By: Chris Innis
May 25th, 1977 – a day that will be long remembered. Star Wars: A New Hope was released to hordes of fans frothing at the mouth for what would become the Godfather of big blockbuster movies. Never before had a movie captivated audiences in such a fantastic manner, that it would spawn hundreds of fan films, costume parties and eventually, Star Wars based conventions. Fans would dress up as their favorite characters and head to the theaters time and time again to meticulously memorize every line of dialog in this magical space opera. With minimal marketing and a simplistic trailer for the times, fans lined up around theaters across the world to see the adventures of Luke Skywalker and friends, as the take on the evil Galactic Empire.
According to boxofficemojo.com, after adjusting for inflation, Star Wars is the second highest grossing movie of all time, with an astounding $1,478,392,600.00. This, along with two sequels and three prequels, has made this the ultimate fantasy movie saga franchise of all time. Spanning nearly four decades, Star Wars one of the largest, and seemingly wildly age-diverse fan bases of any movie genre to date. With every new movie release or cartoon companion show, old fans bond with new, young fans and flock to theaters or their living rooms to see what will happen next in this ever-evolving series; and with all this excitement comes passionate and emotional opinions, which of course leads to debates.
Fans of the original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), or “OT” as it’s referred to on internet forums, will argue tooth and nail about how the older, simplistic, stop-motion and practical special effects and superior writing will always be better than the highly color-saturated and predominantly CGI-based effects and flat writing (or acting) of the PT (prequel trilogy – The Phantom Menace, The Clone Wars and Revenge of The Sith). In turn, the younger fans of the PT will argue how this is how Star Wars and Jedi were meant to be, as the PT celebrates the golden era, a time when the Jedi flourished and were at the apex of their mastery of the force and their lightsabers. The debate raged on so long and got so intense, it lead to a documentary entitled The People vs. George Lucas, with fans of the OT claiming that Mr. Lucas had no right to change the OT with his multiple special editions, and further ruined the saga with prequels. If anything, this goes to show the level of passion, love and ownership that fans feel over this franchise.
As stated before, there are countless fan-made Star Wars films online, ranging everywhere from reenactments, original story plots or just plain lightsaber duels, showing off the creators’ technical skill, as well as, they’re choreography. So frequent and popular are these films, that George Lucas himself authorized a soundboard on Starwars.com so fans could use official sound effects to help with the production of these fan films. The very existence of these films shows but a sliver of the creativity and inspiration that Star Wars has had on its slew of fans over the years. After the release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, fans, believing that the big budget movie portion of the franchise to be over, cranked out more and more films for other fans to enjoy, as much as for themselves. However, much like the Death Star, the franchise was to be rebuilt.
On October 26, 2012, in a move that shocked fans, Disney added to their growing empire by purchasing LucasFilm for approximately $4.1 billion dollars. Along with the movie rights, Disney also absorbed special effects companies, and Star Wars staples, Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, and the video game branch, LucasArts. As told in multiple press releases, Disney planned to “aggressively expand” the Star Wars universe with three more main story sequels, as well as, spin off movies to be released on alternating years. With everything that Disney has done with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s very exciting to see the direction with which they take this time-honored franchise.
First up, J.J. Abrams (responsible for the Star Trek reboots) will bring us Episode VII: The Force Awakens, tentatively set to be released in December of 2016, breaking the tradition of May releases. Boasting the re-introduction of practical effects as opposed to all CGI effects, and promising, via Twitter, to cut back on the ever-present lens flares that he’s known for, Abrams assures fans that this will redefine the Star Wars mythos and remind us all why we fell in love with this story in the first place. But like with anything else, concern arises with anticipation. Questions are asked, and with every answer given, more questions and speculations come up.
This will be the first time that a Star Wars movie does not start out with the 20th Century Fox logo (as a kid, I thought the spotlights in the logo were meant to be lightsabers – ha!) which has become synonymous with the franchise. Also, with a new studio making the films, will we see the opening scrawl through space, telling us what we’re about to witness? I mean, you can’t have a Star Wars movie without the scrawl, right? Further, another staple of the films that some people may not have noticed, Lucas never put credits in the beginning of these films. It bothered studio executives so much, that he was fined the Directors Guild of America (DGA), and later quit the guild; a move that would later hinder his choice of directors for other projects.
Will the droves of fans be okay if these staples were not a part of this next film? Will everything J.J. Abrams is doing for this film be enough to captivate the jaded fans who did not like the PT, as well as, capture new, younger fans? Regardless of what happens, one thing is certain, and that is that Star Wars is not going anywhere any time soon. With the plans of movies, novels, novellas, shows and games, it will be a part of our lives and popular culture for many years to come. Our children can share it with their children, the same as we have, and our parents did with us. While it may have just been a line from a movie that was released 38 years ago, Obi Wan was right, “The force will be with you… always.”