good news is that we’ve got the date thing worked out. The bad news is that the landing hurts even worse than it did before. With one of my ears bleeding, I stumbled out of the Moriarty Labs using a secret tunnel that opens into the Hollywood and Highland Metrolink exit and headed for the Chinese box office.

Let me warn you all right now -- however bad you think lines are going to be that first weekend, you have no idea. It was only 11:00, but all the shows through the 3:00 a.m. Monday (looks like the first week is all 24 hours a day!!) were sold out. The time machine only has a 10 hour battery, so I had to either find a show somewhere in town or go back empty handed. I went to a newsstand a few blocks east of the theater to find an LA WEEKLY and check out the theater listings. As I was standing there, I spotted a large trade paperback behind the register with the final release poster for THE PHANTOM MENACE on the cover (very cool, btw). I picked it up, a little nervous, knowing that there would be all sorts of day and date goodies worth having. As soon as I read the words “THE ILLUSTRATED SCREENPLAY” on the cover, my head got light. I had no choice in the matter really. I barely remember taking out my wallet, paying for the book, heading back to the labs. All I can come up with when I think back is that cover, not being able to take my eyes off of it.

I called around, found out the film was sold out everywhere in town -- in literally every theater I called that I could have gotten to in the allowed time -- and finally accepted that I’m probably going to have to wait just as long as the rest of you. There’s one difference between us now, though. You see, I brought the script back with me...

... and I’ve read it. Every word.

There’s a reproduction of the original hand-typed title page, when the script was still called THE BEGINNING. The draft is listed as the May 13, 1997 Third Draft (revised June 6, 1997). I guess this is the actual final production draft, since it’s the one Lucasfilm published. I know this -- every moment in the trailer is in the script, word for word. It was strange to come across moments like the scene on the Senate Landing Platform, as Anakin stands off to one side watching Artoo while Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan argue about the boy’s fate. Reading Obi-Wan’s “The boy is dangerous...they all sense it. Why can’t you?” in context gave me chills. In fact, if there’s any one word that sums up why my reading of the script rocked me so hard, it would be that one -- context.

Let go of your ideas of what the film is going to be, everyone. You can’t be like Jeffrey Wells and walk into this ready to hate it. You can’t possibly know how textured and wonderful the story Lucas has to tell is going to be. The thing that makes THE PHANTOM MENACE possibly my favorite STAR WARS story so far (on paper, mind you) is the details. The time off has done something unexpected to Lucas as a storyteller -- it made him better. Considering how he’s always doubted himself as a writer, I think it showed remarkable confidence in not putting this script through another writer, someone who might have diluted our return to this place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Even the wonderful Frank Darabont would have diluted it, simply because what we got wouldn’t be pure Lucas anymore. It’s remarkable to read the actual words Lucas put on paper. There’s just enough on the page to get the actors moving, but he doesn’t really describe the world. What’s there is just raw STAR WARS, straight from the tap -- the characters and how they relate. That’s enough, though, because these are real characters that are instantly iconic, but also truly human.

How can I allay your nerves about the film without ruining it for you? See, I’m not going to indulge in major spoilers here. I know, I know... there’s going to be people in TALK BACK who are going to demand angrily that I have to post the script, that it’s my obligation. I won’t do it, though, for three reasons. One, it’s not mine to post. It belongs to George Lucas and Lucasfilm until release. After that, we’ll all have it internalized, and we’ll be free to examine all the minutiae of the film. Until then, that’s private property, and I’m going to choose not to tread too heavily. It’s called respect, people. Second, I chose to read the script. If I post it in a public forum, that choice will vanish for a lot of people because those of you who read it will find a way to start tossing the biggest spoilers out there in the wrong way, ruining it for others. It’s inevitable. It’s been proven time and time again. I wrestled with how to discuss the impressions I have of the script, and how to explain my new confidence in the film.

I decided that first I’d address the film’s major characters, giving my impressions of how they’re handled.


I like this guy a lot. He’s the exact kind of guy I pictured when thinking about other Jedi Knights when I was younger. He’s charismatic, forceful, in full control of his Jedi abilities, and unequaled in battle. We get a real living, breathing portrait of the best the Jedis had to offer with his character in this film. I’m betting that Neeson is a superstar after this film. This may well turn out to be the role he was born to play.


It’s official. Ewan McGregor is the luckiest bastard on the planet. It’s okay to hate him, everybody. This guy is ferociously talented, has an astounding range as an actor, is fearless on film, and has the best role in the three films. Although the whole series will focus on the fall and redemption of Anakin, it’s Ben who really haunts the films, and not just after his “death” on the Death Star. He’s kept in the background for the first half of this film and he’s always in the shadow of his teacher, Qui-Gon, but the seeds of real sadness are laid here. Kenobi is the one, after all, who tried to stand against the Jedi, only to lose Anakin to the Dark Side. His error of pride leads to untold suffering. I’ve always wanted to know why he would do it in the first place. Now that I know... I can’t wait to see the Shakespearean level tragedies that Lucas plans to heap on poor Obi-Wan’s head in the next two.


Probably the most debate I’ve read so far about the film centers around this all CG character and his role in the film. The idea of doing a fully-animated character is an obvious one... of course Lucas is going to be the guy to try and push that envelope. The question many people have is will Jar Jar work as a character, or is he going to be lame comic relief, a gimmick that will be embarrassing in a decade. I am delighted to report that Jar Jar not only works, but that the Gungans are, as a whole, a welcome addition to the mythology of the STAR WARS universe. Jar Jar is an exile from the other Gungans because he’s clumsy. Not just a little, either, but monumentally so. Once Jar Jar meets the Jedi, though, that trait begins to pay off, with Jar Jar mistakenly bumbling his way out of danger and up the chain of command until he ends up a general in the film’s final battle. This works well in the script. Jar Jar is funny, but the humor in 1977’s A NEW HOPE is one of that film’s strong points. This script balances the humor with honest, direct writing that gives Jar Jar (dare I say?) a soul. He may be a sidekick, but here’s betting that Jar Jar Binks becomes one of the biggest EPISODE I stars once audiences get their real introduction.


Here’s a tricky one. There’s been a lot of confusion about whether this is one role, two roles, one name, two names, separate characters, or what. The packaging for the action figures only confuses the issue. I don’t really want to blow it for you, since it took me a while reading the script to figure out what Lucas was up to. Once I did, I liked it a lot. I especially like the relationship that Padmé has with Anakin. The dialogue in their first scene together is charming, and lays the groundwork for my observations about...


God, I love this kid. It makes me feel sick from grief when I realize that he’s going to be Darth Vader someday, hated, feared, a symbol of evil. This kid is a good, pure spirit, beloved by the people around him. As Jira, a merchant in Mos Espa who is friends with Anakin, says as Anakin’s leaving Tatooine, “There isn’t a kinder boy in the galaxy.” That giving, open nature of his is what brings him together with Qui-Gon in the first place. Seeing little Annie (his nickname in the movie) in this film already changes everything in terms of how I think of the other movies. I can see Darth Vader as the tragic figure he really is now. That great image on the teaser poster and banner is the only trace we’ll see of Vader in this film. When the credits roll, Anakin will be a hero, a pilot, a Jedi to be. This is the time when everything looks bright for him. By the end of that third film, this image of Anakin will be heartbreaking. Excellent work in writing him. With so little of Jake Lloyd’s performance available, it’s impossible to judge how he’ll do. I like his scenes with Pernilla August in the trailer, though, and I’m rooting for him. If he works, this will be one of the most textured kids roles in history.


They are worthy. They are more than worthy. They are true villains. Sidious appears only to the leaders of the Naboo invasion, Nimoudians named Nute and Rune. He’s a figure of quiet menace, discussing strings that are to be pulled, plans that are in motion. When Darth Maul finally shows up, he’s been built up as a real threat. He’s like a pit bull, held back on a leash until the perfect moment, then finally set loose as a force of pure destruction. His two major lightsaber battles should be spectacular onscreen. On the page, they’re intense, emotionally written. They’re not just empty action. There’s important things going on here. These characters are far more threatening than the middle management uniformed faces of the original three films. This is real evil pressing hard to take over, to shape the world around it. What seems to be a dispute over taxation on Naboo is instead the linchpin for something far more important, grandly scaled. By showing us Vader’s human face and introducing characters like this, Lucas is redefining the parameters of how Dark the Dark Side can be with these films.


Man, oh, man, oh, man, do I love Artoo’s introduction in the film. I’m so happy this isn’t common knowledge yet, and I don’t plan to be the one to destroy it here. Suffice it to say that audiences will come to their feet when our favorite astromech finally shows up. Throughout the film, he is the same character we’ve always loved. Lucas may have given Threepio the shaft in terms of overall screentime, but I actually prefer it this way. Artoo has always been more interesting on his own, just hanging with Luke.


We all have our favorite -- Wedge, Porkins, Piet, Madine, Mon Mothma -- and this film will give us a number of new candidates for favorite supporting character. Captain Panaka, Ric Olie, Nute Gunray, Sio Bibble, Sebulba, Watto, Ki-Adi-Mundi... these are all names I can’t wait to put to performances. Some of them, of course, don’t exist at all, but if ILM has done its job properly, we won’t notice. They’ve all got interesting quirks and traits. It doesn’t feel like the Muppet parade that ROTJ became at times, either. The human characters have been cast with interesting familiar faces (Ralph Brown, who’s playing Ric Olie, is simply brilliant in WITHNAIL & I, a film you must see immediately) as well as promising unknowns. The great thing about all the photos we’ve seen from the film is that they feel like STAR WARS, and these characters all read like a perfect fit for the world we know and love.


It took me a couple of readings to decide what I thought of the film’s take on Galactic politics. It’s tricky material. Too much detail, and it’s going to be dry, uninvolving. Too simple and it belies the complexity of any real government. Lucas has written a believable, easy to understand story of behind the scenes intrigue. Palpatine isn’t a one-note villain. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to point at anything he does in the film that isn’t done in the name of saving Naboo, doing right by the planet he represents. Still, Valorum is railroaded by a master manipulator, and Terrence Stamp should be fascinating to see here. As iconic as “Kneel before Zod” has become, this may be the role that earns Stamp his permanent place in genre history.

Having laid that out, let me make a few general observations about the script’s overall arc and the major sequences in it.


How the hell do you start the first STAR WARS film in 16 years? With a bang. This film gets moving quickly and never really slows down. To anyone concerned that there won’t be enough excitement in the film, you can definitely rest easy. Lucas has kept his promise that he will show us the Jedi in their prime. Obi-Wan may still just be a Padawan learner in this film, but he’s able to match Qui-Gon for intensity when the big fight moments come. Before you know it, we’re on Naboo, we’re fighting Battle Droids, we’re in Otoh Gunga, we’re in Theed, and we’re off again. It would be easy to bury the audience in exposition, but Lucas’s gift as a storyteller is evident from his masterful handling of this material. As I read the script aloud to a friend, the Williams scores playing on CD in the background, I could feel the adrenaline rush that is built into this thing. On film, it should leave us breathless.


I think the material about Anakin and Qui-Gon’s quest to bring young Skywalker to the Force is great. It doesn’t dominate the movie, but it’s definitely at the heart of it. These scenes are in direct counterpoint to the scenes of the Galactic Senate in full debate. One is a million voices arguing, at odds, and the other is a dozen voices speaking as one. There’s a sense of the Jedi as a moral authority rather than a governing one. Lucas doesn’t give us a lot of hokey ritual, either. The Council is more like a philosophical think-tank. It’s nice stuff, and it really lays out who they are for the next films.


This is the perfect way to end this first film, this "Beginning." What surprised me most is how intimate it all is. This isn't a sprawling epic... yet. This is the groundwork for the next two films, and Lucas has tipped his sympathies early on. The new technology is nice, but these films feel more like your average indie than a studio action blockbuster. Yes, there's a space battle here. Yes, there's a lightsaber duel of monumental proportions. But this film ends with the people, and the most fascinating thing here is the place they seem to be heading. You thought it was hard waiting for this one? The three years to EPISODE 2 is going to kill you.

In the end, there’s so much more that I think and feel about this script that I’m going to have to cut it short for fear of crossing some line and saying too much. You have to take these next 130 days or so in stride, friends. The wait is almost over. You are going to be rewarded for your wait in ways that you can’t imagine. If you’re willing to let Lucas take you back to this magical place he’s created, you’re going to be transported all over again. I hope my words here help make this last stretch bearable. I hope my words here rekindle your flagging faith in the film. Most of all, though, I hope my words here reach the eyes of George Lucas so I can be among the first to tell him, from the bottom of my heart...

... nice job.

“Moriarty” out.

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus