Star Wars

Star Wars

When George Lucas spent $11 million to produce a little labor of love called Star Wars, he likely had high hopes for the ambitious science-fiction film. It is hard to imagine that he came even remotely close to envisioning the impact or success that the film would go on to achieve. In terms of box-office numbers, in terms of successful sequels (and prequels,) in terms of a massive marketing machine, in terms of astounding special effects, the film simply has few rivals. And if you were one of the first to stand in line in 1977, the first to see the text scroll up the screen, you likely remember the experience as if it were yesterday.

Star Wars may have been a unique theater experience for the era, but its story was based upon numerous literary influences. From The Lord of the Rings and Dune to stories of King Arthur, from the cinematic adventures of Flash Gordon to the stunning visuals of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lucas borrowed plenty from his heroes but the result was a creation all his own. And this age-old battle between the forces of good and evil resonated with audiences and left them on the edge of their seat.

The story is simple. Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a group of rebels have banded together to face an evil Empire. The unlikely hero is a young lad named Luke Skywalker and the sinister villain is a cloaked-in-black, heavy breather named Darth Vador, who has captured the lovely Princess Leia Orgona. Her only hope for escape lies in two comical androids, C3PO and R2D2, who have been sent to desert planet of Tatooine to contact an aging warrior named Obi-Wan Kanobi.

As luck would have it, the droids are apprehended by a scavenger named Jawas, who decides to sell them to a local farmer – who just so happens to be the uncle of Luke Skywalker. Before they can give Luke their message, he is attacked by a group of Tusken Raiders but, luckily, Obi-Wan (otherwise known as Ben) comes to his aid and together, the pair receive Leia’s holographic message. In need of a spaceship, the two men and the pair of droids head off to see what they can drum up.

They find assistance and transportation in the form of a smuggler named Hans Solo, and his shaggy sidekick, a Wookie named Chewbacca who is the pilot of Solo’s Millennium Falcon spacecraft. After paying Hans a sizable fee, the group sets out to the planet Alderaan, recently destroyed by an enormous new Empire weapon, the Death Star. Captured by the grasp of a tractor beam, the Falcon’s crew set out to find the Princess within the Death Star, leaving Ben behind to try and disable the tractor beam. Luke, Hans and Chewie manage to rescue the damsel in distress and fight their way through enormous obstacles to find their way to the secret rebel base and launch a spectacular assault against the daunting Death Star forces.

Star Wars debuted without much pre-fanfare, other than very strong word-of-mouth. But within just a few weeks, it was clear that the film was destined to be an enormous success. Lines wrapped endlessly around theaters as filmgoers waited hours to see the film. Box-office figures were staggering and there was little question as to what the film of the year, perhaps the film of the decade, was.

And within months, every vehicle, gadget, and character from the film was available for purchase in toy stores. So were games, bedsheets, comic books, toothbrushes, Halloween costumes and just about any other thing you could slap a Star Wars logo on. And even three decades later, the demand for this merchandise remains, much of which is highly collectable.

Lucas initially announced that there would be eight more episodes. To date, there have been a total of six, including two sequels, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983,) as well as three prequels, Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999,) Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Episode III: Revenge of the Siths (2005.) A special edition of the original film, now known as Episode IV: A New Hope, was re-released in 1997, having been digitally re-mastered. The film would receive additional footage and another re-mastering for the DVD, which was released in 2004. The Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 and is set to reunite the main characters in Episode VII, scheduled for release in 2015.

Star Wars garnered 10 Academy Award nominations and won for Best Score (thanks to John Williams,) Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Special Effects, and Best Sound. It is the second highest-grossing film of all time in the United States, behind only Gone With The Wind (when adjusted for inflation, of course.) And in case you are wondering just how well that initial $11 million investment turned out, Star Wars has grossed over $800 million to date.

The force was certainly with Mr. Lucas when he created Star Wars. And for the millions of fans that waited patiently in line to see this groundbreaking film, the millions that have memorized every line, every number, and collected every action figure and trading card, it is a film that has had more overall impact than perhaps any other in history.

If you were one of the lucky ones who saw Star Wars in the theater in 1977, or if you just consider yourself a fan of the franchise, we welcome your thoughts and recollections in our comments section below.

2 Responses to “Star Wars”

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  1. Gina says:

    I love the original trilogy, in its original state, not with added footage. The prequels were okay, but more like reading a book explaining the origin of many characters. Speaking of books, I used to read the Star Wars books, but ever since The New Jedi Order, they’ve grown too dark for me, and I’m glad the new movies are breaking canon with them!

  2. I love both the original trilogy, with added footage, AND the prequels. And speaking of which, Lucasfilm has the rights to Episodes 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 while 20th Century Fox still has permanent rights to Episode 4. And the reason for this is because Walt Disney just bought Lucasfilm about 3 years ago. And you’ll get a special sneak peek of the next upcoming “Star Wars” movie titled “The Force Awakens”.

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