Star Wars

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The cover of the 2004 DVD widescreen release of the original Star Wars Trilogy.
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Star Wars is an influential science fantasy saga and fictional universe created by writer/producer/director George Lucas in the early 1970s. The saga began with the film Star Wars, which was released on May 25, 1977. The film, later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, became a pop culture phenomenon, spawning five more feature films and an extensive collection of licensed books, comics, video games, spin-off films, television series, toys, et al.

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 of those genres. The film series is widely considered to be the major impetus which launched the new era of high-budget, special-effects blockbuster movies that continues to this day. In 2005, Forbes Magazine estimated the overall revenue generated by the entire Star Wars franchise (over the course of its 28-year history) at nearly US$20 billion, easily making it one of the most successful film franchises of all time.

Contents

Conception

File:George lucas03.jpg
George Lucas shooting A New Hope in 1976.

Star Wars began with a 13-page treatment for a space adventure movie that George Lucas drafted in 1973, inspired by multiple myths and classic stories.

Influences

See also: Star Wars sources and analogues

Many 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. Lucas has said in an interview, which is included on the DVD edition of The Hidden Fortress, that the movie 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 samurai helmet.

Prior 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.

Another influence in Lucas's creation of Star Wars were the writings of Joseph Campbell. Campbell's work explored the common meanings, structures, and purposes of the world's mythologies. Lucas has stated that his intention was to create in Star Wars a modern mythology based on Campbell's work. The original Star Wars film, for example, closely followed the archetypal "hero's journey", as described in Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

It is also thought that the setting for the Star Wars universe came from Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, published in the early 1950s. This saga also involves a galaxy teeming with inhabited worlds held together by a collapsing galactic empire using hyperdrives (for long-distance transportation). It also features the planet Trantor, which is entirely covered by the galaxy's capital, similar to Coruscant, and the protagonist of Foundation and Empire is Lathan Devers, a character resembling Han Solo. Even lightsabers have precursors in the The Foundation Trilogy as force field penknives.

Fans of comic book artist Jack Kirby also say that the films were influenced from Kirby's series The New Gods, citing the visual design of Darth Vader looking similar to that of Darkseid, and Kirby's use of "The Source" as a permeating positive force in the universe, much like the early way The Force was used in the movie.

Scripts

According to one source, Star Wars creator George 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 character was then known as Luke Starkiller). In 1979, Lucas retracted his former statement, saying that he would only make nine of those twelve films. Four years later, around 1983, having completed Episode VI of the series, Lucas announced that he was finished with Star Wars and no additional films would be made. Finally, in 1995, Lucas suddenly announced that he would produce a trilogy of prequels (Episodes I–III), for a total of six films. He also claimed 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 diversions from the films which emerged. For example, Lando Calrissian being a clone from the Clone Wars and the climatic battle of Return of the Jedi taking place against two Death Stars orbiting the Imperial capital planet, then known as Had Abbadon. [1] 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, especially for children, who were a major part of the audience. In addition, the story released as the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye was intended as a possible direction for a low-budget Star Wars sequel — however, the success of A New Hope allowed Lucas to pursue the more ambitious The Empire Strikes Back instead.

For his part, Lucas claimed in a segment filmed for the THX-remastered VHS release of the original trilogy 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. In the DVD commentaries for the original trilogy, 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 commentaries that the prequel stories existed only as "notes" explaining the backstories of characters such as Obi-Wan. In an interview with Wired prior to the release of Episode I, Lucas remarked that he had allowed the publication of novels written as sequels to the films (see Expanded Universe) because he would never make the sequels himself.

Lucas's history of different statements regarding his future and past plans for the Star Wars saga have caused a great deal of popular confusion, while drawing criticism from some. For example, some still believe that Lucas's original plan was for a "trilogy of trilogies." For more information on the supposed sequel trilogy, see Sequel trilogy (Star Wars).

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 simply Star Wars.

Films

Main articles: Prequel trilogy (Star Wars) & Original trilogy (Star Wars)

The Star Wars film series is made up of a total of six films. These six films, which technically make up a hexology, are generally split into two trilogies: The "original trilogy" of Episodes IV–VI, released between 1977 and 1983, and the "prequel trilogy" of Episodes I–III, released between 1999 and 2005.


The Star Wars films
Poster 75px 86px 75px
Film I: The Phantom Menace II: Attack of the Clones III: Revenge of the Sith
Year 1999 2002 2005
Director George Lucas George Lucas George Lucas
Poster 80px 75px 79px
Film IV: A New Hope V: The Empire Strikes Back VI: Return of the Jedi
Year 1977 1980 1983
Director George Lucas Irvin Kershner Richard Marquand

Production and release

File:SWcastphoto.jpg
A 2005 photo of the majority of the cast from all six films, along with Star Wars creator, George Lucas.

There were countless problems during the production of Episode IV, and few critics expected the film to achieve the measure of success it did. Many problems with effects, editing, funding, and shooting caused the film to be pushed back from its expected release date of December of 1976. The production company, not to mention many involved in the actual production, had little faith in the movie. According to reports, it was a daily struggle merely to complete the film on time. Despite these difficulties, the first film was released on May 25, 1977 and became a surprise hit. Though its novelization had hit the shelves a year earlier, the book had not seen nearly the amount of interest that the film would draw.

Episodes IV, V, and VI were shot at, among other locations, Elstree Studios, in Hertfordshire, England. The Phantom Menace was filmed at Leavesden Film Studios and the subsequent prequels were filmed in Sydney, Australia. Tunisia, and the sand dunes of Yuma, Arizona, have served as the location for filming scenes set on the desert planet Tatooine in A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. The Palace of Caserta, Italy, was used to create The Palace of Theed, on the planet Naboo: Queen Amidala's home. Shooting in Italy also includes the Lake of Como. The outdoor scenes from the ice planet Hoth in Episode V were shot at Finse, Norway. Also, one shot of the Rebel Base on Yavin IV in Episode IV was of Mayan temples in Tikal, Guatemala.

Both the "original trilogy" and the "prequel trilogy" were released over a period of six years (1977–1983 and 1999–2005, respectively), each movie taking three years to produce.

Musical score

Main article: Star Wars music
File:John Williams 2.JPG
Williams conducting the London Symphony Orchestra during the
recording of the score for The Phantom Menace.

The scores for all six Star Wars films have been composed by John Williams. Lucas's intentions for Star Wars involved a grand musical sound, with leitmotifs for different characters and important objects; an approach used to great effect, for instance, in the operas of Richard Wagner. Toward this end, Lucas put together a collection of classical and romantic pieces for composer Williams to review, as an idea of what effects Lucas desired for the films. The music Williams composed was often distinctly reminiscent of the original pieces. Williams' score for the original Star Wars film A New Hope, in 1977 set a new standard for science fiction films by drawing its inspiration primarily from a palette of romantic symphonies, rather than creating completely new music (in choosing this classical approach, Williams was following the lead of 2001: A Space Odyssey and a mix-tape of Wagnerian opera and other selections compiled by George Lucas.) Although Williams had already established himself as a film composer with scores for blockbusters such as The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, and Jaws, the Star Wars score catapulted him to super-stardom.

Williams' scores for the original trilogy were primarily motif-based: individual characters and settings were each given their own, unique musical theme which would identify their presence in the film, whether physically or figuratively. By combining and varying these motifs, Williams could create a score possessed of a rich, interwoven fabric.

By the time of the prequel trilogy, however, Williams had grown and changed as a composer. His new scores de-emphasized motifs, tending to weave them subtly into a broader and more dynamic musical composition. He had also expanded his use of thematic motifs, using the technique to highlight the emotional or archetypal structure of the film, rather than the more literal associations to character and setting used in the earlier scores.

Setting

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 refers to as "a used future." He may have been inspired by Sergio Leone, whose 1960s films performed a similar function for the Western genre.

Each Star Wars film opens with the text, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." Lucas intended this as an allusion to the classic fairy tale opening of, "Once upon a time, in a faraway land..." To some, Lucas's allusion suggests that the films are to be interpreted as myths of the future, rather than literal events of the past. Lucas himself has intentionally left the details open to interpretation.

Although the film series itself spans the events of only two generations, other stories set in the Star Wars universe (those from the so-called "Expanded Universe") cover events that span millennia.

Plot

Template:Spoiler

For more detailed storylines, see the individual articles for each film.
File:StarWarsOpeningLogo.JPG
Opening logo to the Star Wars films.

Episodes I, II, and III 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. In the films, Darth Sidious manipulates the Trade Federation into invading and occupying the planet Naboo. Using his public identity of Senator Palpatine, Sidious uses the crisis to manipulate the Senate into electing him Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. Sidious then further manipulates the Senate into granting him emergency power, and orchestrates the Clone Wars, a conflict between the Republic (which he controls as Chancellor Palpatine) and a Separatist movement (which he controls as Darth Sidious). Meanwhile, Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala fall in love. They hold a secret wedding at the end of Episode II. During the latter parts of the Clone Wars, Padmé becomes pregnant with twins, Luke and Leia. As the Clone Wars come to an end, Sidious turns Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side. Anakin, now known as Darth Vader, helps Sidious to wipe out the Jedi and Sidious, as Palpatine, declares himself Emperor of the Galactic Empire. Padmé gives birth to Luke and Leia but dies during childbirth. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda choose to go into exile. Obi-Wan takes Luke to Tatooine with the intent to watch over him from afar, while Senator Bail Organa takes Leia to Alderaan and raises her. Yoda goes to Dagobah to await the arrival of Luke.

Episode IV, V, and VI 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. Leia, now a Princess and a member of the Imperial Senate, sends a plea for help to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke inadvertently intercepts the message and meets Kenobi. After the murder of his aunt and uncle by Imperial Stormtroopers, Luke joins the ragtag Rebel Alliance. He trains to become a Jedi like his father, whom he believes was betrayed and murdered by Darth Vader. When Luke learns the truth — that his father is Darth Vader — he is profoundly shaken. Despite this, Luke successfully resists the efforts of Vader and the Emperor to turn him to the Dark Side, instead turning his father back to the Light Side of the Force. A mortally wounded Vader then kills the Emperor, while the Rebel fleet scores a decisive victory against the Empire, by destroying the second Death Star. The Rebel Alliance's victory eventually leads to the end of the Galactic Civil War, the downfall of the Empire, and the formation of the New Republic, as described in the Expanded Universe (see below).

Opening Crawls

Main article: Opening crawl (Star Wars)
File:ESBOpeningCrawl.JPG
Opening crawl for The Empire Strikes Back.

The Star Wars films use an opening text to provide the audience with the background to the story. Lucas emulated the Flash Gordon serials by having his opening text "crawl" up the screen from bottom to top at a high pitched angle, as if the text were disappearing into the distant starscape.

In a May 15 2005 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Lucas described the creation of the distinctive crawl: "The crawl is such a hard thing because you have to be careful that you're not using too many words that people don't understand. It's like a poem. I showed the very first crawl to a bunch of friends of mine in the '70s. It went on for six paragraphs with four sentences each. Brian De Palma was there, and he threw his hands up in the air and said, 'George, you're out of your mind! Let me sit down and write this for you.' He helped me chop it down into the form that exists today."

Themes

Main article: Themes in Star Wars

George Lucas embraces a style of epic storytelling that he refers to as "motifs": Common themes and concepts which he "plays" in different ways each time they recur. The concept is lifted from classical music, but Lucas applies it both visually and as an integral part of his storytelling.

On a large scale, there are the parallels between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. The stories of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker echo and reflect each other in myriad ways.

The Force

Main article: Force (Star Wars)

The Force is one of the most recognizable elements of the Star Wars mythos. It is described by Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars film as, "An energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together."

Those who can use the Force, such as the Jedi, can perform feats of telepathy, psychokinesis, prescience, and mental control. In the original trilogy, there were two aspects of the Force given emphasis: the light side and the dark side. The light side of the Force is the facet of that energy field aligned with good, benevolence, and healing. The dark side of the Force is the element aligned with fear, hatred, aggression, and malevolence; this side of the Force seems more powerful, especially to those who use it, because it is driven by rage and hatred - its effects more direct. In reality, neither the light nor the dark side of the Force is stronger than the other, possessing their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, the dark side conveys an inherent disadvantage to its users; arrogance and overconfidence in their own abilities. However, this is compensated in that its associated aggression allows users to to become more formidable warriors - illustrated when Luke is able to finally overcome his father in battle through his anger at the thought of his sister turning to the dark side.

Re-releases

Main article: List of changes in Star Wars re-releases

In 1997, Episodes IV, V, and VI were re-mastered and theatrically re-released as the "Special Editions." For the re-release, in addition to extensive clean-up and restoration work, Lucas also made a number of changes to the films in order to "finish the film the way it was meant to be" (as Lucas said in a September 2004 interview with the associated press).

File:Star Wars new scene.jpg
Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt in the 1997 Special Edition of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Many of Lucas' changes for the Special Editions were cosmetic, generally adding special effects which weren't originally possible. Other changes, however, are considered to have affected plot or character development. These changes, such as the change often referred to by fans as "Han shot first," have proven to be controversial.

In 2004, in addition to an extensive and comprehensive hi-definition digital cleanup and restoration job by Lowry Digital, the original trilogy films were changed once again for their release on DVD. In these new versions of the films, in addition to new scenes and major image adjustments designed to make the films visually resemble the prequels, a few changes which had been made for the 1997 Special Editions were removed. With this release, Lucasfilm created a new high-definition master of the films, which will be used in future releases as well.

At a ShoWest convention in 2005, George Lucas demonstrated new technology and stated that he is planning to release all six films in a new 3-D film format, beginning with A New Hope in 2007.

Lucas has also hinted in the past that he will release his definitive, often called "archival" editions of all six Star Wars films on a next-generation home-video format in 2007. This release would coincide with, and celebrate, the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars saga.

Expanded Universe

Main article: Expanded Universe (Star Wars)
File:Splinter of the Minds Eye.jpg
Splinter of the Mind's Eye, 1978

The term "Expanded Universe", also known as the "EU", has come into existence as an umbrella term for all of the officially licensed Star Wars material outside of the two trilogies, including books, comics, games, and other forms of media. This material expands and continues the stories told in the films, taking place anywhere from 25,000 years before The Phantom Menace to 36 years after Return of the Jedi. The Expanded Universe officially began in January 1978 with Marvel Comics' Star Wars # 7 and was further expanded by Alan Dean Foster's March 1978 novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye.

It should be noted that although George Lucas's name is on the cover of the original Star Wars novel, Alan Dean Foster actually wrote it. He was given a copy of the working script, and a tour of the production. Most of the actual description was from the mind of Foster. It could be said that this was the unofficial start of the Expanded Universe.

The early development of the Expanded Universe was sporadic and unrefined, particularly because there was so little official material for the creators to build on. It still had a major impact though, for example, Marvel Comics was reputedly saved from closure by its publishing of Star Wars comics (the print runs ran into millions). A turning point in the honing of a concrete "expanded universe" was reached when West End Games began publishing the Star Wars Roleplaying Game in 1987. In order for players of the roleplaying game to create new adventures, West End Games needed to provide supplemental material describing the Star Wars universe in previously unknown detail.

Around this same time, Dark Horse Comics acquired the Star Wars license and used it to launch a number of ambitious sequels to the original trilogy, including the very popular Dark Empire stories. Shortly thereafter, in the early '90s, Bantam published Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy. Widely publicized as the "sequels which were never made", Zahn's novels reignited Star Wars fandom and sparked a revolution in Star Wars literature.

George 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.

Some 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. For example, the name of the planet Coruscant first appeared in Timothy Zahn's novel Heir to the Empire before being used later in the prequel trilogy.

The Chronological order is: Sith Era, Prequel, Classics, New Republic, New Jedi Order (NJO). The New Jedi Order portion starts with "Vector Prime", the first book in the Yuuzhan Vong series, which had 21 books. The last book is "The Unifying Force". After the Yuuzhan Vong series, the "Dark Nest" trilogy takes place. The Dark Nest trilogy consists of "The Joiner King", "The Unseen Queen" and "The Swarm War".

Fan works

See also: Star Wars fan films
File:Revelation-second-poster.jpg
The release poster of Star Wars: Revelations, a popular fan film.

The Star Wars saga has inspired many fans to create their own stories set in the Star Wars galaxy. In recent years, this has ranged from writing fan-fiction to creating fan films.

In 2002, Lucasfilm sponsored the first annual Official Star Wars Fan Films Awards, officially recognizing filmmakers and the genre. Due to concerns over potential copyright and trademark issues, however, the contest remains open only to parodies, mockumentaries, and documentaries. Fan-fiction films set in the Star Wars universe are ineligible. Initially this limitation caused an outcry for those interested in creating serious fan-fiction for a competition.

While many of the serious fan films have used elements from the licensed Expanded Universe to tell their story, they are obviously not considered an official part of the Star Wars canon. Lucasfilm has, for the most part, turned a blind eye to the creation of these derivative fan-fiction works, so long as no such work attempts to make a profit from or tarnish the Star Wars franchise in any way.

Lucasfilm's open support and sanction of fan creations is a marked contrast to the attitudes of many other copyright holders. Some owners, such as Paramount Pictures with the Star Trek properties, have been known to actively discourage the creation of such works by fans.

Notable fan films include:

  • TROOPS (1997) is Kevin Rubio's parody of the TV show COPS, humorously following the Imperial stormtroopers charged with tracking down the droids on Tatooine at the beginning of Episode IV. This film, with its professional production values and its ability to take advantage of Internet distribution, is generally credited with kickstarting the modern fanfilm phenomenon.
  • Star Wars: Revelations (2005) was directed by Shane Felux. Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, the film attempts to explain what happened to the Jedi after the Great Jedi Purge of 19 BBY. Produced for nearly $20,000 and with an international crew, it is notable for being one of the most ambitious fanfilms to date. While expensive by most standards, it took a large step in showing that professional-quality filmmaking was becoming available at the consumer level.

References

See also

General information

Star Wars universe

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