A long time ago, in a small town far, far away, a young man named George Lucas had an idea for a narrative 😛 TAGEND
A simple young farmboy gets a magic sword from an age-old wizard so he can defeat an evil knight, rescue a princess, and save the world.
Actually that wasn’t truly Lucas’ idea. Everybody has that idea. Granted, they don’t ever do it with knights. Sometimes it’s cowboys; sometimes it’s samurai. Sometimes the farmboy is a farmgirl. Sometimes the wizard is a scientist and sometimes the evil knight is a dragon or a cyborg. Sometimes it’s guns instead of swords.
But Lucas knew all that. He was a Northern California kid who grew up watching movies and racing cars, a tyro moviemaker at a few moments when American film had become very serious. The movies of the 1970 s had genre goofs like The Exorcist and Rocky, but the gold-standard stories were adult things about violence, sexuality, and the treachery of dreams. Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, The Godfather. Heroes in these movies lost–like, all the time. Sometimes the whole movie got you to like bad guys, and sometimes these men died anyway!
Lucas rebelled against all that. He seemed back to the Flash Gordon serials and campaign movies of his youth, and grabbed all his favorite irreducible elements of boy-hero-king chosen-one stories–a historian named Joseph Campbell had helpfully assembled a list. Lucas retained the swords, the magic, and the knights.
Then–and this was, perhaps, his greatest innovation–Lucas maintain everything else, too. Wizards, dragons, princesses, horses, automobiles, motorcycles, aircrafts, ships, ray artilleries, teddy bears, his family dog, pirates, car chases, Nazis, crooks, samurai, dogfights, gunfights, swordfights, fist combats, gladiators, spies, castles, and robots. In space, traveling at hyperspeed.
Star Wars, the universe George Lucas generated, embraces as of this writing nine feature films, with several more at different stages of production as well as at the least a half-dozen television series, hundreds of volumes and comic books, dozens of computer game, and a vastly profitable empire of licensed merchandise, including, perhaps mostly famously, dolls and Lego situateds whose popularity literally rescued that beloved toy corporation from bankruptcy.
A Musical Number
Composer John Williams’ justifiably famous orchestral music for Star Wars masks an biding secret: The movies are actually musicals. Or rather, they’re paced like musicals, with solo( Luke staring at Tatooine’s twin determining sunlights) and duos( “I Love You”/ “I Know” ), and big Busby Berkeley/ Gene Kelly-Stanley Donen numbers( Death Stars, husk races, etc .). Except the movies actually have straight-ahead musical numbers, too. Episode IV’s Cantina scene is the standout–those big-headed jazz players are Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, and they sway through two numbers. A disco version of the Cantina theme moved platinum.
But that’s not all! How about Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band, playing in Jabba the Hutt’s palace in Episode VI? Or the de-canonized “Yub Nub, ” sung by Ewoks to celebrate the Rebel victory, which passed from recollection into the West with the publication of the Special Edition.
In Force Awakens, our heroes once again find themselves looking for info in a wretched hive of scum and villainy( and booze ). But this time the music diverged at long last from Williams’ brass and strings. Why? The song, a sprightly Huttese rap number called “Jabba Flow, ” was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton. Star Wars is musicals! The secret is out at last.
The fourth, fifth, and sixth movies take place, timeline-wise, before the first, second, and third movies … and the eighth movie takes place between the sixth and first. The various ancillary narratives in volumes, comics, and plays tell stories from a history spanning tens of thousands of years and an entire galaxy, but the official posture of Walt Disney Studios, which bought Lucasfilm in 2012, is that everything other than the movies rendered up to that point are non-canonical–apocrypha among holy texts, albeit still beloved by some fans.
Star Wars is, in short, a vast, familiar, astonishingly well-executed narrative that emerged from the mind of one filmmaker and is now worth billions of dollars, drives entire industries and subindustries, and has become a apparently permanent facet of world culture. It’s profoundly silly, yet likewise profound–a grand , nostalgic intrigue full of wisdom and desire that three generations liken inextricably with childhood, escapade, and the definition of good and evil.