There’s a lot to care about in the original.
Ten things are introduced: the Republic Galactica, trade barons, the First Galactic Empire, Jedi Knights, the Emperor, the Dark Lords of the Sith, Rebel Armies, the Great Rift, the Imperial Starfleet, and the Outland Systems.
You’re expected to sift through 166 words of jargon and nuance to find out which team to root for.
Compare it to the edited version which uses 83 words – exactly half – to introduce some Rebels, the evil Galactic Empire, a Death Star, and Princess Leia. Or: the goodies, the baddies, a thing which can blow up planets, and a princess. Everything you need to enjoy a high fantasy space romp.
This refinement of the intro was accompanied by tons of sweeping structural edits to the film itself, expertly outlined in this video. George Lucas surrounded himself with people who could see the potential in his broad, lumbering vision; and he listened to their ruthless feedback to cut scenes and restructure entire sections. The result? One of the most successful film franchises of all time.
There are some lessons here:
- Be concise: if you can say something in 83 words, don’t use 166.
- Be selective: your reader doesn’t need to be introduced to every concept at once.
- Don’t be sentimental: Lucas probably hated trimming half of the opening. The original articulated the story how he saw it, but not in the most effective way.
And perhaps most importantly:
- Get help: surround yourself with expertise, and take advice. An idea can fly or fail depending on the people who help to realise it, and cutting bits doesn’t necessarily mean they were bad.
There you have it. Why Star Wars, of all things, is a shining example of the power of editing.