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The Crawl

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Before I started writing any scenes, I tried to write an opening crawl. I think this is a good tactic since it forces me to have a clear idea of the main point of the story and to keep that purpose in mind. So I went back to analyze the crawls from the OT and the PT to see how they did it.

Feel free to skip my discussion if tl;dr and tell me if you agree with my lessons learned or have anything to add. Also feel free to post your crawls!

Episode IV
A NEW HOPE
It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking
from a hidden base, have won
their first victory against
the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel
spies managed to steal secret
plans to the Empire's
ultimate weapon, the DEATH
STAR, an armored space
station with enough power
to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire's
sinister agents, Princess
Leia races home aboard her
starship, custodian of the
stolen plans that can save her
people and restore
freedom to the galaxy....

 

So a total of four sentences, none of which really repeat the same idea (harder than it sounds!). Note the use of good simple adjectives (hidden, evil, secret, ultimate, sinister, stolen, entire) to reinforce the story.

It sets up the first scene, letting us jump into the action. And the whole course of the movie relates to using those Death Star plans in an effort to restore freedom to the galaxy.

There is the quirk/discrepancy that Leia is allegedly racing to Alderaan ("home") when in actuality Bail Organa sent her to recruit Obi Wan. Now perhaps it's because Tatooine is on the way to Alderaan and it was going to be a quick pit stop. Still worth noting she's not only headed home.

 
Episode V
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
It is a dark time for the
Rebellion. Although the Death
Star has been destroyed,
Imperial troops have driven the
Rebel forces from their hidden
base and pursued them across
the galaxy.

Evading the dreaded Imperial
Starfleet, a group of freedom
fighters led by Luke Skywalker
has established a new secret
base on the remote ice world
of Hoth.

The evil lord Darth Vader,
obsessed with finding young
Skywalker, has dispatched
thousands of remote probes into
the far reaches of space....
 

More solid declarative sentences. Plenty of simple adjectives (hidden, dreaded, secret, remote, evil). But I see even more dissonance between the crawl and the movie. I never got the sense that the Rebellion was now led by Luke, though he obviously was an important figure after destroying the Death Star. It isn't until later in the movie that Vader and the Emperor discuss Luke's significance. But the movie is ultimately about capturing Luke and Luke was certainly a leader in the rebellion. It sets us up for the first scene of probes hurling through space.

    
Episode VI
RETURN OF THE JEDI
Luke Skywalker has returned to
his home planet of Tatooine in
an attempt to rescue his
friend Han Solo from the
clutches of the vile gangster
Jabba the Hutt.

Little does Luke know that the
GALACTIC EMPIRE has secretly
begun construction on a new
armored space station even
more powerful than the first
dreaded Death Star.

When completed, this ultimate
weapon will spell certain doom
for the small band of rebels
struggling to restore freedom
to the galaxy...
    

This crawl is a bit different in that it doesn't directly set up the first scene. It lets us know the state of affairs and the challenges that must be confronted. Certainly it would have been better to state the need for Luke to confront his destiny, but we have a good grasp of the basics. Adjectives: home, vile, dreaded, ultimate, certain.

Episode I
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...

 

The first thing that stands out is the vagueness of the first sentence. It's certainly redeemable as long as the second sentence explains who/what/why (see ESB crawl). The second sentence stands out as the first passive sentence of any SW crawl (correct me if I'm wrong). It's not clear if the trade dispute is a reason or a symptom of the galaxy-wide turmoil and we still don't know who/why. There is the quirk that only Naboo is actually known to be dealing with a trade dispute in the film.

In the next paragraph, we learn the "who," though they're trying to resolve the matter. But they're not good guys, they're "greedy". The last paragraph does a decent job of setting up the first scene, even if we don't really understand the significance of it. There aren't as many good adjectives but does throw in some decent adverbs.

With EpIV we know its about the Rebellion against the Death Star, a weapon that can destroy planets. EpV is getting Luke Skywalker, a powerful threat to the Empire. EpVI another ultimate weapon needs to be defeated. EpI our heroes need to stop a trade dispute. I think this is an instructive exercise, if you see what I mean.

Episode II
ATTACK OF THE CLONES
There is unrest in the Galactic
Senate. Several thousand solar
systems have declared their
intentions to leave the Republic.

This separatist movement,
under the leadership of the
mysterious Count Dooku, has
made it difficult for the limited
number of Jedi Knights to maintain 
peace and order in the galaxy.

Senator Amidala, the former
Queen of Naboo, is returning
to the Galactic Senate to vote
on the critical issue of creating
an ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
to assist the overwhelmed
Jedi....

Unrest in a senate is not as exciting as unrest in the galaxy, but that is the basic point, so let's not be too critical just because it's the PT. There is a significant issue here with the Republic on the verge of falling apart.

I'm not sure who Dooku is but he's mysterious and the separatist movement is straining the Jedi. This is all fine in my view, I'm sure we'll get to know who Dooku is. And it ultimately sets up the first scene. The point of the movie is creating an army. Though that purpose is general peacekeeping apparently. Not to keep the Republic together.

There is again a lack of simple and reinforcing adjectives. But it's an acceptable premise with a clear goal, though peacekeeping is not as exciting as saving the Republic. I never got the sense that Dooku was leading a broad coalition of planets leaving the Republic, but rather a small number of merchant groups. But again, not every crawl exactly corresponded with what we saw on the screen.


Episode III
REVENGE OF THE SITH
War! The Republic is crumbling
under attacks by the ruthless
Sith Lord, Count Dooku.
There are heroes on both sides.
Evil is everywhere.

In a stunning move, the
fiendish droid leader, General
Grievous, has swept into the
Republic capital and kidnapped
Chancellor Palpatine, leader of
the Galactic Senate.

As the Separatist Droid Army
attempts to flee the besieged
capital with their valuable
hostage, two Jedi Knights lead a
desperate mission to rescue the
captive Chancellor....

As a finale, I don't mind the dramatic "War!" The crawls are meant to be a bit dramatic after all. Not sure I'd go that route, but such a stylistic exclamation can serve a purpose. The Republic is crumbling because of attacks. As we know it's because of the Sith, though we don't really know the motivation of the separatists.

The relativistic musing about heroes on both sides and pointless notation of evil everywhere detracts from the usual pithiness of the crawls. We are informed of the current crisis that sets up the first scene. As for the rest of the movie...not certain what it's about. Lots of war to save the Republic I gather. Some decent adjectives (ruthless, stunning, fiendish, besieged) though a bit more highbrow than the OT.

Comparisons:

The OT did a better job of identifying exciting objectives of the movies.

A New Hope concerned an epic struggle between two powers and the need to destroy a deadly weapon. Before watching the movie, we have an idea that the "new hope" is probably hope of defeating the Empire. And the movie basically bears this out.

The Empire Strikes Back concerned the hunt for Luke Skywalker. Obviously the Empire is striking back after its earlier defeat.

Return of the Jedi is more diffuse, needing to (1a) rescue Han Solo and (1b) defeat another great weapon. So it's the culmination of the struggle. And "Return of the Jedi" certainly refers to Luke's growth as a Jedi.

The Phantom Menace is about a trade dispute that is upsetting the galaxy. The phantom menace is most likely the reason for the dispute. Okay, so we figure out the Sith are the phantom menace and there is in fact a trade dispute for some reason.

Attack of the Clones is about maintaining peace in the galaxy by creating an army. What does it have to do with clones and who are they attacking? Guess we have to watch it. Would be nice to explain the title in the crawl.

Revenge of the Sith is about massive war and a crumbling Republic. Obviously the heroes are going to tackle this problem. And while we know the Sith are the evil force users, what are they getting revenge for?

What is absent in the PT crawls? Any mention of Anakin (it's not like this is the story of Darth Vader or anything) or Obi Wan.Well actually, they're charitably referred to as "two Jedi Knights" in the ROTS crawl.

The PT is a bunch of stuff happening for "mysterious" reasons. And I'm not criticizing the films per se (I do so elsewhere). I'm criticizing the lack of focus in the crawls. They aren't quite as pithy and simple as the OT crawls. I wonder if GL also writes his crawls first. The initial lack of focus could very well result in unfocused films.

Lessons:

  1. Be concise. Do not repeat the same point in different ways. But do build upon preceding sentences.
  2. Be precise. Don't be afraid of saying exactly who is doing what. Mystery need not be lost by identifying the real purpose of the movie - as long as you're not saying something like, "...and Luke discover Vader is his father".
  3. Use simple adjectives to reinforce who is good, who is bad, and how serious the situation is.
  4. The crawls haven't always neatly corresponded with what happened on screen and involve a little bit of dramatic overstatement or simplification.
  5. Use the crawl to provide context for the first scene, not just a laundry list of events and characters.

The blue elephant in the room.

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Here's the crawl I wrote for my TPM rewrite. When I wrote it, I tried to keep to the brief, slightly hyperbolic style of the OT crawls; how well I succeeded at doing so I'll leave up to individual interpretation ;-)

EPISODE I - THE BEGINNING


It is a time of uncertainty, a time of war. The Galactic Republic is at war with an incomprehensible enemy. Law and order stand at a breaking point. Chaos reigns.

The nefarious Federation Neimoidia, a confederacy of mercenaries, has taken advantage of the universal strife. Having invaded the peaceful world of Nabu, they seek to depose the Royal Family and replace their benevolent rule with a bloodthirsty new regime.

In a race against time the King and Queen of Nabu hope to send their children to a place of safety among their allies the Gungans, to secure the continued existence of their government along with their royal bloodline.

“Okay, I’m goin’, takin’ off. See ya… bye….” — Chip Douglas

“This concludes our broadcast day. Click.” — Chip Douglas

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 (Edited)

Okay, putting my crawl where my mouth is (that sounds terrible):

 

The Galactic Republic is in turmoil. A growing number of planets threaten to secede as the Republic demands greater power in the name of peace and prosperity.

The mysterious Jedi warriors who have long protected the Republic are now viewed with suspicion by those who oppose the Republic's growing reach.

Jedi Knight Obi Wan Kenobi makes his way to the capitol planet of Coruscant in hopes of finding a solution that will save the Republic....

-------◊-------

 

I think I've respected most of the lessons I learned. My adjective use is weak and will probably try to work on that, though I think it reads well. What I need to address is the very vague last paragraph. I need to figure out what lone Jedi Obi Wan is doing (apparently even he has no idea). My story is developing (I wish I was better at outlining) and it centers on (as said in the crawl) attempts to control member planets. The focus

of the story is an attempt by the Republic to control galactic military power. I need to make Obi Wan's intention on that matter more clear....

 

DuracellEnergizer,

I like your crawl with many good adjectives! And sets up the first scene very well. I can't help but feel the first paragraph repeats itself a little but definitely captures the hyperbolic style.

The blue elephant in the room.

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Mrebo said:

Okay, putting my crawl where my mouth is (that sounds terrible):

Actual literal lol.

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Mrebo said:

DuracellEnergizer,

I like your crawl with many good adjectives! And sets up the first scene very well. I can't help but feel the first paragraph repeats itself a little but definitely captures the hyperbolic style.


Yeah, too many "wars" in one space. I've got to rewrite that part a little bit.

“Okay, I’m goin’, takin’ off. See ya… bye….” — Chip Douglas

“This concludes our broadcast day. Click.” — Chip Douglas

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Mrebo said:

"Return of the Jedi" certainly refers to Luke's growth as a Jedi.

I've always thought it was referring to Vader's redemption. Leaving the Sith and returning to the Jedi. Or that it refers to Luke becoming a Jedi and therefore retuning the Jedi to the galaxy. Either way, I've always thought it was a lame title. Sounds too much like a generic sequel. Which... hmm...

Ray’s Lounge
Biggs in ANH edit idea
ROTJ opening edit idea

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ray_afraid said:

Mrebo said:

"Return of the Jedi" certainly refers to Luke's growth as a Jedi.

I've always thought it was referring to Vader's redemption. Leaving the Sith and returning to the Jedi. Or that it refers to Luke becoming a Jedi and therefore retuning the Jedi to the galaxy. Either way, I've always thought it was a lame title. Sounds too much like a generic sequel. Which... hmm...

Ignoring the PT (which was barely a glimmer in Lucas's eye when he made ROTJ) I don't know how one could think it referred to Vader.

Only at the very end of ESB did we have Vader declaring he was Luke's father. But even recognizing that Vader used to be Jedi Anakin (as told to us in ANH by Obi Wan), nothing indicated he would turn good. In ROTJ we get confirmation that Vader is truly Anakin, but still no indication he might turn from his evil ways until well into ROTJ.

Whether Vader might possibly turn good was not central to the story of Star Wars. Vader certainly was not thought of as "the Jedi."

The Jedi had been all but wiped out. Only Yoda was left. Luke was training to be a Jedi but wasn't done training in ESB. So it was most logical that it was the rebirth of the Jedi via Luke. That was what I meant.

And so much ROTJ hate! XD It's my favorite and I'm an unabashed Ewok lover. But to set aside a geekish debate, titles are another important consideration. At least Lucas didn't name it "Attack of the Jedi."

The blue elephant in the room.

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Mrebo said:

Ignoring the PT (which was barely a glimmer in Lucas's eye when he made ROTJ) I don't know how one could think it referred to Vader.

I came to the conclusion when I was very young. A little after the film was released, so way before any PT. I'm not saying that I'm sure that's what it refers to, I just came up with that as a kid and it stuck with me I guess.

"Attack of the Jedi"! Too funny! I have no idea what I'd name the film, but Return of the Jedi has never set well with me. It sounds classic now, I guess, so I'm not rushing to make an edit that changes the title or anything.

Also, to bring this back toward topic, your analysis of the crawls (a term I loathe) is very interesting. In 1999 when I watched TPM opening night, I got a bad feeling about what was to come just from reading the crawl (can't come up with a better term for it). It just seemed... different than the others. Couldn't put my finger on why, but it didn't draw me in the way the OT ones did.

As far as the OT crawls go, the only thing I really don't like is in ESB "...led by Luke Skywalker..." Like you said, I never got the feeling Luke was leading anything. He seems like just another rebel to me and I like it that way. I guess he was a leader of Rouge Squadron or whatever during the Hoth battle, but the opening makes it sound like he's now leading the rebellion or at least their operations on Hoth, which doesn't appear to be true.

 

Ray’s Lounge
Biggs in ANH edit idea
ROTJ opening edit idea

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I think another thing is that ANH introduced concepts and things like the civil war, rebels, Galactic Empire and DEATH STAR and Princess Leia before the movie even started... but ESB and RotJ don't really.  They build upon characters and situations understood from the previous films and just update them a little.

AotC and RotS continue to introduce totally new characters and concepts (Dooku, Grevious, Separatists) in the crawls.  Perhaps that is debatable is the CN Clone War cartoons are taken into account... but I think there's still a big part of the audience saying, "Erm..... what?" at those crawls.

IT'S MY TRILOGY, AND I WANT IT NOW!

"[George Lucas] rebooted the franchise in 1997 without telling anyone." -skyjedi2005

"Yeah, well, George says a lot of things..." a young 1997 xhonzi on RASSM

"They're my movies." -George Lucas. 19 people won oscars for their work on Star Wars (1977) and George Lucas wasn't one of them.

Rewrite the Prequels!

 

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And here's a slightly updated crawl from my mPT Episode 1 post:

Episode I:
A New Threat

It is a period of Galactic War.  Seven
years have passed since an uneasy
peace was established at the violent
end of the GREAT CLONE WAR.  That
slowly disintegrating peace has come
to an end.
  Now a new enemy is taking
advantage of the ravaged galaxy, and
a battle fatigued Galactic Republic. 

Mercenaries under the leadership of
MANDALORIAN War Lords are
conducting hit and fade assaults on
critical industrial and agricultural centers,
crippling the Republic's ability to sustain
its people. 

Warships from all over the Republic are
converging over TRAXIS in order to stop
an attack on the planet's power
generation facilities....

IT'S MY TRILOGY, AND I WANT IT NOW!

"[George Lucas] rebooted the franchise in 1997 without telling anyone." -skyjedi2005

"Yeah, well, George says a lot of things..." a young 1997 xhonzi on RASSM

"They're my movies." -George Lucas. 19 people won oscars for their work on Star Wars (1977) and George Lucas wasn't one of them.

Rewrite the Prequels!

 

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Crawls from my burgeoning rehash of the PT:

STAR WARS

Episode I

A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE

For 800 years, the Galactic Republic has thrived in peace under the guidance of the Jedi Knights, but now a crisis stirs.

An army from the militant world of Mandalore has invaded the peaceful planet of Alderaan and taken its leaders hostage.  In exchange for withdrawing their forces, the Mandalorians demand full independence from the Republic.

While the Galactic Senate endlessly debates the situation, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi in a desperate attempt to rescue Alderaan’s captive senator....

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 (Edited)

STAR WARS

Episode II

THE GALAXY DIVIDED

Despite the end of the crisis on Alderaan, unrest persists throughout the Republic.  Hundreds of systems under the leadership of former Jedi, Count Dooku, threaten to secede from the Republic.

Meanwhile, the Mandalorians have continued to build their military.  Many fear an alliance between the Mandalorians and the Separatist movement could lead to war.

Senator Amidala returns to the capital to vote on the critical issue of raising an Army of the Republic to maintain order in the galaxy....

STAR WARS

Episode III

FALL OF THE REPUBLIC

The war between the Republic and the Separatists has ravaged the galaxy, but now the Republic is on the brink of defeat.

In a stunning move, the nefarious Lord Maul and his clone army have swept into the Republic capital and kidnapped the Supreme Chancellor.

While Maul attempts to flee the besieged capital with his valuable hostage, two Jedi Knights lead a desperate mission to rescue the Chancellor and save the Republic from certain downfall....

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STAR WARS

 

Episode I

 

                                     THE PHANTOM MENACE

 

Turmoil is at the fringes of the Galactic Republic. The Axis, a wicked horde of systems, has placed a blockade of deadly battleships around the sovereign planet of Naboo.

 

The alarming chain of events concerning this unmotivated aggressive act has led to endless debate amongst the congress of the Republic.

 

Hoping to resolve the matter quickly, the Supreme Chancellor has dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict….

"The only decision made here today was one of cowardice. They’ve placed the burden of this war on the shoulders of one man and thus appointed a dictator. No honest man pines for supreme authority. All good men know of their own fallibility." -what Mace Windu should have said in Episode II-

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 (Edited)

Episode One

THE ANCIENT ENEMY

After a thousand generations of stability the institutions of the GALACTIC REPUBLIC are beginning to crumble.

Planets outside the Republic are safe havens for pirates and crime lords and the complacency of senators from core systems has led to worlds on the edge of Republican influence becoming easy prey for greedy corporations.

Under blockade by the Neimoidian fleet, the royal house of Naboo have begged the Supreme Chancellor to intercede. Secretly he has sent two JEDI KNIGHTS to resolve the conflict... 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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Bingowings said:

Episode One

THE ANCIENT ENEMY

After a thousand generations of stability the institutions of the GALACTIC REPUBLIC are beginning to crumble.

Planets outside the Republic are safe havens for pirates and crime lords and the complacency of senators from core systems has led to worlds on the edge of Republican influence becoming easy prey for greedy corporations.

Under blockade by the Neimoidian fleet, the royal house of Naboo have begged the Supreme Chancellor to intercede. Secretly he has sent two JEDI KNIGHTS to resolve the conflict... 

I was playing along until I read Neimodian, Naboo, and Supreme Chancellor in the same sentence.

I thought the rules of the game here were to write new crawls for new prequels.  It seems at least half of these are new crawls for the existing prequels.

IT'S MY TRILOGY, AND I WANT IT NOW!

"[George Lucas] rebooted the franchise in 1997 without telling anyone." -skyjedi2005

"Yeah, well, George says a lot of things..." a young 1997 xhonzi on RASSM

"They're my movies." -George Lucas. 19 people won oscars for their work on Star Wars (1977) and George Lucas wasn't one of them.

Rewrite the Prequels!

 

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I don't like raining on parades but, for the record, I agree with xhonzi. It's taken me awhile to realize how good it feels to ignore the PT. I've changed Luke & Leia's mother's name and it makes life better! I have a joke mocking pod racing but I don't know if that pulls one out of the new story. Certain PT elements seem necessary - a military creation act for example. I'm toying with a plot to assassinate Senator Organa  because he is an obstacle to the creation of the galactic military (Obi Wan has pursued the assassin halfway across the galaxy leading him to Tatooine). I certainly don't want to ignore any good ideas out of PT spite. My crawl might address the crucial state of affairs and then shift to a young navigator returning to Tatooine where there is little thought of the Republic or armies.

We pan down where we find Anakin piloting the spice freighter. He is alarmed by a frenetic dogfight between two ships with one issuing a distress call. The distressed ship's engines are sparking and it is about to be destroyed. Anakin leaps to action firing upon the aggressor's ship, engaging it in battle pushing the freighter to its limit. Anakin finally prevails. Unfortunately, the victim's ship was too badly damaged and careens toward the surface before Anakin can do anything about it. By this time the freighter's captain has rushed to the cockpit and excoriated Anakin for his recklessness and damage to his ship, telling him he no longer has a job.

Maybe then we'd cut to the Senate.

Following that we will cut to Obi Wan staggering from the wreckage of his ship at night under a full moon...

The blue elephant in the room.

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Pardon me sir!

I misunderstood the nature of the thread.

I can't really participate because I would have to write three new prequels to know how to begin them and unlike a certain gentleman who shall remain nameless (now that George Lucas is nothing more than a corporate brand) I would probably spent more than twenty minutes doing it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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Bingowings said:

Pardon me sir!

I misunderstood the nature of the thread.

I can't really participate because I would have to write three new prequels to know how to begin them and unlike a certain gentleman who shall remain nameless (now that George Lucas is nothing more than a corporate brand) I would probably spent more than twenty minutes doing it.

It's more a matter of taste. I just agree with xhonzi that if we have the ability to approach the PT anyway we want, why not truly start from scratch? Trying to salvage GL's PT serves less a purpose in my opinion - unless it's fan film edit.

I also have to basically know how the 3 prequels go in order to begin them. I have a hard time even outlining it until I know exactly how it's going to work!

The blue elephant in the room.

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I got a smile at seeing PMS in Bingo's post there.