Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Why Star Wars Is Vitally Important
Image via movieposter.com
In 1977, 20th Century Fox released a film then known simply as Star Wars, a film made for a scant $11 million which would revolutionize the industry. In 1977, no one could possibly have predicted that George Lucas's little movie would become one of the most powerful forces in worldwide popular culture. No one could have foreseen the economic empire built upon a brand to rival Disney and the Beatles: sequels, prequels, books, video games, cartoons, toys - oh, so many toys! In 1977, I was four years old.
I didn't even know what I was getting into. Seeing the movie was my mother's idea. I had no clue as to the treats in store: lasers, droids, light sabers, Wookiees. Holy cow, Wookiees! How could I possibly have known of the central role this story would play in shaping the cultural vocabulary of my life?
At its heart, the original Star Wars is such a simple story: a hodgepodge band of adventurers pitted against seemingly irresistible evil. Indeed, elements of the tale predate written language. For all of the fireworks, I believe it is this very simplicity which is the secret of Star Wars's appeal. If no sequels or prequels were ever made, the magic of that first film would be no less for me.
Image via movieposter.com
But there were more. I remember the sheer delight of seeing the trailer for The Empire Strikes Back for the very first time. There was going to be more! The second one was even better. Only after years of watching other films would I appreciate the rarity of a sequel improving upon the original. Then, with a single line of dialogue, George Lucas shattered my notion of the static nature of a character's place on the moral spectrum:
"No. I am your father!"
Well, if I wasn't hooked on the story before that, I sure was after! The resolution in Return of the Jedi was icing on the cake. Three epic films in just seven years. Then, radio silence for the next 16.
Image via Crash! Site
In my life, I've found that I am a sucker for all invented worlds: Narnia, Pyrdain, Dungeons & Dragons, Middle Earth, Star Trek, Hogwarts, whatever. Once I get pulled into one, I want to feast upon all of its intricacies. My recent exploration of the comic book medium has reminded me once again that my curiosity about Lucas's galaxy far, far away has never been fully sated. Only now do I appreciate that this realm has been thoroughly explored in print since 1978. I think I may even have picked up one of the comic books back in the day and was disappointed that it wasn't exactly like the story I knew. More than once, I've tried to make it through the novelization of the original film, though not with much success. I think it's high time I renewed my efforts with both.
Talk about a cast of thousands, the Marvel Universe has nothing on the Star Wars comics. On my last trip to Earth Prime in Burlington, I picked up books from nine different Star Wars series. All told, the comic book stories span thousands of years of invented history. Evidently, George Lucas has always maintained some control over what is known as the "Expanded Universe" and has also on occasion drawn upon the stories and characters invented by others. Only two of the nine books inspired me to seek out further installments: Legacy #18 and Knights of the Old Republic #26. But just as with the Marvel characters, I was encouraged to go back to the beginning. And so, the omnibuses (omnibi?) are going on the old wish list. I am aware, going in, that the Expanded Universe may never measure up to the original trilogy for me. But I am hoping it will deepen my appreciation for the saga as a whole.
With comics, film and science fiction all taking on more prominent roles in The Armchair Squid over the past year, Star Wars is sure to be a unifying theme going forward. Sometimes I envy that four year old kid for all of the discoveries he had before him. Luckily, he left a few stories untouched for me to enjoy now.
May the Force be with you all!