- Alternate meaning: Strategic Defense Initiative Star Wars is the name of a series of science fantasy movies, a literary franchise, and a series of video games based on the ideas of filmmaker and writer George Lucas, which consist of numerous prequels, sequels, and literary adaptations. The movies revolve around the transition between the Galactic Republic and the Galactic Empire, as well as the Galactic Civil War which erupts between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire in an epic struggle between good and evil. The story is set "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." The phrase also appears at the opening of many Star Wars spin-offs and all six films.
The original (or, in story order, the fourth) Star Wars movie was first released in 1977, but the novelization was released a year before in 1976. The last (or in story order, the third) Star Wars film is due out in 2005. The original idea for Star Wars was conceived in the early 1970s and went through many different drafts until it became the story we know today.
The Star Wars story has been presented in a series of American movies, which have spawned dozens of books. The Star Wars mythos is also the basis of many toys and games. Though the films and books are set in outer space and employ common science fiction motifs, the plots are humanistic in nature. Star Wars is an outstanding example of the space opera sub-genre of science fiction. Whereas Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, another science fiction franchise that has enjoyed long-lasting popularity in American popular culture, takes a rational and progressive approach to storytelling, Star Wars has a strong 'mythic' quality to it. It has been said by some college literature professors that the Star Wars saga, with its struggle between good and evil, democracy and empire, can be considered closest to forming the United States' national epic.
The strong human appeal of the Star Wars story probably accounts for its enduring popularity; it has also been postulated that this popularity is based on nostalgia. Many Star Wars fans first saw the films as children, and their (for the time) revolutionary special effects and simple, Manichean story made a profound impact.
The Star Wars films show considerable similarity to Asian Wuxia "Kung Fu" films, as well as Roman mythology. Lucas has stated that his intention was to create in Star Wars a modern mythology, based on the studies of his friend and mentor Joseph Campbell. He has also called the first movie's similarity to the film The Hidden Fortress (Akira Kurosawa) a "homage."
A notable feature of the Star Wars films is that they portray a world full of grime and technology that looks like it has been used for years, not the sleek, futuristic world typical of earlier science fiction films. In one of his many interviews on the making of Star Wars, Lucas told of rubbing the new props with dirt to make them look weatherworn. It is tempting to speculate that this break from traditional science fiction film influenced the cyberpunk genre that emerged around 1984.
The Star Wars franchise goes beyond the five already released films. Officially-licensed Star Wars novels have been published since the original movie was released in 1977. Although these novels have been licensed by Lucas (meaning he shares in the royalties), he has retained ultimate creative control over the Star Wars universe for himself, forcing considerable ongoing effort to be spent on the part of LucasFilm Licensing to ensure continuity between different authors' works and Lucas's films. Occasionally, some elements from these novels have been adopted into the highest tier of Star Wars canon, the movies. Books, games, stories, etc. that are not directly derived from the 5 (soon to be 6) movies of Star Wars are known as the Extended or Expanded Universe, EU for short. Lucas has said that he does not deeply involve himself in the EU, choosing instead to concentrate mainly on his movies instead of "...the licensing world of the books, games and comic books."
The original Star Wars (A New Hope) has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
In 1978 Lucas sued the creators of Battlestar Galactica for its alleged similarity to Star Wars.
The setting of Star Wars
As stated above, the line "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." appears at the beginning of every Star Wars film, book etc. and is the only way the Star Wars galaxy has been defined in relation to the real world. It is alluding to the classic fairy tale line "A long time ago, in a faraway land," and variations thereof.
The Star Wars galaxy has never been given a name and is called simply "the galaxy" in the Star Wars universe and in the real worlds as "the Star Wars galaxy." Politically, the galaxy is divided among the Core worlds, the Inner Rim and the Outer Rim. There is also the Colonies, the Expansion Region, the Bothan and Huttese space and the Wild space outside of the rim. Various established 'ways' pass through the sectors, like the Rimma trade route, the Perlemian trade route, the Hydian way, the Corellian Run and the Corellian trade spine.
The scope of Star Wars history spans over 100,000 years between all the collected works, even though the films span only a single generation. But as a film set in a fantastical world, George Lucas has left the questions of "when" and "where" inconsequential, and no work has ever tried to tie in the world of Star Wars with the real world, other than the trademark phrase "a long time ago in a galaxy far away".
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 the films are set in.
For a brief explanation from Lucasfilm follow: this link.
Themes of Star Wars
Star Wars stresses the self-destructive nature of anger and hate, summed up in Yoda's words ("Fear is the path to the dark side: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering") as well as placing one's feelings for certain people aside. For example, Luke Skywalker was told to remain on Dagobah to complete his training rather than rescue his friends from Cloud City, being told it would "destroy all for which they have fought and suffered."
On the political level, Star Wars advocates democracy over dictatorship, though it offers no alternative for the corrupt Republic's government. It largely remains neutral with relation to real political issues.
The galactic setting of Star Wars is never given a name and is called simply "the galaxy." Since the characters never venture beyond the galaxy and the power of both the Republic and the Empire ended at its borders, the galaxy clearly serves, ironically enough, as a microcosm to both Earth and a country.
The main story arc in the films involves the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, mirrored by political events occurring on a galactic scale. As Anakin falls to the dark side, the Republic falls to despotism; when Anakin returns, the evil Empire—which supplanted the Republic—is overthrown by the Rebel Alliance.
Themes of the Expanded Universe
In the Expanded Universe, the Empire suppresses alien species, due to most Imperials being xenophobic, but the idea of this can only be seen subtly in films or, arguably, not at all. The idea of the Empire enslaving aliens is an analogy to racism. In the Young Jedi Knights series, there is even an example of reverse discrimination, when a group of aliens form the "Diversity Alliance" to get revenge on all humans, by means of a viral plague, for the crimes of the Empire.
Also in this Expanded Universe, the Empire suppresses women, but this cannot be seen in the films at all. To its credit, the Empire does allow Princess Leia to be a senator. Though no women are seen of the Empire's side, few are seen on the Alliance's side, except in the Expanded Universe.
Star Wars movies
Listed in order of story time:
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (19 May 1999)
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (16 May 2002)
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (scheduled release 19 May 2005)
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (25 May 1977) original title was Star Wars; the first Star Wars movie to be released
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (21 May 1980)
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (25 May 1983)
The recurring leitmotif of the Star Wars Imperial March is one of the best known movie musical themes. Another well-known piece of music created for Star Wars is Duel of the Fates.
All the original films were shot at, among other locations, Elstree Studios. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was filmed at Leavesden Film Studios and the following prequels were filmed in Sydney, Australia. Tunisia has doubled for the desert planet Tatooine in A New Hope, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.
A very poor quality remake of Star Wars (Dunyayi Kurtaran Adam, The Man Who Saves the World) was done in Turkey in 1982, taking advantage of the Turkish government's disregard for international copyright law. http://www.thewavemag.com/pagegen.php?pagename=article&articleid=22122. Many new scenes were created by filming the Turkish actors in front of a large screen with the original film being projected on it.
George Lucas has tinkered repeatedly with the original trilogy. In a September 2004 interview with CNN, he talked about his reasons for the changes:
- To me, the special edition ones are the films I wanted to make. Anybody that makes films knows the film is never finished. It's abandoned or it's ripped out of your hands, and it's thrown into the marketplace, never finished. ... Most artists, most painters, even composers would want to come back and redo their work now. They've got a new perspective on it, they've got more resources, they have better technology, and they can fix or finish the things that were never done. ...
- I wanted to actually finish the film the way it was meant to be when I was originally doing it. At the beginning, people went, "Don't you like it?" I said, "Well, the film only came out to be 25 or 30 percent of what I wanted it to be." ... If you read any interviews for about an eight- or nine-year period there, it was all about how disappointed I was and how unhappy I was and what a dismal experience it was. You know, it's too bad you need to get kind of half a job done and never get to finish it. So this was my chance to finish it.
Episodes IV - VI were remastered and re-released theatrically and on VHS during 1997, and again on DVD in September 2004. The films underwent extensive clean-up and restoration work; Lucas also made a number of changes.
Star Wars related movies
Many made-for-TV films have been made about Star Wars. The first was the universally despised Holiday Special, which became famous later on as the first appearance of bounty hunter Boba Fett. An originally minor detail, the wookiee food of wookiee-ookiees, eventually became a cult symbol in the Star Wars fan universe, spawning plays on its name such as wookiee-cookies (a Star Wars-themed dessert) and the term Wookiee-Hooky (the act of skipping school to see a Star Wars film, particularly if it has just been released).
After Return of the Jedi, two films, about a family marooned on the forest moon of Endor, were made.
Spaceballs (1987) is a Star Wars parody movie.
The Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards is a Lucasfilm sponsored contest of short films made by Star Wars fans about, referencing, and parodying the Star Wars phenomenon.
Star Wars related animated TV shows
Three cartoon series have been created based on Star Wars. The first two began in 1985 and Clone Wars began in 2003. Ewoks featured the adventures of the Ewoks prior to Return of the Jedi. Droids featured the adventures of C-3PO and R2-D2 between Episode III and Episode IV. Clone Wars features the adventures of the Jedi as the fight against the Confederacy of Independent Systems in the Clone Wars, set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
Star Wars books
Star Wars-based fiction predates the release of the first movie, with the novelization of "A New Hope" (by Alan Dean Foster but credited to George Lucas) released some months before the film itself. In 1978, Foster wrote the first original Star Wars novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, inaugurating a very successful literary spin-off franchise.
The six Star Wars movies offer the basis for which dozens of books have been written. The books have been officially authorized by LucasFilm, and were previously published by Bantam Books (with a few early titles published by Ballantine), though Del Rey now holds the contract again. The stories told by these books extend from a time long before The Phantom Menace, to a time long after Return of the Jedi. Books authorized by Lucas are written by fans of the films, and are part of a collection known as Expanded Universe. The first books considered to be part of the Expanded Universe began to appear in the late 1970s.
The Expanded Universe has been making its way through a revolution as of late in the New Jedi Order (NJO) series, which recently was wrapped up in The Unifying Force. The NJO has told the story of the galaxy's horrific invasion by the extragalactic Yuuzhan Vong, and has seen the passing of many heroic characters.
Some fans of the original Star Wars movies reject the literary works of the Expanded Universe, and insist only the films or statements George Lucas has made interpreting his own works, can be accepted as canonical. In spite of this viewpoint, there are very few continuity errors in the Star Wars saga, increasingly less since the release of the prequel trilogy of movies. Expanded Universe fiction is the officially-sanctioned continuation of George Lucas's six-film saga.
Other books include such titles as The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide, which detail things about the Star Wars universe and the films in a "non-fiction" style.
Perhaps the most widely acclaimed contribution was Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy, which covered what many fans had hoped would constitute Episodes 7, 8 , and 9. These books are considered to have captured the story and flavor of the original movie trilogy very well and drew upon existing published works from other previous Star Wars-based fiction writers.
Star Wars comic books and strips
Marvel Comics published adaptations of the original trilogy as well as a Star Wars comic book series which lasted from 1977 to 1986, a total of 107 issues. A wide variety of creators worked on this series, including Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, Al Williamson, Carmine Infantino, Walt Simonson, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont, Whilce Poratio, Jo Duffy, and Ron Frenz. In the 1980s as part of their Star Comics line oriented towards young children, Marvel also published the short lived series Ewoks and Droids, based on the Saturday morning cartoons.
Star Wars was also a daily newspaper comic strip from 1979 to 1984, for the bulk of its run written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson.
Beginning in the 1990s, Dark Horse Comics has published a large number of original adventures set in the Star Wars universe. As of 2004, these mainly include Star Wars Republic, Star Wars Empire, Star Wars Tales and Star Wars Jedi. They have also published collections of the Marvel series in seven volumes and the comic strip as Classic Star Wars.
See also: Star Wars Comic Books
Star Wars games
Since 1983, there has been over 120 Computer Games or Video Games published bearing the name of Star Wars. Since 2000, there has been at least 37 published.
Ever since the first Star Wars game was released, fans of all ages have enjoyed experiencing Star Wars in a more interactive way. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, published in 2003, won the 2003 Game of the Year award.
Star Wars characters
See also: List of Star Wars characters for a more extensive listing
Anakin Skywalker | Admiral Ackbar | Boba Fett | C-3PO | Chewbacca | Count Dooku | Darth Maul | Darth Sidious | Darth Vader | General Grievous | Han Solo | Jabba the Hutt | Jango Fett | Jar Jar Binks | Lando Calrissian | Luke Skywalker | Obi-Wan Kenobi | Padmé Amidala | Palpatine | Princess Leia | Qui-Gon Jinn | R2-D2 | Yoda
Cast and Crew
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