'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Crawl Text Will Bring You Back To A Galaxy Far, Far Away
With the sole exception of Rogue One, every Star Wars movie begins the same way. There is darkness and silence, and then the words "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...." appear. The crash of cymbals, the fanfare of horns, the ringing of bells, and then John Williams' iconic opening theme kicks in while the long-awaited yellow scroll of text slowly floats across the screen. The first time the Star Wars: The Last Jedi crawl text appears on screen, it's is an emotional gut punch, an introduction to a Star Wars story told anew.
In George Lucas' original screenplay, he describes the text as such:
Those iconic "roll ups" which have since become the "Chapter Openings" for the Star Wars films are not just any old introduction either. For many hardcore fans, they are scripts to memorize and recite on command. So when a new writer comes on board at Lucasfilm/Disney, the prospect of writing the movie begins with the daunting task of creating those opening lines.
The prospect can be so intimidating that some choose not to write them at all. (See also, Gareth Edwards, deciding that Rogue One didn't need a crawl.) But for those doing the core trilogy, they're not optional. Prior to The Last Jedi's release, writer and director Rian Johnson admitted to The LA Times the concept of doing it nearly "petrified" him... but then he just got on with it.
So what is the opening crawl that Johnson came up with? (Or "roll up," to use Lucas' phrase.) Check out this footage from opening night, complete with fan reaction.
WARNING: Literal Spoiler Footage from Star Wars: The Last Jedi follows.
Trying to describe what it is to write a crawl like this, Johnson said that he found a behind the scenes clip with George Lucas talking about the earlier films, where he likened it to trying to write a haiku.
Johnson said he realized what Lucas meant as he tried to edit his initial drafts down.
So how did the opening crawl become such an icon? It wasn't exactly new. Lucas was calling back to old school 1940s and '50s Westerns, which opened the same way: an opening chunk of text, silent movie style. In fact, in an interview with Art Of The Graphic, designer Dan Perri name-checks Cecil B. DeMille's 1939 film Union Pacific as the opening that inspired the "roll up" effect for the graphic.
Those plot expositions that set the scene are also where the habit of capitalizing certain important words in the text comes from as well. But by the 1970s, these early era films had dropped such openings, leaving Lucas to revive them for a science fiction generation.
The original crawl was actually opposed by 20th Century FOX when Lucas suggested it. They wanted a narrator to voice over the opening text instead. Thankfully, they relented after director Brian DePalma came in and helped Lucas streamline down the original text to what we know it today.
The icon was born. Eight movies later, those crawls are still getting applause when they arrive ahead of every new Star Wars film. Let it be ever thus.