I wanted to wait until the hype about Star Wars: The Force Awakens had died down (well, maybe it has a little) before mentioning it in my blog. Having said that, I won’t write about it this week. I’m going to make you wait for it. Instead, I’d like to offer some observations about the original trilogy (episodes IV-VI). Is there a better starting point for a series entitled Mythology in Space? So before I go any further, here ‘s the obligatory photo:
What I was asking myself was why this franchise was so popular. Since I’m old enough, I went back in my mind to 1977 (the year this movie was released) and remembered how it had impressed me a long time ago in a state far, far away. Here, then, is my list of reasons:
- The light and dark sides of The Force (whose meanings are claimed by Christians and practitioners of eastern religions alike) were compelling spiritual concepts. Even in my profession of academia, professors across this great nation refer to colleagues who have gone into administration as having crossed over to the dark side.
- The Jedi and their counterparts have telepathic and telekinetic powers. Along with The Force, these added a new dimension to the science fiction genre.
- Darth Vader (played by David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones, and played by Sebastian Shaw when the helmet is finally removed) is one of the all time great villains in cinematic history. The Emperor (Ian McDiamid) is also noteworthy.
- Obi-Wan Kenobi (the venerable Alec Guinness) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) are cool. So are Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz). In other words, the characters are memorable.
- So that diehard fans don’t get mad at me, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) were cool, too.
- The spaceships, the Death Star, and all the other space machinery were cool, and the special effects used to bring them and their battles to the big screen were groundbreaking for their time.
- Lightsabers are definitely cool, even their sound. I mean, who wouldn’t want one in a fight?
- It was a good story. The plot was compelling.
I’d better stop here. The more I write, the greater the chance that fans better versed than I will find grounds to correct me. A quick look at this insufficient list will show that the iconic imagery, concepts, and characters are extensive. Lest we blame George Lucas eternally for the second trilogy (which came before the first?), let us remember that this piece of cultural history was his creation and that he wrote and directed the first installment (which turned out pretty well). After all, even a damaged Death Star is impressive.