Today marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the first Star Wars movie “A New Hope” (that will become Episode IV). I was -2 years when it came (likely a Type II oocyte hidden in a follicle) but it was my first Star Wars I had watched.
Imagine being a teenager or a kid and watching the original trailer:
I still remember how I had to fight with my sibling to share the TV on a Sunday night, as its airing was simultaneous to another movie, zapping to its channel during commercial breaks. It was love at first sight! Aliens, spaceships, lasers (pew! pew!), great villain (Darth Vader aka Dark Vador in French), the famous Tie fighters roar (Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrsshhhh!!!!).
It also started the rivalry between Star Wars and Star Trek. Historically, Star Wars surely took a lot from Star Trek “The Original Series” in terms of space technology and phasers. But Lucas also took a lot from action movies, from cape and swords movies (you can replace the lightsabers with regular swords, set the Death Star as a fortress and voila!), from Western movies (the Tatooine and Mos Eisley cantina surely reminds a good ol’ dirty saloon, you can replace Solo and Greedo with a Colt or a Smith & Wesson revolver and still achieve the same outcome), from war movies (the final battle of Yavin, you could almost put this into the biplane dogfights of World War I and have Darth Vader posing as Red Barron).
If Trek and Wars movies were into a ring for a death match, Wars would win easily. Wars also set the standard very high, putting Trek in a very difficult situation. Just see Star Trek: The Motion Picture and just put the popcorn aside. It is slow. Very sloooooooooow (did I say how much I hated the uniforms in that Trek movie?).
Maybe the great thing about Wars is its opening, with John Williams mythical opening credit theme (that was then used as a welcome hymn in “V” to greet the first delegation of aliens landing on Earth to collaborate with Earthlings) followed by the “must-have” scrolling text that serves us as a ramp into the action.
Then Boom! You see the Tantive IV being blasted, overflown by the Star destroyer. Bang, straight into the action, with the rebels preparing to be boarded by the Galactic Empire. How this cannot be awesome witnessing that with a kid? All sugar-coated by the remarkable work of John Williams and the London Symphonic Orchestra that blends the visual action with the percussions. Thats how you get kids into classical music!
There comes Lord Vader, this huge and dark figure, breathing through without a word watching the causalities lying around all over the place. Comes in the famous Leia scene and the escape pod. The first action moment of Darth Vader is marking any kids, the deep voice of James Earl Jones with the physique of David Prowse. Here we are. A badass and ruthless villain, all shrouded in mystery and strength.
Then comes the arrival in Tatooine (from the Tunisian town of Tataouine, Tunisia) and the encounter with the Jawas that make it accessible to the kids and introduce us to Luke Skywalker.
Follows up the introduction to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca……the rest is history. A very tight and neat cuts that makes the narrative exemplary with little room for dead periods, bringing up the action as a roller-coaster without overkilling it.
Not even forgetting to mention the presence of Peter Cushing posing as Moff Tarkin and rival to Darth Vader, reminiscent of the rivalry of World War 2 movies between the Wehrmacht and the SS division. This is not innocent, as the Galactic Empire takes a lot of inspiration of Nazi Germany by its ruthless to achieve victory and homogeny at any cost.
Star Wars launched the first concept of merchandising, tying a whole toy line with the movie, setting probably the first massive toy collectionite in the galaxy. It is so engrained in the culture that almost anybody knows “Star Wars” without even watching the movie.
It surely inspired “Battlestar Galactica” TV series and James Bond “Moonraker”. It even was used as a codename for one of the most ambitious if not ridiculous Cold War operations aimed to put in orbit satellites with lasers to counter any threat from USSR.
It even had its “disco” soundtrack by Meco (oh man, it sounds so cheesy now!):
It sets up the spoof-movie “Spaceballs”, even inspired some local knock-off from Italian and Turkish movie producers like “Starcrash” (introducing a young ‘Hoff)
Or “Dunyayi Kurtaran Adam” aka “Turkish Star Wars”
And many mores….
Star Wars became an icon of a whole GenX culture (just see the Star Wars special episodes of “Family Guy” or “Robot Chicken”).
You cannot undo something that cannot be undone and Star Wars is one of these movies you can keep watching over and over again without feeling the boredom of watching them as it almost feel fresh despite knowing every single scenes.
“May The Force Be With You”