From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Star Wars is an American epic space opera franchise centered on a film series created by George Lucas. The film series has spawned a media franchise outside the film series called the Expanded Universe including books, television series, computer and video games, and comic books. These supplements to the film trilogies have resulted in significant development of the series' fictional universe. These media kept the franchise active in the interim between the film trilogies. The franchise portrays a universe which is in a galaxy that is described as far, far away. It commonly portrays Jedi as a representation of good, in conflict with the Sith, their evil counterpart. Their weapon of choice, the lightsaber, is commonly recognized in popular culture. The fictional universe also contains many themes, especially influences of philosophy and religion.
The first film in the series was originally released on May 25, 1977, under the title Star Wars, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, followed by two sequels, released at three-year intervals. Sixteen years after the release of the trilogy's final film, the first in a new prequel trilogy of films was released. The three prequel films were also released at three-year intervals, with the final film of the trilogy released on May 19, 2005. In October 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and announced that it would produce three new films, with the first film, Star Wars Episode VII, planned for release in 2015. 20th Century Fox still retains the distribution rights to the first two Star Wars trilogies, owning permanent rights for the original film Episode IV: A New Hope, while holding the rights to Episodes I–III, V and VI until May 2020.
Reactions to the original trilogy were mostly positive, with the last film being considered the weakest, while the prequel trilogy received a more mixed reaction, with most of the praise being for the final movie, according to most review aggregator websites. All six of the main films in the series were also nominated for or won Academy Awards.
All of the main films have been box office successes, with the overall box office revenue generated by the Star Wars films (including the theatrical Star Wars: The Clone Wars) totalling $4.49 billion, making it the third-highest-grossing film series. The success has also led to multiple re-releases in theaters for the series.
The events depicted in Star Wars media take place in a fictional galaxy. Many species of alien creatures (often humanoid) are depicted. Robotic droids are also commonplace and are generally built to serve their owners. Space travel is common, and many planets in the galaxy are members of a Galactic Republic, later reorganized as the Galactic Empire.
One of the prominent elements of Star Wars is the "Force", an omnipresent energy that can be harnessed by those with that ability, known as Force-sensitives. It is described in the first produced film as "an energy field created by all living things [that] surrounds us, penetrates us, [and] binds the galaxy together." The Force allows users to perform various supernatural feats (such as telekinesis, clairvoyance, precognition, and mind control) and can amplify certain physical traits, such as speed and reflexes; these abilities vary between characters and can be improved through training. While the Force can be used for good, it has a dark side that, when pursued, imbues users with hatred, aggression, and malevolence. The six films feature the Jedi, who use the Force for good, and the Sith, who use the dark side for evil in an attempt to take over the galaxy. In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, many dark side users are Dark Jedi rather than Sith, mainly because of the "Rule of Two" (see Sith Origin).
The original trilogy (left) and the prequel trilogy (right) DVD box sets of the film series in Costco
The film series began with Star Wars, released on May 25, 1977. This was followed by two sequels: The Empire Strikes Back, released on May 21, 1980, and Return of the Jedi, released on May 25, 1983. The opening crawl of the sequels disclosed that they were numbered as "Episode V" and "Episode VI" respectively, though the films were generally advertised solely under their subtitles. Though the first film in the series was simply titled Star Wars, with its 1981 re-release it had the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope added to remain consistent with its sequel, and to establish it as the middle chapter of a continuing saga.
In 1997, to correspond with the 20th anniversary of A New Hope, Lucas released a "Special Edition" of the Star Wars trilogy to theaters. The re-release featured alterations to the three films, primarily motivated by the improvement of CGI and other special effects technologies, which allowed visuals that were not possible to achieve at the time of the original filmmaking. Lucas continued to make changes to the films for subsequent releases, such as the first ever DVD release of the original trilogy on September 21, 2004 and the first ever Blu-ray release of all six films on September 16, 2011.
More than two decades after the release of the original film, the series continued with the long-awaited prequel trilogy; consisting of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, released on May 19, 1999; Episode II: Attack of the Clones, released on May 16, 2002; and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, released on May 19, 2005.
On August 15, 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars was released theatrically as a lead-in to the weekly animated TV series of the same name. Episode VII is scheduled to be released in 2015.
A figure of Darth Vader in Amsterdam
. The plot of the Star Wars
films centers on how a young Anakin Skywalker succumbs to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader, who then becomes the rival of his children. He is generally considered to be one of the most iconic characters of the franchise.
The prequel trilogy begins with the greedy Trade Federation setting up a blockade around the peaceful planet Naboo, under the orders of the Sith Lord Darth Sidious. It is revealed that Sidious secretly planned the blockade to give his alter ego, Senator Palpatine, a pretense to overthrow the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic and take his place. The Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent to Naboo to negotiate with the Federation, but are forced to instead help the planet's ruler, Queen Padmé Amidala, escape from the blockade and plea her case before the Galactic Senate on Coruscant. When their spaceship is damaged during the escape, they land on the desert planet Tatooine for repairs, where Qui-Gon discovers a young slave named Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon comes to believe that Anakin is the "Chosen One" foretold by Jedi prophecy to bring balance to the Force, and he helps liberate the boy from slavery. The Jedi Council, led by Yoda, sense that Anakin's future is clouded by fear, but reluctantly allows Obi-Wan to train Anakin after Qui-Gon is killed by Palpatine's first apprentice, Darth Maul, during the Battle of Naboo.
The remainder of the prequel trilogy chronicles Anakin's gradual fall to the dark side of the Force as he fights in the Clone Wars, which Palpatine secretly engineers in order to destroy the Republic and lure Anakin into his service. Anakin and Padmé fall in love and secretly wed, and eventually Padmé becomes pregnant. Anakin has a prophetic vision of Padmé dying in childbirth, and Palpatine convinces him that the dark side holds the power to save her life; desperate, Anakin submits to the dark side and takes the Sith name Darth Vader. While Palpatine re-organizes the Republic into the tyrannical Galactic Empire—appointing himself Emperor for life—Vader participates in the extermination of the Jedi Order, culminating in a lightsaber battle between himself and Obi-Wan on the volcanic planet Mustafar.
Obi-Wan ultimately defeats his former apprentice and friend, severing his limbs and leaving him for dead beside a lava flow. However, Palpatine arrives shortly afterward and saves Vader, putting him into a black, mechanical suit of armor that keeps him alive. At the same time, Padmé dies while giving birth to twins Luke and Leia. The twins are hidden from Vader and are not told who their real parents are.
The original trilogy begins 19 years later as Vader nears completion of the massive Death Star space station, which will allow the Empire to crush the Rebel Alliance, an organized resistance formed to combat Palpatine's tyranny. Vader captures Princess Leia, who has stolen the plans to the Death Star and hidden them in the astromech droid R2-D2. R2, along with his protocol droid counterpart C-3PO, escapes to Tatooine. There, the droids are purchased by Luke Skywalker and his step-uncle and aunt. While Luke is cleaning R2, he accidentally triggers a message put into the droid by Leia, who asks for assistance from Obi-Wan. Luke later assists the droids in finding the Jedi Knight, who is now passing as an old hermit under the alias Ben Kenobi. When Luke asks about his father, Obi-Wan tells him that Anakin was a great Jedi who was betrayed and murdered by Vader.
Obi-Wan and Luke hire the smuggler Han Solo and his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca to take them to Alderaan, Leia's home world, which they eventually find has been destroyed by the Death Star. Once on board the space station, Obi-Wan allows himself to be killed during a lightsaber rematch with Vader; his sacrifice allows the group to escape with the plans that help the rebels destroy the Death Star. Luke himself fires the shot that destroys the deadly space station.
Three years later, Luke travels to find Yoda, now living in exile on the swamp-infested world Dagobah, in order to start his Jedi training. However, Luke is interrupted when Vader lures him into a trap by capturing Han and the others. During a fierce lightsaber duel, Vader reveals that he is Luke's father and attempts to turn him to the dark side. Luke escapes, and, after rescuing Han from the gangster Jabba the Hutt a year later, returns to Yoda to complete his training. However, now over 900 years old, Yoda is on his deathbed. Before he passes away, Yoda confirms that Vader is Luke's father; moments later, Obi-Wan's spirit tells Luke that he must face his father before he can become a Jedi, and that Leia is his twin sister. As the Rebels attack the second Death Star, Luke confronts Vader as Palpatine watches; both Sith Lords intend to turn Luke to the dark side and take him as their apprentice.
During the subsequent lightsaber duel, Luke succumbs to his anger and brutally overpowers Vader, but controls himself at the last minute; realizing that he is about to suffer his father's fate, he spares Vader's life and proudly declares his allegiance to the Jedi. An enraged Palpatine then attempts to kill Luke with Force lightning, a sight that moves Vader to turn and kill his master, suffering mortal wounds in the process. Redeemed, Anakin Skywalker dies in his son's arms. Luke becomes a full-fledged Jedi, and the Rebels destroy the second Death Star.
Cast and characters
Crew and other
Star Wars features elements such as knights, witches, and princesses that are related to archetypes of the fantasy genre. The Star Wars world, unlike fantasy and science-fiction films that featured sleek and futuristic settings, was portrayed as dirty and grimy. Lucas' vision of a "used future" was further popularized in the science fiction-horror films Alien, which was set on a dirty space freighter; Mad Max 2, which is set in a post-apocalyptic desert; and Blade Runner, which is set in a crumbling, dirty city of the future. Lucas made a conscious effort to parallel scenes and dialogue between films, and especially to parallel the journeys of Luke Skywalker with that of his father Anakin when making the prequels.
All six films of the Star Wars series were shot in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The original trilogy was shot with anamorphic lenses. Episodes IV and V were shot in Panavision, while Episode VI was shot in Joe Dunton Camera (JDC) scope. 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 cameras.
Lucas hired Ben Burtt to oversee the sound effects on A New Hope. Burtt's accomplishment was such that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented him with a Special Achievement Award because it had no award at the time for the work he had done. Lucasfilm developed the THX sound reproduction standard for Return of the Jedi. John Williams composed the scores for all six films. Lucas' design for Star Wars involved a grand musical sound, with leitmotifs for different characters and important concepts. Williams' Star Wars title theme has become one of the most famous and well-known musical compositions in modern music history.
Lucas hired 'the Dean of Special Effects' John Stears, who created R2-D2, Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder, the Jedi Knights' lightsabers, and the Death Star. The technical lightsaber choreography for the original trilogy was developed by leading filmmaking sword-master Bob Anderson. Anderson trained actor Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and performed all the sword stunts as Darth Vader during the lightsaber duels in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, wearing Vader's costume. Anderson's role in the original Star Wars trilogy was highlighted in the film Reclaiming the Blade, where he shares his experiences as the fight choreographer developing the lightsaber techniques for the movies.
In 1971, Universal Studios agreed to make American Graffiti and Star Wars in a two-picture contract, although Star Wars was later rejected in its early concept stages. American Graffiti was completed in 1973 and, a few months later, Lucas wrote a short summary called "The Journal of the Whills", which told the tale of the training of apprentice C.J. Thorpe as a "Jedi-Bendu" space commando by the legendary Mace Windy. Frustrated that his story was too difficult to understand, Lucas then began writing a 13-page treatment called The Star Wars on April 17, 1973, which had thematic parallels with Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress. By 1974, he had expanded the treatment into a rough draft screenplay, adding elements such as the Sith, the Death Star, and a protagonist named Annikin Starkiller. For the second draft, Lucas made heavy simplifications, and introduced the young hero on a farm as Luke Starkiller. Annikin became Luke's father, a wise Jedi knight. "The Force" was also introduced as a supernatural power. The next draft removed the father character and replaced him with a substitute named Ben Kenobi, and in 1976 a fourth draft had been prepared for principal photography. The film was titled Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars. During production, Lucas changed Luke's name to Skywalker and altered the title to simply The Star Wars and finally Star Wars.
, composer of the musical scores
for all six films of the original and prequel trilogies.
At that point, Lucas was not expecting the film to become part of a series. The fourth draft of the script underwent subtle changes that made it more satisfying as a self-contained film, ending with the destruction of the Empire itself by way of destroying the Death Star. However, Lucas had previously conceived of the film as the first in a series of adventures. Later, he realized the film would not in fact be the first in the sequence, but a film in the second trilogy in the saga. This is stated explicitly in George Lucas' preface to the 1994 reissue of Splinter of the Mind's Eye:
It wasn't long after I began writing Star Wars that I realized the story was more than a single film could hold. As the saga of the Skywalkers and Jedi Knights unfolded, I began to see it as a tale that could take at least nine films to tell—three trilogies—and I realized, in making my way through the back story and after story, that I was really setting out to write the middle story.
The second draft contained a teaser for a never-made sequel about "The Princess of Ondos," and by the time of the third draft some months later Lucas had negotiated a contract that gave him rights to make two sequels. Not long after, Lucas met with author Alan Dean Foster, and hired him to write these two sequels as novels. The intention was that if Star Wars were successful, Lucas could adapt the novels into screenplays. He had also by that point developed an elaborate backstory to aid his writing process.
When Star Wars proved successful, Lucas decided to use the film as the basis for an elaborate serial, although at one point he considered walking away from the series altogether. However, Lucas wanted to create an independent filmmaking center—what would become Skywalker Ranch—and saw an opportunity to use the series as a financing agent. Alan Dean Foster had already begun writing the first sequel novel, but Lucas decided to abandon his plan to adapt Foster's work; the book was released as Splinter of the Mind's Eye the following year. At first Lucas envisioned a series of films with no set number of entries, like the James Bond series. In an interview with Rolling Stone in August 1977, he said that he wanted his friends to each take a turn at directing the films and giving unique interpretations on the series. He also said that the backstory in which Darth Vader turns to the dark side, kills Luke's father and fights Ben Kenobi on a volcano as the Galactic Republic falls would make an excellent sequel.
Later that year, Lucas hired science fiction author Leigh Brackett to write Star Wars II with him. They held story conferences and, by late November 1977, Lucas had produced a handwritten treatment called The Empire Strikes Back. The treatment is very similar to the final film, except that Darth Vader does not reveal he is Luke's father. In the first draft that Brackett would write from this, Luke's father appears as a ghost to instruct Luke.
Brackett finished her first draft in early 1978; Lucas has said he was disappointed with it, but before he could discuss it with her, she died of cancer. With no writer available, Lucas had to write his next draft himself. It was this draft in which Lucas first made use of the "Episode" numbering for the films; Empire Strikes Back was listed as Episode II. As Michael Kaminski argues in The Secret History of Star Wars, the disappointment with the first draft probably made Lucas consider different directions in which to take the story. He made use of a new plot twist: Darth Vader claims to be Luke's father. According to Lucas, he found this draft enjoyable to write, as opposed to the yearlong struggles writing the first film, and quickly wrote two more drafts, both in April 1978. He also took the script to a darker extreme by having Han Solo imprisoned in carbonite and left in limbo.
This new story point of Darth Vader being Luke's father had drastic effects on the series. Michael Kaminski argues in his book that it is unlikely that the plot point had ever seriously been considered or even conceived of before 1978, and that the first film was clearly operating under an alternate storyline where Vader was separate from Luke's father; there is not a single reference to this plot point before 1978. After writing the second and third drafts of Empire Strikes Back in which the point was introduced, Lucas reviewed the new backstory he had created: Anakin Skywalker was Ben Kenobi's brilliant student and had a child named Luke, but was swayed to the dark side by Emperor Palpatine (who became a Sith and not simply a politician). Anakin battled Ben Kenobi on the site of a volcano and was wounded, but then resurrected as Darth Vader. Meanwhile Kenobi hid Luke on Tatooine while the Republic became the Empire and Vader systematically hunted down and killed the Jedi.
With this new backstory in place, Lucas decided that the series would be a trilogy, changing Empire Strikes Back from Episode II to Episode V in the next draft. Lawrence Kasdan, who had just completed writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, was then hired to write the next drafts, and was given additional input from director Irvin Kershner. Kasdan, Kershner, and producer Gary Kurtz saw the film as a more serious and adult film, which was helped by the new, darker storyline, and developed the series from the light adventure roots of the first film.
By the time he began writing Episode VI in 1981 (then titled Revenge of the Jedi), much had changed. Making Empire Strikes Back was stressful and costly, and Lucas' personal life was disintegrating. Burned out and not wanting to make any more Star Wars films, he vowed that he was done with the series in a May 1983 interview with Time magazine. Lucas' 1981 rough drafts had Darth Vader competing with the Emperor for possession of Luke—and in the second script, the "revised rough draft", Vader became a sympathetic character. Lawrence Kasdan was hired to take over once again and, in these final drafts, Vader was explicitly redeemed and finally unmasked. This change in character would provide a springboard to the "Tragedy of Darth Vader" storyline that underlies the prequels.
|Published:||Mar 8th 2013
|Modified:||Mar 8th 2013