OverviewThe 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.
It has been noted that it is almost impossible in the United States to go for a full day without hearing some reference to Star Wars. This is a testament to the extraordinary popularity that the Star Wars films have enjoyed. (Only Star Trek has a comparable popularity in American popular culture.) However, whereas Star Trek takes a fundamentally rational, scientific view to storytelling, Star Wars has a strong 'mythic' quality to it, with individual heroes and villains in the style of Campbellian myth.
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 Wu Xia "Kung Fu" films, as well as Greek mythology. Lucas has stated that his intention was to create in Star Wars a modern mythology, based on the studies of his friend Joseph Campbell. Lucas has also stated that Akira Kurosawa's 1958 film The Hidden Fortress (USA release 1962) was a strong influence. The resemblance between the two buffoon farmers in The Hidden Fortress and the two talkative droids in Star Wars is striking. Indeed, when the droids find themselves alone on Tatooine, even the music and the style of "wipe" cuts are a clear homage to Hidden Fortress.
A notable feature of the Star Wars films is that they portray a world full of grime and hokey technology, 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 film is not universally admired. Since its release, there has been a clear trend towards special-effects-driven movies geared towards a teenage audience. Many critics deplore this trend, and hold Star Wars responsible. It may be that the trend was a natural consequence of economic and technological forces in the film industry, but Star Wars, for better or for worse, is an emblem to many of that sea change.
The Star Wars franchise goes beyond the five already released films. Bantam Books has for quite some time been publishing officially-sanctioned Star Wars novels. The novels are officially part of the Star Wars universe and they feature characters from the films, as well as others that are not from the films. The legacy of Star Wars is continued in this manner in between the releases of the films. Some fans consider the novels to have better stories than the films themselves.
The original Star Wars (A New Hope) has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Star Wars MoviesListed in order of story time:
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (19th May 1999)
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (16th May 2002)
- Star Wars Episode III (scheduled release 2005)
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope original title was Star Wars; the first Star Wars movie to be released (25th May 1977)
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (21st May 1980)
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (25th May 1983)
Star Wars BooksThe six Star Wars movies offer the basis for which dozens of books have been written. Many of the books have been officially authorized by LucasFilm, and are often published by Bantam Books. The stories told by these books extend from a time long before The Phantom Menace, to a time long after The 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 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 heroes, such as Chewbacca and Anakin Solo.
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.
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