"Star Wars takes place
in a galaxy far, far away.
I think it's near Pasadena."
- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium
Wars is a science fantasy saga and fictional universe created by
writer / producer / director George Lucas during the 1970s. The saga
began with the film Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A
New Hope), which was released on May 25, 1977, by 20th Century Fox.
The film became a pop culture worldwide phenomenon - spawning five
more feature films, three spin-off films, five television series and
an extensive collection of licensed books, comics, video games, and
other products - all of which are set within a fictional "galaxy
far, far away."
An example of the space
opera genre, the Star Wars story employs archetypal motifs common to
both modern science fiction and ancient mythology, as well as the
romantic music motifs now often associated with those genres. Unlike
the traditional science fiction films preceding it, the Star Wars
world was initially portrayed as dirty and grimy, rather than sleek
and futuristic. In interviews, Lucas tells of rubbing the new props
with dirt to make them look weather-worn, a concept he has referred
to as "a used or ancient future", a concept further
popularized in the film Alien of the same era. He may have been
inspired by Sergio Leone, whose 1960s films performed a similar
function for the Western genre.
one of the most important film innovator working today, George Lucas
has continually "pushed the envelope" of filmmaking
technology since his early days as a student at USC. Considered a
wunderkind by his contemporaries, he had a much harder time
communicating his vision to studio executives, whose meddling managed
to compromise each of his first three feature directing efforts in
some way. The monumental success of "Star Wars" (1977)
ushered in the era of the 'blockbuster', which, despite the recent
popularity of low-budget, independent films, is still the prevailing
mentality powering the Hollywood engine. Though he set the tone and
established the expectations influencing studios to devote the bulk
of their energy and resources to films designed to blast off into
hyperspace and earn spectacular profits, it is doubtful that a film
as revolutionary as "Star Wars" was in its day could get
made in the current climate.
The saga shows us a very
"ancient" galactic civilization thousands of years old. The
setting is totally unrelated to Earth or our galaxy, which gives it
more liberty, in a sense. The Star Wars Galaxy prominently features
aliens who are essentially identical to humans. Their civilization
was able to develop space travel, terraform, build ecumenopolises and
build space colonies 200,000 years ago.
Star Wars melds science
with supernatural elements that strongly relate to epic stories and
fairy tales (for example, magic, knights, witches, princesses and
whimsical alien races such as Ewoks and Gungans).
The scope of Star Wars
history spans over 5,100 years among all the Star Wars fiction
produced so far (from Tales of the Jedi to Star Wars: Legacy), even
though the films span only two generations. Later novels from a
series dubbed New Jedi Order opened up the Star Wars setting with
alien beings named Yuuzhan Vong that came from a different galaxy.
Most aliens prior to this series came from the one galaxy in which
the films are set.
Episodes I, II, and III
(the Clone Wars) chronicle the downfall of the Old Republic and the
rise of the Galactic Empire. It is also the story of Anakin
Skywalker's rise as a gifted young Jedi and his eventual fall to the
Dark Side of the Force. Episodes IV, V, and VI (the Star Wars) pick
up approximately nineteen years after the events of Episode III,
during the Galactic Civil War, which leads to the downfall of the
Galactic Empire at the hands of the Rebel Alliance. These films
follow the story of Luke Skywalker, the son of Anakin Skywalker, and
his rise in the Rebel movement against the Empire.
different influences have been suggested for the Star Wars films by
fans, critics, and George Lucas himself. For example, Lucas
acknowledges that the plot and characters in the 1958 Japanese film
The Hidden Fortress, directed by Akira Kurosawa, were a major
inspiration and influenced him to tell the story of Star Wars from
the viewpoint of the humble droids, rather than a major player. It
also played a role in the conception of Darth Vader, whose trademark
black helmet intentionally resembles a kabuto. More particularly, the
arch-villain in Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai wears a black samurai
helmet to which Vader's helmet bears a remarkable resemblance. The
Jedi, nearly extinct futuristic knights of the former Republic, also
have a high influence from the Samurai as spiritual warriors and
duelists with a strong sense of honor and devotion to their duty.
Their traditional clothing even resembles kimonos.
to writing the script for Star Wars, George Lucas originally wanted
to make a film of Flash Gordon. The rights for Flash Gordon, however,
were held by Dino De Laurentiis, and Lucas decided to work on his own
science fiction project instead.
Other influences in Lucas's
creation of Star Wars was the writings of Joseph Campbell (Campbell's
work explored the common meanings, structures, and purposes of the
world's mythologies) and from Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy,
published in the early 1950s. It is often argued that Star Wars was
influenced by Frank Herbert's classic science fiction book Dune.
Many elements of Star Wars are also evident in Dune. There are so
many similarities, in fact, some Dune devotees consider Star Wars
little more than a campy film adaptation of Herbert's work. Some
comic book fans have drawn parallels between Star Wars and Jack
Kirbys epic Fourth World series, published by DC Comics and
Darth Vader shares some visual similarities with Kirbys armored
über-villain Dr. Doom, co-created with editor/scripter Stan Lee
at Marvel Comics.
The Star Wars saga has also
been influenced by historical events; Lucas claims to have drawn on
ancient Rome, World War II and the Vietnam War for inspiration. The
reference to the historical past can be seen with Lucas's use of
stormtroopers, commonly associated with the stormtroopers of World
War I Germany and Nazi Germany, and also associated with the SS under
Hitler in World War II. These troopers acted as the Nazi partys
military force, under Hitlers direct control. Similarly, the
stormtroopers of Star Wars acted as the Empires military force,
under Palpatines direct control. Lucas also based the space
battles in A New Hope on World War II-era aerial dog fights. The rise
of Palpatine mirrors Hitler in that a democracy becomes an empire.
The Star Wars saga began
with a 14-page treatment for a space adventure movie that Lucas
drafted in 1973. According to one
source, Lucas initially wrote summaries for fifteen stories that
would make up the Star Wars saga. Out of these fifteen stories, Lucas
originally planned to film only one of them as a feature film. Then,
in 1978, following the success of the first released Star Wars film,
he publicly announced that he would create a total of twelve films to
chronicle the adventures of Luke Skywalker (in the original scripts,
the characters name was Luke Starkiller). In 1979, Lucas
retracted his former statement, saying that he would instead make
nine films. Four years later, having completed Return of the Jedi,
Lucas announced that he was putting Star Wars on indefinite hold
until special-effects technology had improved to his satisfaction.
Finally, in 1995,
(after seeing the effects results of ILM's work on Jurassic Park)
Lucas decided that he would produce the trilogy of prequels (Episodes
I, II, and III), for a total of six films. He also claimed at the
time that he had always envisioned "the whole thing as a series
of six films".
Other sources, including
publicly available draft scripts of Star Wars, show that Lucas had an
incomplete and quickly-changing conception of the Star Wars story up
until the release of the first film in 1977. Story elements such as
the Kaiburr crystal present in early scripts are missing entirely in
the films, while names were freely exchanged between different
planets and characters - "Organa Major" being the original
name for Alderaan, for instance (Organa later became Princess Leia's
surname). Even as late as the production of The Empire Strikes Back
and Return of the Jedi, there were significant differences from the
films which emerged - for example, Lando
Calrissian being a clone from the Clone Wars and the climactic
battle of Return of the Jedi taking place against two Death Stars
orbiting the Imperial capital planet, then known as Had Abbadon.
Another version of the Return of the Jedi script had Luke turning to
the dark side after killing Darth Vader. Leia would then become the
next Jedi to fight the dark side. This did not happen, however,
because Lucas felt that the ending would be too dark.
Lucas has been criticized
for allegedly deviating from his original conception of the universe
that was introduced in the original 1977 film. The Star Wars prequel
trilogy has also been accused of similar retroactive changes that
were allegedly not part of Lucas' original concept for Star Wars.
But, hey, it's his story, he can do what ever he wants!
For his part, Lucas claimed
that the original Star Wars story was intended as a single film but
was later split into three because the story was too long to be told
in a single film. Lucas claims that many story elements were changed
within the production of the films - for instance, the attack on the
Death Star in A New Hope was moved from the end of the trilogy in
order to strengthen A New Hope on its own merits, while the character
of Chewbacca established the Wookiees as a technologically advanced
race, necessitating their replacement with Ewoks in Return of the
Jedi. Other changes, including the death of Obi-Wan in A New Hope,
were made during the filming. Lucas also stated in the prequel
stories existed only as "notes" explaining the backstories
of characters such as Obi-Wan. It has been reported that Lucas's
original script was almost 500 pages long. The title, originally The
Adventures of Luke Starkiller, was changed several times before
becoming Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
term "Expanded Universe" has come into existence as an
umbrella term for all of the officially licensed Star Wars material
outside of the six feature films. This includes television
productions, books, comics, games, and other forms of media. The
material expands and continues the stories told in the films, taking
place anywhere from 25,000 years before The Phantom Menace to 120
years after Return of the Jedi. The first Expanded Universe story
appeared in Marvel Comics' Star Wars #7 in January 1978 (the first
six issues of the series having been an adaptation of the movie),
followed quickly by Alan Dean Foster's novel Splinter of the Mind's
Eye the following month.
Lucas retains ultimate creative control over the Star Wars universe.
For example, the death of central characters and similar changes in
the status quo must first pass his screening before authors are given
the go-ahead. In addition, Lucasfilm Licensing devotes considerable
effort to ensure continuity between the works of various authors
across multiple companies.
purists reject the Expanded Universe as "Apocrypha",
believing that only the events in the film series are part of the
"real" Star Wars universe. However, elements of the
Expanded Universe have been adopted by Lucas for use in the films.
These included the name of the Republic/Empire capital planet,
Coruscant, which first appeared in Timothy Zahn's novel Heir to the
Empire before being used in The Phantom Menace, while a character
introduced in Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars series, a blue Jedi Knight
named Aayla Secura, was liked enough by Lucas to be included as a
character in Attack of the Clones (and is seen meeting her demise in
Revenge of the Sith in an ambush on a jungle planet).
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