The Star Wars: The Force Awakens script PDF was one of my favorite downloads a few years ago. I loved how it delved into the lore of the Star Wars universe and built something that felt both modern and nostalgic. So how can you capture that contemporary spirit in your own writing?
The Force Awakens script came with a lot of pressure. Not only did JJ Abrams, Michael Arndt, and Lawrence Kasdan have to get the nostalgia right, but they also had to set up a new franchise for the future.
Writing the screenplay was a daunting task that took many outlines, drafts, and full rewrites. Still, The Force Awakens opened to unprecedented success.
Not to mention the fact that they were building on the super popular originals and being made in the wake of the super polarizing prequels.
So... did they pull off the impossible?!
That's a tough one to answer, and you'll probably find different lengthy takes on it in every corner of the internet. We're not here for that today!
One thing we know is a lot of people saw the movie. It raked in 900 million dollars in the United States and pushed close to the two-billion-dollar mark worldwide.
So surely there are things we can take away from this script, particularly how these writers tackled it. Disney had just spent over 4 BILLION WITH A B dollars on Star Wars. It was their job to launch the new era. Yikes!
Today we're going to look at the screenplay for The Force Awakens and take into account the lessons left behind.
So come with me if you want to use the force...
The Force Awakens Script Timeline
If you're ever in the position to write a sequel or another film in a franchise, one of the most important things to do is to key the audience in on how much time has passed since the other installments. With Star Wars, there's a lot of heavy lifting done via the opening scroll.
But what other techniques help out?
Obviously seeing crashed Star Cruisers and hearing about the legend of the Jedi help us accept that it's been years since the Rebels delivered the Empire.
So why is all this so important?
Even if you're writing a space opera we need to know what point of time we are in within this world. This helps us establish who these characters are and it's part of developing the world of the story. Once we have a grip on the world, we can develop characters that inhabit it.
The Force Awakens Characters
One of the best parts of The Force Awakens script is how it embraces the unique and identifiable characters within the Star Wars universe. I want to take a look at both the leads introductions to really diagram how they make these characters relatable and interesting from the get-go.
First up, let's take a look at Rey.
Rey is alone when we meet her. This will be very important to her arc. She's a loner waiting on a family, but when we leave her in the movie she has a new destiny. What I love about this character introduction is that it tells us a lot about Rey.
She works alone. She's resourceful, fearless, and when she sleds down that sand dune we can tell she's crafty and has no fear.
What about when we meet Finn?
The first thing to take into account here is that we're placed in a position of empathy. We immediately are given a face to the previous scene's slaughter. We see regret, fear, and intimidation. Even though Finn feels bad about what he did, we feel worse because we can tell he's part of a unit that controls him.
By giving Finn an introduction that also focuses on his main nemesis, we further make his journey to becoming a person with a face more satisfying. We also give lots of out later when we show Finn's fear and why he's running away. These built-in excuses for his behavior are all part of his arc not just over this movie but over the series.
What's worth fighting for?
Finn is about to find out.
The Force Awakens Script Plot: From opening scroll to final scene
Okay, so I know what you're thinking, how do you plot out a movie like The Force Awakens?
I know we talk over and over again here about how much work goes into writing blockbuster movies, but the truth is, every professional writer I know starts with a logline, then moves into an outline, beat sheet, or treatment. And the same is true for Star Wars.
When Disney bought the property, it came with a bunch of treatments by George Lucas. And when Michael Arndt began writing, it was a treatment before it was a first draft.
While lots of these things were rewritten and rebroken, you have to understand that the process was always the same. Deliver an outline that everyone loved, then take it to draft. Re-outline the changes, rewrite the draft, so on and so forth.
So how did we get to the epic final scene? Early on the team behind the Force awakens script realized that having Luke be a big part of the movie just overpowered every other character. He's as much a legend in that movie as he is in real life, so instead, they shifted the focus to be the search for Luke, and thus we got this poignant closer.
What's next? Read the original Star Wars script!
The Star Wars script is a thing of perfection. When George Lucas wrote the first draft, he had no idea that it would spawn sequels, spinoffs, and create a world people would enjoy for decades. So what lessons in screenwriting can we take away from this masterpiece?
It's an interesting companion piece to The Force Awakens, in fact, some have pointed out that in many ways "TFA" as it's called in fan circles, is a bit of a remake of the original. It makes sense, to relaunch for a new era a generation later. Compare the two scripts and let us know!