Star Wars

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Opening logo to the Star Wars films
Opening logo to the Star Wars films

Star Wars is an epic science fantasy saga and fictional universe created by writer/producer/director George Lucas during the 1970s, and developed on and added to from thereon by Lucas himself and other writers. The epic 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 worldwide pop culture phenomenon, spawning five more feature films developed by George Lucas and an Expanded Universe of his films, which includes three spin-off films, five television series and an extensive collection of licensed books, comics, video games, action figures, trading cards, and other merchandise, all set within the Star Wars fictional "galaxy far, far away." In 2005, Forbes Magazine estimated the overall revenue generated by the entire Star Wars franchise (over the course of its history) at nearly US $20 billion, making it one of the most successful franchises of all time. [1]

Contents

[edit] Feature films

The cover of the 2004 DVD widescreen release of the revamped original Star Wars Trilogy
The cover of the 2004 DVD widescreen release of the revamped original Star Wars Trilogy
Episode Original release date
I The Phantom Menace May 19, 1999
II Attack of the Clones May 16, 2002
III Revenge of the Sith May 19, 2005
IV A New Hope May 25, 1977
V The Empire Strikes Back May 21, 1980
VI Return of the Jedi May 25, 1983

Although The Ewok Adventure, later renamed Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, played in theaters in Europe, Mexico and Australia and is technically a Star Wars feature film, it is generally associated with television, therefore it is covered in the television section below.

[edit] Setting

Further information: Star Wars galaxy

The events of Star Wars take place in the fictional Star Wars galaxy. Each Star Wars film begins with an "opening crawl" of text that provides specific context for the events of the film. "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...." is the line that appears first in the opening crawl for each film and alludes to the classic fairy tale opening of, "Once upon a time, in a faraway land..." The opening crawl is the only instance that the Star Wars galaxy has been defined in relation to our real world.

Many of the characters in the film are essentially identical to humans. The characters commonly interact with fantastic creatures of many different types from numerous planetary systems within the Star Wars galaxy. Star Wars uses supernatural elements such as magic, Jedi knights, witches, and princesses that are related to characters found in fairy tales, epics and sagas.

The film series spans the events of two generations. The Star Wars "Expanded Universe" is comprised of stories that are set in the Star Wars universe that have not appeared in the original film series. The "Expanded Universe" covers events that span millennia. Novels from a series called New Jedi Order later extended the Star Wars setting to different galaxies with the introduction of alien beings named Yuuzhan Vong. Most aliens prior to the New Jedi Order series came from the same galaxy in which the films are set.

The Star Wars world, unlike many science-fiction and fantasy films that featured sleek and futuristic settings, was initially portrayed as dirty and grimy. It is notable that the setting does not portray technological evolution, despite stories that span millennia, the technology is relatively the same throughout. In interviews, Lucas tells of rubbing new props with dirt to give them a weather-worn appearance.[citation needed] He has referred to this as "a used or ancient future", a concept further popularized in the film Alien.[citation needed] Earlier films by director Sergio Leone utilized a similar process for films of the Western genre.[citation needed] Director Akira Kurosawa had previously used this method to give his settings a more authentic appearance.[citation needed]

[edit] Plot

The iconic sunset of Tatooine features two suns, the result of a binary system. This scene from A New Hope has become a recognized cultural symbol of the Star Wars saga. This shot also appears in Episodes 2 and 3 (Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) while containing different characters. The musical score "May the Force Be with You" is usually playing during this scene.
The iconic sunset of Tatooine features two suns, the result of a binary system. This scene from A New Hope has become a recognized cultural symbol of the Star Wars saga. This shot also appears in Episodes 2 and 3 (Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) while containing different characters. The musical score "May the Force Be with You" is usually playing during this scene.
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

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, the "Chosen One", rising as a gifted young Jedi and eventually transforming into Darth Vader via the Dark Side of the Force. The story begins as Darth Sidious manipulates the Trade Federation into invading and occupying the planet Naboo. Sidious concurrently maintains his public identity as Palpatine, who represents the world of Naboo as a Senator in the Galactic Republic. Palpatine uses the incident to convince the Senate to elect him as Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. He further manipulates the Senate into granting him emergency powers by orchestrating the Clone Wars, a conflict between the Republic (which he controls as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine) and a Separatist movement (which he controls as Darth Sidious).

A young boy named Anakin Skywalker, incredibly strong with the Force, is discovered by Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, and his padawan (apprentice) Obi-Wan Kenobi. Qui-Gon believes Anakin is the Chosen One, prophesied to bring balance to the Force. After Qui-Gon is killed by the hideous Darth Maul, Obi-Wan defeats this Sith apprentice and then, over the strong objections of Master Yoda, obeys his master's final wish to train the boy. Anakin grows powerful with the Force, and his skill causes him to become arrogant and chafe against Obi-Wan's training, which he feels is restrictive. Against the strictest rules of the Jedi Order, Anakin falls in love with Padmé Amidala, Queen and later Senator of Naboo. The two wed in secret, an act forbidden for Jedi due to the inherent emotional vulnerability.

The Clone Wars begin to rage through every part of the known galaxy, and the Jedi fight tirelessly to bring peace back to the Republic. Anakin and Padmé continue to keep their marriage a secret, but soon Padmé becomes pregnant. Although thrilled by the news, Anakin begins to have visions of Padmé's death. The secretive nature of their relationship forces him to seek help outside of the Jedi order, and he desperately asks aid of Chancellor Palpatine, whose public and private powers are increasing daily.

Palpatine, as Darth Sidious, seizes this opportunity to tempt Anakin to the Dark Side, promising that Padmé can be saved if Anakin joins the Sith. His guile succeeds, convincing Anakin to abandon the Jedi. Anakin's turning point comes when he intervenes in a lightsaber duel between Jedi Master Mace Windu and Palpatine, cutting off Windu's hand and allowing Palpatine to kill the Jedi Master. Palpatine declares Anakin a Sith Lord and gives him the name Darth Vader, then orders him to hunt down and destroy all the remaining Jedi in the galaxy (see Order 66 for more on the demise of the Jedi). Believing that Padme has betrayed him, Anakin attacks her and leaves her unconscious. Confronted by Kenobi in a lightsaber duel, Anakin loses this battle and becomes horribly disfigured as a result. He is later fitted with a suit of black armor and helmet, which serves as a life-support system and also gives him a menacing presence as Vader.

Padmé dies giving birth to twins, whom she names Luke and Leia. The twins are given to two separate willing parties for safety: Luke to Anakin's step-brother Owen Lars and his wife Beru on Tatooine; Leia to Senator Bail Organa and his wife on the planet Alderaan. Obi Wan-Kenobi and Yoda, the last remaining Jedi, exile themselves. Obi-Wan becomes a hermit on the desert world Tatooine, where he assumes the responsibility of watching over Luke. Yoda similarly becomes a hermit on the bog-like world of Dagobah. Sidious (as Palpatine) reorganizes the Galactic Republic into the First Galactic Empire, and declares himself its Emperor.

Episodes IV, V, and VI pick up approximately 19 years after the events of Episode III, during the Galactic Civil War, a lengthy conflict in which the Galactic Empire falls at the hands of the Rebel Alliance. These films follow the story of Luke Skywalker, the son of Anakin Skywalker (now the black-suited Darth Vader), and his rise in the rebellion against the Empire. The tale ends with the redemption of Anakin Skywalker at Luke's hands, and the reconciliation of the galaxy by the ultimate destruction of the Sith and the Empire.

Leia, Princess and Imperial Senator for Alderaan, is a secret member of the Rebel Alliance. While carrying home the plans for the Empire's immense battle station, the Death Star, her ship is intercepted by Darth Vader. She sends a message for help to Obi-Wan Kenobi by means of the droid R2-D2, and Darth Vader takes her to the sinister Grand Moff Tarkin aboard the Death Star. Luke inadvertently intercepts Leia's message, and meets Kenobi, while Leia is forced to witness the destruction of her home-world, Alderaan, by the Death Star's main armament. After the murder of his aunt and uncle by Imperial Stormtroopers looking for the escaped droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, Luke joins the ragtag Rebel Alliance — traveling with Kenobi, his (then-unrecognized) sister Leia Organa, smuggler Han Solo, Solo's Wookiee companion Chewbacca, and the droids. The Rebel Alliance eventually destroys the Death Star and Tarkin, stopping the Emperor from completely dominating the galaxy for a time.

Prior to the destruction of the Death Star, Luke began his initial training as a Jedi with Kenobi. After Kenobi's death at the hands of Vader, Kenobi appears to Luke as an apparition and instructs him to seek out and continue his training with Yoda. Luke believes that his father was betrayed and murdered by Darth Vader, having been told as much by Kenobi at their first meeting. When Luke learns the truth — that his father and Vader are one and the same — he is profoundly shaken. Despite this, Luke successfully resists the efforts of Vader and Palpatine to turn him to the Dark Side. Luke goes to confront Vader aboard the newly-built Death Star. After a lightsaber duel in which Luke defeats Vader, Palpatine attacks Luke with the intent to kill; Vader intercedes and kills Palpatine to save his son, but is mortally wounded in the process. Luke removes Vader's mask to reveal Anakin; moments from death, Anakin/Vader returns to the light side of the Force, fulfilling the prophecy of the Chosen One.

Meanwhile, Leia and Han, who were pursued by Vader in an effort to find and turn Luke, develop a romantic relationship, and Leia finally learns of her Jedi heritage just before their strike team disables the second Death Star's defenses. The Rebel fleet, led in part by Solo's friend Lando Calrissian, then scores a decisive victory against the Empire by destroying the second Death Star.

Postscript: The Rebel Alliance's victory eventually leads to the end of the Galactic Civil War and the downfall of the Empire, restoring the Galactic Republic as the New Republic.

Spoilers end here.

[edit] Themes

George Lucas utilizes a style of epic storytelling that uses motifs, common themes and concepts which he alters slightly each time they occur. The concept is lifted from Romantic (early 19th century) music[citation needed], but Lucas applies it both visually and as an integral part of his storytelling.

On a larger scale, there are many parallels between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy; the stories of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker echo and reflect each other in a number of ways.

The Force is one of the most recognizable elements of the Star Wars series. 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, clairvoyance, and mental control. Two aspects of the Force are emphasized: the light side and the dark side. The light side of the Force is the facet aligned with good, benevolence, and healing. The dark side of the Force is aligned with fear, hatred, aggression, and malevolence. Jedi, followers of the Light, believe that knowledge serves as a guide and path to power, whereas the Sith rely on the Dark Side in the belief that power brings knowledge and understanding. The dark side seems more powerful, especially to those who use it, because it is driven by rage and hatred — its effects are more direct and easier and faster to achieve. In reality, neither the light nor the dark side of the Force is stronger than the other, each possessing its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, the dark side conveys an inherent disadvantage to its users, which is arrogance and overconfidence in their own abilities. However, this aggression allows its acolytes to become more formidable warriors — illustrated when Luke is able to finally overcome his father in battle because of his anger at the thought of his sister turning to the dark side. On the other hand, Jedi can occasionally become crippled by their compassion and suffer defeat at the hands of a ruthless opponent. This is balanced by an ability to remain calm even in extreme circumstances, and to intelligently reason their way through complex and precarious situations.

[edit] Influences

See also: Star Wars sources and analogues

Many different influences have been suggested for the Star Wars films by fans and critics. George Lucas himself has cited some quite surprising inspirations for his films, for example the novel Watership Down. 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 film 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 the black kabuto of the arch-villain in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.[citation needed]

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/fantasy project instead.

The throne room of the Massassi Temple in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
The throne room of the Massassi Temple in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
A similar shot from Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will
A similar shot from Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will

Another influence in Lucas's creation of Star Wars was the writings of Joseph Campbell. Campbell's work explored the supposed 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, episode IV, for example, closely followed the archetypal "hero's journey", as described in Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This influence was discussed by Bill Moyers and Campbell in the PBS mini-series, The Power of Myth and by Lucas and Moyers in the 1999 program, Mythology of Star Wars with George Lucas & Bill Moyers.[1] In addition, the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution sponsored an exhibit during the late 1990s called Star Wars: The Magic of Myth which discussed the ways in which Campbell's work shaped the Star Wars films.[2] A companion guide of the same name was published in 1997.

It is 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. The planet Korrell is thought to be the basis of the planet Corellia.[citation needed]

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.[3] There are so many similarities, in fact, some Dune devotees consider Star Wars little more than a campy film adaptation of Herbert's work. While this is certainly an exaggeration, many of the similarities are striking. For example, both Dune and Star Wars are set on desert planets. Both stories feature a mystical knighthood of sorts - the Jedi in Star Wars and the Fremen of Dune. In both stories the hero is a messiah-like character, uses mystical powers, exhibits mind control (Jedi mind trick/the Voice), and duels opponents with sword-like weapons. Finally, both stories describe a corrupt empire and the hero's efforts to overcome it.

Some comic book fans have drawn parallels between Star Wars and Jack Kirby’s epic Fourth World series, published by DC Comics. The cosmos-spanning series of titles was never completed because DC canceled it, citing low sales. At the heart of the series was the battle between Orion of the New Gods and his villainous father, Darkseid (pronounced “dark side.”) Orion called upon the mystical force known as "the source" to aid him in this struggle. The Death Star is somewhat reminiscent of Apokolips, Darkseid’s home planet. Likewise, Darkseid's headpiece is similar in structure to Vader's.

Furthermore, Orion, like Luke Skywalker, was separated from his evil father at birth, growing up ignorant of his true parentage. Also like Skywalker, Orion was mentored by an old man who carried a staff and was far more powerful than his appearance suggested; the Highfather. Finally, both Orion and Skywalker are forced to struggle not only against their biological father's dreams of universal conquest but also against their own inner darkness.

The Star Wars saga has also been influenced by historical events; Lucas claims to have drawn on ancient Rome (the Republic becomes an Empire), 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 party’s military force, under Hitler’s direct control. Similarly, the stormtroopers of Star Wars acted as the Empire’s military force, under Palpatine’s direct control. Lucas also based the space battles in A New Hope on World War II-era aerial dogfights. The rise of Palpatine mirrors Hitler in that a democracy becomes an empire. Darth Vader's helmet is also similar to the helmets worn by German troops in both World Wars.

Even Star Trek is said to have had a limited influence on Star Wars. Gene Roddenberry's intergalactic vision among humans has long been a staple for these concepts. A reference to ST is used in Episode V when an Imperial commander mentions a cloaking device, a device used by Romulans and later Klingons, to describe the disappearance of the Millennium Falcon. It has been mentioned that Lucas wanted to label the Falcon's light speed capabilities as "warp drive" but was advised against it because at the time Roddenberry was looking into doing the Star Trek Phase II TV show and Lucas did not want to start a conflict.[citation needed]

[edit] Scripts

George Lucas shooting the original Star Wars film in 1976
George Lucas shooting the original Star Wars film in 1976

The Star Wars saga began with a 14-page treatment for a space adventure film that Lucas drafted in 1973, inspired by multiple myths and classical narratives. 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 character’s name was Luke Starkiller). In 1979, Lucas retracted his former statement, saying that he would instead make nine films.[4] 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 1994, (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.[5] 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 target audience. Also, George Lucas had the script of The Empire Strikes Back saying that "Obi-Wan killed your father," all the while having the "I am your father" line in mind. Since Darth Vader's voice was overdubbed by James Earl Jones, the true line was revealed in post-production.[6] 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 The Phantom Menace, 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," based on early statements made by Lucasfilm regarding sequels. 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 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.[citation needed]

[edit] Production and release

A photo that appeared in a 2005 issue of Vanity Fair of the majority of the cast from all six films, along with Star Wars creator, George Lucas
A photo that appeared in a 2005 issue of Vanity Fair of the majority of the cast from all six films, along with Star Wars creator, George Lucas

The Star Wars film series was shot in an original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The "original trilogy" was shot with anamorphic lenses (Episodes IV and V were shot in Panavision, while Episode VI was shot in J.D.C. scope), while Episode I was shot with Hawk anamorphic lenses on Arriflex cameras, and Episodes II and III were shot with Sony's CineAlta high-definition digital camera.

The 1977 release of Star Wars also marked a paradigm shift in film sound effects. Lucas heralded this new era of sound effects in three main ways. Sound was no longer only loud or soft, it was a spatial element as important as any actor or visual effect. Ships passing by on the screen were heard passing by from speaker to speaker in the theater through the use of the new Dolby surround technology.

Another of the important ways in which Star Wars achieved this shift was the use of "physical sound" to increase the sound space of the film. The use of sub-frequencies allow the audience to feel a physical vibration as the Star Destroyer comes into view during the opening scene of the film, establishing both its menace and the enormous size difference between it and the rebel ship.

Finally, George Lucas hired Ben Burtt to oversee the sound effects on the film. Burtt created a new kind of sound texture that had never been done before. All of the unique laser blasts, droids talking, voices, and other effects expanded the audience's immersion in the universe of Star Wars. The enormity of Burtt's accomplishment was such that the Academy of Motion Pictures: Arts and Sciences gave him a Special Achievement Award because they had no award for what he had done. It is also telling that every sound effects award since Star Wars has gone to a film recorded in Dolby.[7]

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 1976. The production company, not to mention many involved in the actual production, had little faith in the film. 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 six months earlier, the book had not seen nearly the amount of interest that the film would draw.

Many consider the phenomenal popularity of its first release due to the need for escapism after the experiences of Vietnam and Watergate. Throughout the first half of the 70's, baby-boomers (like Lucas himself) were getting more involved in filmmaking along with Coppola, Scorcese, Freidken and others only to express dark and gritty realism in their films. Star Wars offered an escape from these confining realities.

[edit] Filming locations

Episodes IV, V, and VI were shot at, among other locations, Elstree Studios, in Hertfordshire, England. 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. The scenes from the forested Endor's moon in Episode VI were shot in Redwood State Park, in Humboldt County, Northern California. The Phantom Menace was filmed at Leavesden Film Studios and the subsequent prequels were filmed in Sydney, Australia. A scene in Attack of the Clones is shot in Sevilla, Spain. 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. Italy's Caserta Palace was used to create the Theed palace on Queen Amidala's home planet, Naboo, and some scenes were also shot at Italy's Lake Como. Also some scenes in A New Hope were shot in Death Valley National Park, California, USA.[8]

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

[edit] Musical score

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

The scores for all six Star Wars films were 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 Star Wars in 1977 set a new standard for science-fiction/fantasy 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 Poseidon Adventure and Jaws, the Star Wars score gave him international recognition.

Williams' scores for the original trilogy were primarily motif-based: individual characters and settings were each given their own unique musical themes 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.

Audio sample composed by John Williams:

[edit] Re-releases

In 1997, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi were re-mastered and theatrically re-released as the "Special Editions." It was one of the first films series to be re-mastered in this way. For the re-release, in addition to extensive clean-up and restoration work, Lucas also made several 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). Many of Lucas' changes for the Special Editions were cosmetic, generally adding special effects which were not 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, inciting considerable criticism of George Lucas by fans, and was one of the first causes of what came to be known as "Lucas bashing".

In 2004, in addition to an extensive and comprehensive hi-definition digital cleanup and restoration job by Lowry Digital Images, the original 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.

Although the original films have undergone significant alterations over the years, the prequel films have received only minor changes from their theatrical versions. The DVD releases of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith have had such elements altered as small additions of scenes, touch-ups in effects, and small sound changes.

For many years, Lucas had stated that the original, unaltered versions of the trilogy would never be released again, having been released for the last time on VHS and Laserdisc in 1995. However, on May 3, 2006, Lucasfilm announced on the official Star Wars site that due to "overwhelming demand", the original versions would be released on DVD on September 12, 2006. Each film was released as a two-disc set with the 2004 versions of the films on one disc, and the original, unaltered film on the second disc, as a bonus feature. The set was available until December 31, 2006, when it was withdrawn from the market.

There has been controversy surrounding this release, since it was revealed that the DVDs featured non-anamorphic versions of the original, unaltered films based on laserdisc releases from 1993 (as opposed to newly-remastered, film-based transfers). Since non-anamorphic transfers fail to make full use of the resolution available on widescreen sets, many fans were upset over this choice.[citation needed]

[edit] Future releases

At a ShoWest convention in 2005, George Lucas demonstrated new technology and stated that he planned to release all six films in a new 3-D film format, beginning with A New Hope in 2007.[9] However, by January 2007, Lucasfilm stated on StarWars.com that there are no definitive plans or dates for releasing the Star Wars saga in 3-D.

Lucas has hinted in the past that he will release his definitive (often called "archival") editions of all six of his Star Wars films on a next-generation home-video format in 2007. This release would coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars saga. It has been speculated that he will take this opportunity to make any final adjustments, changes, additions, and/or subtractions to his films for this final release. An altered clip from The Phantom Menace included in a featurette on the DVD release of Revenge of the Sith (in which a computer generated Yoda replaces the original puppet) appears to be a sign that the "archival" editions are indeed in the works.

It is said that this edition will be released in a "Grand Saga" box set. Lucasfilm Vice President of Marketing Jim Ward confirmed that in this final release, Lucasfilm is likely to return to John Lowry to do even more work on the films (possibly digital contemporization of the original trilogy). He says, "As the technology evolves and we get into a high-definition platform that is easily consumable by our customers, the situation is much better, but there will always be work to be done."[10]

Producer Rick McCallum has also explained that Lucasfilm has been holding back a large amount of bonus material for this release, including deleted scenes, as well as numerous previous Star Wars "making-ofs," spin-offs, television specials, documentaries, and other special material.

There has been much hope for another Star Wars trilogy but George Lucas has said that there are no plans for episodes 7, 8, and 9.

[edit] Television rights

The original Star Wars film (Episode IV) first saw TV release in February 1983 on HBO, Showtime, and The Movie Channel. (The original asking price was $1 per subscriber which would cover the entire production budget for the film solely from money from HBO) CBS had exclusive network rights when it aired on commercial television one year later, and continued on CBS for several years. The remaining films in the original trilogy also aired on premium cable before airing on network television (NBC acquired the original network rights to The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi). In 1992, the Sci-Fi Channel became the first U.S. network to air the three then-existing episodes in the saga. Sci-Fi and USA Network retained TV rights until 1996, in preparation for the theatrical release of the "Special Editions" of the original trilogy. In 1998, a year after the SE releases, Showtime acquired limited one-month premium cable rights to the "Special Edition" of Star Wars for airing in January. It continued on broadcast stations, including superstations TBS and WGN, for several years after).

In 1999, to promote Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the remaining "Special Edition" films (V and VI) aired on U.S. broadcast network Fox (they bypassed premium cable for direct broadcast airing). That same year, Fox acquired all television rights to Episode I after the premium cable networks declined due to cost. A similar situation nearly happened with Attack of the Clones, until HBO struck a last-minute deal with Fox and Lucasfilm for the exclusive pay-cable rights. Episode II, like its predecessor, never saw prior pay-per-view cable release, but it did run on HBO and sister network Cinemax during its 18-month term of license. The Fox network acquired the U.S. network television rights. In April/May 2005, to promote the then-upcoming Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Episodes I, IV, V, and VI were placed in limited syndicated television distribution, (on Fox affiliates in most markets) while the Fox network was able to air Episode II in mid-May, prior to Episode III's initial theatrical release.

During negotiations for the cable rights to Episode II, HBO/Cinemax also struck a first-look deal for Episode III, which they accepted and is currently on its initial 18-month term of license (it was also the only Star Wars prequel film to see any pay-per-view cable issue). In addition, the Time Warner-owned networks were able to win the right to become the first U.S. television network system (cable or broadcast) to air all six films in the saga. On November 11, 2006 Cinemax aired all six films in rotation in both standard & High Definition. (Cinemax had never aired the original Star Wars (Episode IV) prior to this date, and at the explicit request of Lucasfilm, the high definition broadcasts were in the original scope aspect ratio.) The six films will also be repeated on HBO in standard & High Definition. The versions of Episodes IV, V, and VI that are airing are the 2004 DVD Special Editions, as they are the current canonical versions. In the UK, Sky purchased the rights to air all six films in August 2006, becoming the first English-language television network to air all six films, which will be aired in order of release, beginning with the original Episode IV. Afterwards, the episodes will continue to be shown during the "100 films a month" cycles on Sky Movies. Meanwhile Spike TV, in a separate deal, acquired the commercial broadcast rights to Episode III, including the right to become the first broadcast network to air all six films (the deal takes effect after the HBO/Cinemax rights expire in April 2008). From late December 2006 to early January 2007, Star Movies Asia will show the complete saga for their region.

[edit] Expanded Universe

The 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 140 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 film), followed quickly by Alan Dean Foster's novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye the following month.

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. 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 the jungle planet Felucia).[citation needed]

[edit] Radio dramas

See also: Star Wars (radio)

A radio adaptation of A New Hope was first broadcast on National Public Radio in 1981. The adaptation was written by science fiction author Brian Daley and directed by John Madden. It was followed by adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back in 1983 and Return of the Jedi in 1996. The adaptations included background material created by Lucas but not used in the films. Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams reprised their roles as Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, and Lando Calrissian, respectively. The series also used John Williams' original score from the films and Ben Burtt's original sound designs.

[edit] Audio books

See also: List of Star Wars Audio Books

Numerous Audiobooks have been produced in the realm of Additional Fiction on the materials from the original films.

[edit] Books

See also: List of Star Wars books

Star Wars-based fiction predates the release of the first film, with the 1976 novelization of Star Wars (ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster and credited to George Lucas). Foster's 1978 novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, was the first Expanded Universe work to be released. In addition to filling in the time between the films, this additional content greatly expanded the Star Wars timeline before and after the film series.

Star Wars fiction flourished during the time of the original series (1977-1983) but slowed to a trickle afterwards. In 1991, however, Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy debuted, sparking a new interest in the Star Wars universe. Since then, several hundred tie-in novels have been published by Bantam and Del Rey. A similar resurgence in the Expanded Universe occurred in 1996 with the Steve Perry novel Shadows of the Empire, set between Episodes V and VI, and accompanying video game and comic book series.

LucasBooks radically changed the face of the Star Wars universe with the introduction of the New Jedi Order series, which takes place some 20 years after Return of the Jedi and stars a host of new characters alongside series originals. However, several significant events which occur during the course of this series (such as the death of a major film character) have sparked much fan criticism.[citation needed]

[edit] Comics

See also: List of Star Wars comic books

Marvel Comics published Star Wars comic book series and adaptations from 1977 to 1986. A wide variety of creators worked on this series, including Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, Al Williamson, Carmine Infantino, Gene Day, Walt Simonson, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont, Whilce Portacio, Jo Duffy, and Ron Frenz. In the late 1980s, Marvel announced it would publish a new Star Wars comic by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy. However, in December 1991, Dark Horse Comics acquired the Star Wars license and used it to launch a number of ambitious sequels to the original trilogy instead, including the very popular Dark Empire stories. They have since gone on to publish a large number of original adventures set in the Star Wars universe.

[edit] Games

See also: Star Wars computer and video games and List of Star Wars video games

Since 1982, over 120 video games have been published bearing the Star Wars name, beginning with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back published for the Atari 2600 by Parker Brothers. Since then, Star Wars has opened the way to a myriad of space-flight simulation games, first-person shooter games, roleplaying games, RTS games, and others.

Two different official tabletop role-playing games have been developed for the Star Wars universe: a version by West End Games in the 1980s and 1990s, and one by Wizards of the Coast in the 2000s.

In the Star Wars: Battlefront series, the player can choose to be on the Rebel Alliance, the Galactic Empire, the Separatists, or the Republic, depending on the situation. The player travels across many different exotic worlds. Within the many different modes of play, there is one named "Galactic Conquest" in which the player struggles against the opposing side for total control of the galaxy by moveing their fleets accross the map and fighting in a battle on each planet untill the player controls all the planets. It also has online play for those competitive players who want to go beyond the AI players usually played against. It is the best selling Star Wars game to date.

In Lego Star Wars and its sequel, the films are played in a different way. In Star Wars: Empire at War, players can take control of either the Empire or the Rebellion and fight for control of the galaxy.

Also, SOE (Sony Online Entertainment) has developed a MMORPG called Star Wars Galaxies. In this game, which requires a monthly subscription fee, the player chooses a class, (Jedi, commando, smuggler, etc.) and fights for control of the galaxy by choosing to be on the Empire or the Rebel Alliance.

LucasArts is also currently developing a next-gen Star Wars game for the PS3 and Xbox 360. The game, entitled The Force Unleashed, takes place in the largely unexplored time period between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and casts players as Darth Vader's "secret apprentice" hunting down the remaining Jedi. The game features a new game engine. The game is set for a 2008 release date.

[edit] Trading cards

Star Wars trading cards[11] have been published since the first 'blue' series, by Topps, in 1977. Dozens of series have been produced, with Topps being the licensed creator in the United States. Some of the card series are of film stills, while others are original art. Many of the cards have become highly collectible with some very rare 'promos', such as the 1993 Galaxy Series II 'floating Yoda' P3 card often commanding US$1000 or more. While most 'base' or 'common card' sets are plentiful, many 'insert' or 'chase cards' are very rare. Star Wars card game cards are different from the trading cards. A thriving market for both types exists on eBay.

[edit] Fan works

See also: Star Wars fan films

The Star Wars saga has inspired many fans, called "Warsies", 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. Because of 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.[citation needed]

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, for the most part, has allowed but not endorsed 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.

[edit] Cultural impact

The Star Wars saga has had a significant impact on modern global pop culture. Science fiction since Star Wars, particularly in film, has often been influenced by and compared to Star Wars. References to the main characters and themes of Star Wars are casually made in American society with the well-qualified assumption that others will understand the reference. George Lucas is also famous for using the best possible cameras and technology (see also Industrial Light and Magic) in his films. Many say that the visual and virtual effects that take over today's films would have never been created if not for Lucas's revolutionizing of the film industry with Star Wars, yet these constant Star Wars references are extremely dated and old.[citation needed]

[edit] Parodies

Both the film and characters have been parodied or spoofed in popular films and television. Notable film parodies of Star Wars include: Hardware Wars, a 13 minute 1977 spoof which George Lucas has called his favorite Star Wars parody[2]; Spaceballs, a feature film by Mel Brooks, and Troops, a COPS-style documentary. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders also created a parody of Star Wars on their comedy sketch show French & Saunders.

There have been numerous parodic references to Star Wars in films such as Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Hot Shots! Part Deux, and most of the films of Kevin Smith. In 1997, the first film's twentieth anniversary, Saturday Night Live featured a pair of skits that parodied the film's screen tests, which included Kevin Spacey playing Christopher Walken auditioning for Han Solo. Walken was originally considered for the role before Harrison Ford was chosen. Star Wars Kid swung a golf ball retriever pretending to be Darth Maul. Star Wars toys is a parody that uses Star Wars Toys and Stop Motion Animation.

[edit] Songs

There have been many songs based around the Star Wars universe, the most notable of which are "Weird Al" Yankovic's Yoda, (a parody of The Kinks' "Lola"), which describes Luke's training with the "wrinkled and green" Jedi master, and The Saga Begins, (a parody of Don McLean's "American Pie"), which chronicles the events of Episode I. The latter of these is particularly revered, as it was released one week before the film. On Blink-182's album "Dude Ranch", the track "A New Hope" discusses the bassist Mark Hoppus' obsession with Princess Leia.

In late 1977, at the height of the original Star Wars craze, comedian Bill Murray portrayed Lounge Lizard Nick Winters on Saturday Night Live and sang a swanky version of the Star Wars theme, complete with inane improvised lyrics.[12] Carrie Fisher reprised her role as Princess Leia on SNL in a parody of Star Wars and the old beach party movies with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello with Fisher as Annette singing about Obi Wan Kenobi

In 1977 an album called Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk was released by Meco which featured disco remixes of Star Wars music.

Other songs based on the Star Wars saga include The Star Wars Gangsta Rap and Star Wars Cantina.

Northern Ireland band Ash released an album called 1977, named in honor of the year Star Wars was released,[13] on which "Lose Control" used sound bytes of a TIE Fighter, and a song entitled "Darkside Lightside" is an obvious reference to the mythology created by the films.

[edit] Other references

Film director Kevin Smith has frequently used the Star Wars movies as points of humor in a number of his films. His first was in a scene from Smith's 1993 independent film Clerks, main characters Dante and Randall have a lengthy discussion about the parallels between the endings of Episode V: Empire Strikes Back, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and independent contractors being victims of war related casualties. Other examples include lightsaber battles in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and another discussion in his recent Clerks II where Randall tries to defend his Star Wars fandom against fans of the Lord of the Rings movies. Another, in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), references the famous Han shot first, saying, "This may be the worst idea since Greedo shooting first, but a Jay and Silent Bob movie?".

[edit] References

  • On philosophy and religion influences: The Tao of Star Wars, Or, Cultural Appropriation in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
  • On Technology influences: This site explains the many influences in its analysis of the writing of Star Wars.
  • Books about religion/philosophy and Star Wars:
  • "Conception" section based on: The Star Wars Timeline Gold-Appendice L-Understanding the Lost Episodes (p. 141–142).
  • On the influence of Joseph Campbell on the Star Wars films:
    • "Peace Knights of the Soul: Wisdom in 'Star Wars'," by Jon Snodgrass, Ph.D., Foreword by Jonathan Young, Ph.D.ISBN 0-9755214-7-0
    • Henderson, Mary. Star Wars: The Magic of Myth. Companion volume to the exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. New York: Bantam, 1997.
    • Larsen, Stephen and Robin Larsen. Joseph Campbell: A Fire in the Mind. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2002.
    • Moyers, Bill and Joseph Campbell. The Power of Myth. Anchor; Reissue edition (1991) ISBN 0-385-41886-8

[edit] See also

Here are some of the general articles featured in the Star Wars portal. For a detailed outline of the Star Wars Wikipedia articles, please see Category:Star Wars.

[edit] General information

[edit] Star Wars universe

[edit] External links

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