(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – About 40 years ago, an odd film called “Star Wars IV: A New Hope” was released to theaters. Almost overnight, this space opera became a massive hit. It featured ground- breaking special effects, an intriguing story and great characters – Obi-Wan Kenobi is my favorite. The series is now global phenomenon, loved by everyone. Even people who don’t love it pretend they do – fearing to be labeled as a social outcast.
Believe it or not, George Lucas was actually turned down by every studio he approached. They believed his idea to be too expensive and risky. I have no doubt these same executives wish they could go back in time. Lucas was forced to create his own special effects company because none meant his standards. It was worthwhile, for the effects are still impressive to this day.
“Star Wars” has this feeling of being original, but the genius of “Star Wars” is that it’s not original. “Episode IV: A New Hope’ was inspired by the concept of “The Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Campbell. This is a pattern that appears in most stories featuring a hero. “Star Wars” was also inspired directly from other sources such as Flash Gordon comics, westerns, World War II, old Samurai movies and fairy tales.
The most notable inspiration for “Star Wars” comes from Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurasawa. Much of the plot and characters of “A New Hope” came from Kurasawa’s film, “The Hidden Fortress.” Note that this is a short list of the inspirations behind “Star Wars” – there are many other sources that could’ve been listed.
Fans of “Star Wars” have love/hate feelings toward George Lucas. On one hand, they love him for creating this amazing franchise. On the other hand, they hate him for what he did with it later on. He made the original trilogy, but he also made the prequel trilogy. He has made some controversial decisions as well, with the Special Additions and selling the franchise to Disney. Along with his greatest mistake, Jar Jar Binks.
The Original Trilogy (“A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”) are considered to be the best adventure movies of all time. The prequel trilogy (“Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” and “Revenge of the Sith”) is considered to be the biggest letdown of all time – now this is an over simplification of the franchise. In truth, the prequels aren’t completely terrible.
The latest entry, “The Force Awakens” is divisive. Some fans like it for being awesome and a huge improvement over the prequels. Others dislike it for being a copy of Episode IV, calling it “A Familiar Hope.” Both sides have good points. “Rogue One” is technically a spinoff and doesn’t count, which is why there is no title crawl in the beginning – that or they were just being lazy. It’s still a good movie though. Another Star Wars spinoff is “Star Wars: The Clones Wars.” It was released as an animated film, then adapted into a TV show. It was followed by another TV show, “Star Wars: Rebels.” The animated shows are decent, but could be better.
“Star Wars” are more than just movies. The extended universe of “Star Wars” ranges from comic books, encyclopedias and novels. Video games are another big part, such as: “Knights of the Old Republic,” “The Force Unleashed” and “The BattleFront” series. Now Disney, the new owner, has labeled most of the extended universe as not cannon, or not officially a part of the “Star Wars” universe. This has angered many fans, myself included. Although I doubt anybody will be upset over the “Star Wars Holiday Special” not being cannon – most pretend that never happened at all.
Another big factor of “Star Wars” is the merchandise. Practically everyone had at least one “Star Wars” toy as a kid. Fun fact; to fund “The Empire Strike Back,” Lucas just used the profits made from a year of Christmas toy sales. Of course, the merchandise may also be the worst part of “Star Wars.” To quote “Spaceballs,” a satire of “Star Wars,” “Merchandising! Where the real money is made.”
“Star Wars” has one of the biggest fandoms of all time. It’s one of the few fandoms to be mainstream. It has changed movies forever, leaving its mark on the industry. No matter what the future movies do, the originals will always be classics, but I would appreciate it if “Episode 8: The Last Jedi” is not a remake of “Episode 5.” I do not want to watch “The Empire Strikes Back, Again.” On the bright side, I have no doubt it will be better than any of the prequels.
One last thing: could people stop comparing “Star Wars” to “Star Trek”? Despite having similar titles and popularity, they have nothing really in common. “Star Wars” is based in fantasy and mythology, while “Star Trek” is based in science and exploration. Plus, why does one fandom have to be better than the other? I happen to be a fan of both.