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Star Wars turns 35!

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Enough Lucas-knocking - let's acknowledge the movie that permanently rocked our world in 1977...

Star Wars turns 35...

This May 25th past was the 35th anniversary of the release of Star Wars, or as fanboys know it, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The story of the birth of this movie juggernaut is now legend, as frustrated film-maker George Lucas – tired of corporate interference – set about to do his own version of Flash Gordon after failing to acquire the rights to the character. Taking aspects from every culture on the planet, incorporating myths and legends as well as influences from every style of film – not only science fiction serials but also westerns and the classic Akira Kurosawa films – into what has become known as a “space opera”. In some interviews, Lucas acts as though he had no idea where any of this would lead. Most of the time, he claims that he always had at least a six-film plan for his sprawling story (in the eighties, he claimed there would be nine films, which he now claims was never part of the plan), that of a simple farm boy-turned hero, a princess, and a pirate, all joined together under the tutelage of a wizard to fight against a tyrannical Empire. The film nearly didn’t get finished, caused on-set problems with cast and crew, led to the quitting of a film executive, forced Lucas to create several brand new companies to create special effects the likes of which had never been seen before, made studios re-evaluate film tie-in products, and nearly killed Lucas before turning him into the corporate giant he was rallying against.

Luke feeling the forceHere at Shadowlocked, we’ve alternately given praise and taken pot-shots at Uncle George, but I’m looking past the sequels, prequels, and the Expanded Universe – which consists of tie-in novels, comic books, animated series, video games, role playing games, and much more – as well as the countless toys, clothing and everything else Lucas has made a buck on by smacking a picture of one of his famous characters on it. Whether you still love all things Star Wars, or you have become disenfranchised with the whole empire that Lucas rules with an iron fist, changing and tweaking the films when inspiration strikes, you can’t deny that without that first movie, our world would not be the same place it is today. In my own life, hardly a day goes by where I don’t reference the films in some manner, be it a quote or discussing some aspect of the films or EU with friends or family.

The underlying mythology of the film is one that can be traced to the earliest myths of our own world, as well as the basic story of good versus evil. Luke and Obi Wan can represent Arthur and Merlin, and any number of legends that the Arthurian Legend was based on. The Empire has influences from Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, as well as being an incarnate representation of conformity, with their faceless soldiers, carbon copy uniforms, and drab-colored world. Han and Chewbacca seem to reference every rogue from the gunslingers of the American Old West to the pirates of the 17th Century. There are influences from the Samurai, the knights and the age of chivalry, Greek, Roman and Norse Mythologies, and more. And because of all of this, it has become a very important part of pop culture.

One might in fact be driven insane were they to try to calculate how many times Star Wars has been referenced over the years, and by whom. Before the geek chic craze started, it was the most common cult movie referenced, mostly because of its overall appeal. Since directors like Kevin Smith started utilizing Star Wars quotes and discussions into their works, those references have only risen astronomically. And with the constant flow of new material involving every time period of the galaxy far, far away thanks to the EU, there are still children on playgrounds acting out the movies and making up their own stories, waving their hands to try to pull a Jedi Mind Trick, and fighting about who gets stuck having to be C-3PO.

Non-fiction books dedicated to the movies have discussed everything from the making of them, the philosophical aspect of the Force, religious comparisons, and even psychological profiles of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader (for those of you not cool enough to dig Star Wars that was a spoiler). There are television specials dedicated to the science of the movies, and how real world scientists are taking their cues from the films for new advancements in technology, be it artificial limbs, ion propulsion engines, plasma-based windows for space travel - and there are even those curious souls who are looking into what it would take to make a real working light-saber.

The bronchial villain we love to hateStar Wars has become a classic film in its relatively short lifespan, by standing the test of time, and becoming an influence for so many. It stood as an inspiration for sci-fi programming and movies since its release, as reflected by shows like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Battlestar Galactica, and the reinvigorated interest in and subsequent release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It’s been parodied on numerous occasions, most famously by Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs, and most recently by the cast of Family Guy. Fans around the world have added their own chapters to the saga with fan films, varying in tone from serious to comedic. One fan film character, Stacy from Pink Five has been added to the canon by author Timothy Zahn with a brief appearance in his novel Allegiance. And the writers of 2009’s rebooted Star Trek went into the project using Star Wars as their inspiration for how the film should look and feel.

It’s easy to sit now, all these years later, and to call Lucas out for all of the ways he has attempted to destroy our collective childhoods one altered scene at a time. As a lifelong fan, I was excited to see the original trilogy re-released in 1997 when the Special Editions were showing in theaters. But it seems that Lucas couldn’t leave well enough alone, and it felt as though he had turned his back on the fan base that he was relying upon. I’m not alone amongst the Shadowlocked staff that has expressed dismay and even anger at the constant changes made to the films I have loved and cherished for so long. But even in that anger, I have learned to accept that had he not taken that chance back in the seventies, there would be no films to changes, and a world without Star Wars in any form is a world that I wouldn’t want to live in.


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