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Star Wars

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The cover of the 2004 DVD widescreen release of the original Star Wars trilogy.
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The cover of the 2004 DVD widescreen release of the original Star Wars trilogy.
For the missile defense program, see Strategic Defense Initiative.

Star Wars is a series of science fantasy films created by writer/producer/director George Lucas. The six-film series began in 1977 with the release of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and has since become a pop culture phenomenon, spawning a major franchise of films, books, video games, television series, and other merchandising spin-offs. In 2005, Forbes Magazine estimated the overall revenue generated by the entire Star Wars franchise (over the course of its 28-year history) at nearly $20 billion U.S., easily making it the most successful film franchise ever.

The Star Wars story is set in outer space and employs archetypal motifs common to both science fiction and classical mythology. It is an excellent example of the space opera sub-genre of science fiction.

Contents

Setting

The only clue given to indicate the time setting of Star Wars is the line that opens each film: "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...". This is an allusion to the classic fairy tale line "Once upon a time, in a faraway land...", and other variations thereof. It may reflect that the films are to be interpreted as myths of the future, as opposed to literally meaning the events take place in the past. Lucas himself intentionally left the details open to interpretation.

Although it is unclear when the stories take place, the scope of the entire Star Wars fiction covers over 25,000 years, with the film series spanning only two generations.

As far as location, all of the characters of Star Wars come from the same galaxy (except a race called Yuuzhan Vong introduced in a novel series dubbed New Jedi Order). Unlike traditional science fiction films preceding it, the Star Wars world, particularly of the original trilogy era, is portrayed as dirty and grimy rather than sleek and futuristic. In interviews, Lucas tells of rubbing the new props with dirt to make them look weatherworn, a concept he refers to as "a used future." He may have been inspired by Sergio Leone, whose 1960s films performed a similar function for the Western genre. This break from traditional science fiction films may have influenced the cyberpunk genre that emerged around 1984.

The films

The first film released in the series, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), has been selected to The National Film Registry of the Library of Congress [1] (http://www.loc.gov/film/titles.html). It was originally titled Star Wars without an episode number; it works as a standalone story, although Lucas claims it was always intended to be a part of a larger saga. After its popularity boomed, the episode number was added and it was followed by Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983). Together these three films are known as the "original trilogy." After a hiatus of sixteen years, Lucas followed up with the "prequel trilogy" of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005).

The story presented in the films

For more detailed storylines, see the individual film articles.

Episodes I, II, and III chronicle Anakin Skywalker's rise as a gifted young Jedi and his eventual fall to the Dark Side of the Force as Darth Vader, under the influence of the evil Sith Lord Darth Sidious. Sidious manipulates the Trade Federation into invading and occupying Naboo and secretly orchestrates a conflict between the Galactic Republic and a Separatist movement, the Confederacy of Independent Systems which he also controls. After the final defeat of the Separatists and the near-extermination of the Jedi (with Vader's help), he declares himself Emperor of a new Galactic Empire.

Episodes IV, V, and VI center on Anakin's son, Luke Skywalker. Restless for adventure, Luke joins the ragtag Rebel Alliance in its struggle to overthrow the evil Empire. He trains to become a Jedi like his father, whom he believes was killed by Darth Vader, and is profoundly shaken upon learning that his father is actually Darth Vader himself. Luke successfully resists the efforts of Vader and the Emperor to turn him to the Dark Side; instead, he turns his father back to the Light Side while the Rebel Alliance fleet scores a decisive victory to end the war.

Production

Conception

George Lucas
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George Lucas

George Lucas conceived Star Wars in the early 1970s. He went through several revisions, which helped provide plenty of material for the subsequent films. Due to countless problems during the filming, majority of critics and movie goers thought the film would bomb. The first film was released in 1977, and its novelization hit the shelves a year earlier. The sixth and final Star Wars film, Episode III, was released on May 19, 2005.

Lucas originally wrote the script for the first three movies as one film, but later decided to divide it into episodes. He also wrote a back story to help him understand the relations between Vader, Luke, and Obi-Wan. He used this story as a guide when he wrote Episodes 1 to 3 in the late 1990's and early 2000's. There is much rumor and myth concerning a supposed third trilogy concerning the fall of the Galactic Empire and the rise of the New Republic, however, the original script did not contain any material after Return of the Jedi. There is, however, much Expanded Universe material devoted to that time period.

During the time between episode IV and V, the Rebellion was running away from the Empire. They decide to settle on a remote, wintery planet called Hoth. Once again, the Empire found them and the rebels lost a terrible battle. The heroes of the movie luckily escape. While running away, Han Solo and company visit his old friend, Lando Calrision. He and his city are under the control of Lord Vader and the Emperor. Han Solo is captured and frozen in carbonite. Luke Skywalker, feeling his friends' distress through the force, goes to save them. He faces Darth Vader for the first time in a Lightsaber duel and is helplessly outclassed. Darth Vader reveals his past and that he is Luke's father. Luke decides death is better than joining the Dark Side, so he jumps in the garbage disposal chute. Princess Leia comes to rescue him in Han Solo's ship. In episode VI, The Rebellion defeats the Empire in a star destroyer battle, just as Luke defeats Vader, not by killing him but bringing out the last bit of good through some lost paternal feelings. Lord Vader turns on the Emperor and is mortally wounded by him but kills the Emperor before dying. A long time ago, a prophecy was made that the Chosen One would kill the Emperor. In episode III, the prophecy seemed to be wrong because the Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker, joins the emperor and becomes Darth Vader. But in Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader kills the Emperor and the truth of the ancient prophecy is revealed.

Filming

All the original films were shot at, among other locations, Elstree Studios, in Hertfordshire, England. The Phantom Menace was filmed at Leavesden Film Studios and the subsequent prequels were filmed in Sydney, Australia. Tunisia has served as the location for filming scenes set on the desert planet Tatooine in A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.

Re-releases

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Star_Wars_new_scene.jpg
Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt in Episode IV's Special Edition

George Lucas has tinkered repeatedly with the original trilogy. Episodes IV through VI were remastered and re-released (both theatrically and on VHS) during 1997, and again on DVD in September 2004. The films underwent extensive clean-up and restoration work, and Lucas took advantage of this opportunity to make a number of changes. In a September 2004 interview with AP (http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/Movies/09/20/film.qa.george.lucas.ap/), he explains his reasons for the changes:

To me, the special edition ones are the films I wanted to make. Anybody that makes films knows the film is never finished. It's abandoned or it's ripped out of your hands, and it's thrown into the marketplace, never finished. ... Most artists, most painters, even composers would want to come back and redo their work now. They've got a new perspective on it, they've got more resources, they have better technology, and they can fix or finish the things that were never done. ...
I wanted to actually finish the film the way it was meant to be when I was originally doing it. At the beginning, people went, "Don't you like it?" I said, "Well, the film only came out to be 25 or 30 percent of what I wanted it to be." ... If you read any interviews for about an eight- or nine-year period there, it was all about how disappointed I was and how unhappy I was and what a dismal experience it was. You know, it's too bad you need to get kind of half a job done and never get to finish it. So this was my chance to finish it.

Some of the changes are cosmetic, such as adding new special effects which weren't possible with previous technology. Other changes affect plot or character development. For example, one of the more controversial of the changes is known by fans as "Han shot first": in the original release of the 1977 film, Han sits at a bartable with an alien named Greedo who tries to extort money out of him; Han casually shoots and kills the alien. In the 1997 re-release this scene has been changed so that Greedo shoots first (and misses terribly) and Han's shot is clearly in self-defense. After fan outcry that this ruins the introduction of Han as a rogue, the 2004 DVD release of the film edits the scene slightly so that both characters fire at the same time. Another alteration was made to a scene at the very end of Episode VI, when the spirits of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Anakin Skywalker look onto the Rebels' celebration. Anakin's face was changed to that of Hayden Christensen, the Canadian actor who played Anakin in Episodes II and III.

The re-release changes are a point of contention among fans, many claiming that they taint the movies. The fans' ire is increased by the impossibility of legally obtaining DVDs of the original releases. Ironically, Lucas testified before the U.S. Congress in opposition to colorizing black and white films (a position he has reiterated as recently as August 2004 [2] (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5651949/)). Many fans see this attitude as hypocritical, others argue that the types of alterations Lucas is opposed to are done without the consent of the artists involved in the original production, as opposed to changes he made to his own films.

At a ShoWest convention, George Lucas stated that he is going to release all of the movies as 3-D films.

Major themes and influences

Mythology

Many of the themes within Star Wars reflect elements of Greek tragedy, Roman mythology, and Japanese chambara such as the prominence of prophecy and the inability to control one's destiny. For example, Luke's relationship to his father shows evidence of influence from Greek tragedy.

The Star Wars films also show considerable similarity to Asian Wuxia "Kung Fu" films. In films of this genre, the protagonist almost always begins with a clear objective to avenge the death of someone dear (an old master, his father, or his entire family). Starting as an apprentice, he grows to become the most powerful Master of his art in Kung Fu and rightfully settles old scores inflicted to his loved ones. The influence of Japanese pathos is obvious in the technique of the lightsaber being similar to the use of the Japanese Samurai swords, and the etiquette-conscious Jedi humility to the Japanese bows in greetings. Lucas has stated that his intention was to create in Star Wars a modern mythology based on the studies of his friend and mentor Joseph Campbell. He has also called the first movie's similarity to Akira Kurosawa's film The Hidden Fortress a "homage".

Philosophy and religion

Missing image
Yoda.gif
Yoda

The essential trademark of Star Wars'<i> philosophy is its reliance on The Force, which closely resembles the Odic force of Karl von Reichenbach. (See main article: Force (Star Wars)).

Star Wars stresses the self-destructive nature of fear, anger, and hate, summed up in Yoda's words ("Fear is the path to the dark side: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering"), as well as placing one's feelings for certain people aside. For example, Luke Skywalker is told to remain on Dagobah to complete his training rather than rescue his friends from Cloud City, because doing so will "destroy all for which they have fought and suffered."

This aligns with the philosophy of most all religions, which emphasize rational thought and meditation as the path to enlightenment, as opposed to the "Dark Side", of violent passion and emotion. It also aligns with secular Enlightenment thought, based in reason (the light side) and passionate and often violent pre-WWI romanticism (the dark side). The sequel started in Episode IV with the obvious cliche — Darth Vader in matte and shiny black outfit, with Leia Organa in pristine white robes, alluding to the concepts of Good versus Evil. With the exception of Anakin in the teenage years in Episode II and III and Luke Skywalker in Episode VI, black costumes seemed to have been reserved exclusively for the darker Empire and its Sith Emperor. Whether intentional or not, the use of language was dramatized — the Empire minions almost always spoke with British accents whilst most of the Rebels spoke unadulterated American English. Likewise all Imperial officers were dressed to kill with tailor-cut Nazi-like uniforms, with the Rebels in looser and more ascetic overalls.

See also: The Tao of Star Wars, Or, Cultural Appropriation in a Galaxy Far, Far Away (http://pcasacas.org/SPC/spcissues/23.1/wetmore.htm)



Politics

Some interpret Star Wars to advocate meritocracy over dictatorship, a form of government in Plato's Republic which theoretically triumphed over other forms of government, i.e. the Jedi Council with its keepers of peace counsels the Senate over all matters in the Galactic Republic, is similar to the philosopher-king of the Platonic Dialogues. It offers no subjective stance on alternatives to the corrupt Republic's government, while some see it as supporting monarchy over democracy. It should, however, be noted that the republic presented is portrayed as an initially suitable form of democracy, yet one which demonstrates an almost inherent tendency to fall into corruption (as the first stage in a process of decay which eventually leads to a dictatorship), and even the films' most prominent monarchy—Naboo—is democratic.

The overarching transition of Galactic government from republic to empire, via increasing corruption and an intermediary stage of popular dictatorship, mirrors in many ways the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. The rise of Palpatine in particular bears many similarities to the rise of Augustus; and although notable differences in their objectives and demeanors undermine this assertion somewhat, the similarity of the circumstances under which they both came to power is undeniable.

Lucas has recently stated that the concept of a battle of a small band of rebel insurgents against a powerful Galactic Empire in some ways was inspired by the Vietnam War, with the United States government seen as parallel to the Empire. However, there is little detail in the original trilogy (Episodes IV to VI) that specifically supports this interpretation.

A line from "Revenge of the Sith" which seemed to resonate very politically was the following, spoken by Senator Amidala: "So this is how liberty dies; with thunderous applause." This was seen by some critics as referencing the fall of the Weimar Republic. This line has also been thought to be a reference to the Patriot Act and the post-9/11 wave of popular support for restrictions of civil liberties in the United States.

At the Premiere of Episode III in Cannes, George Lucas mentioned the political stance, notably saying "I hope this doesn't come true in our country [the USA]" and "Maybe the film will waken people to the situation"; he went on to comment on the war in Iraq.[3] (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,156585,00.html). Indeed, the plot arc of the prequel trilogy, in which an ambitious politician orchestrates a "Phantom Menace" to fuel his rise to ever-greater power, has been referenced extensively by some opponents of the 2003 invasion of Iraq who believe that the now-discredited weapons of mass destruction threat was in some senses a "phantom menace."

Technology

Another archetypal conflict in the series is between technology and nature. Throughout the films, under-armed nature dwellers (Ewoks and Gungans) defeat highly mechanized space ship dwelling enemies. Many of these asymmetries are between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. For example, the rebels wear clothing that match their environment (greens, browns or whites) while the storm troopers always wear white synthetic armor. The TIE fighter attacks are shown as impersonal swarms of metal while the X-wings are individuals; a similar symmetry also exists between the faceless, armor-clad Imperial Stormtroopers and their crisp, uniformed officers, and the various individual members of the Rebel Alliance. More recent examples can be seen in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, mounted atop a lizard-like veractyl, pursues and combats the semi-mechanical General Grievous mounted atop a one-wheeled mechanical vehicle; after the execution of Order 66, the somewhat inhuman Clone troopers are shown slaughtering a number of Jedi characters without a second's thought, whose striking art design gives them clear individuality. This concept emphasizes the general idea that technology is in opposition to humanity. This site (http://hem.bredband.net/wookiee/development/) explains this theme and others in its analysis of the writing of Star Wars.

Similarities

There seem to be repeated elements amongst the Star Wars films (Lucas makes mention of his fondness for repeating elements in several of the DVD audio commentaries):

  • In Episode I & IV, the main protagonist helps win a battle at the end of the film (Anakin destroys the Trade Federation Droid Control Ship, Luke destroys the Death Star).
  • In the second part of each trilogy (Episodes II & V), the main protagonists both see visions of loved one(s) in danger: Luke- Han, Leia and the rest of his friends; Anakin- His mother. Both protagonists also abandon their duty (Luke-jedi training; Anakin-protecting Padme) and go off in attempt to save his loved one(s).
  • In the second part of each trilogy (Episodes II & V), the main protagonist suffers the loss of his right hand (Anakin, Luke)
  • At the end of the middle episodes in the trilogy (Episodes II & V), the main protagonist (Anakin in II, Luke in V) puts his arm around the main female character (Padme in II, Leia in V) beside the two droids R2D2 and C-3PO.
  • In the third part of each trilogy (Episodes III & VI), Palpatine encourages Anakin and Luke to finish off their defeated opponents - except that Anakin gives in to Palpatine's wishes, while Luke does not. Also, in both episodes, Anakin is the observer to a life-or-death struggle between Palpatine and another opponent (Mace Windu in III, and Luke in VI). In both cases, Anakin/Darth Vader comes to the aid of the weaker combatant (Palpatine himself in III- although most fans believe Palpatine was faking weakness, Luke in VI) begging him for aid while being electrocuted by Palpatine's lightning storm, and hurls the stronger combatant (Mace in III, Palpatine in VI) into a chasm.
  • The titles are parallel: "The Phantom Menace" and "A New Hope" can be seen as referring to respectively Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker; "Attack of the Clones" and "The Empire Strikes Back" both refer to the galactic government mounting a military attack against a rebellion, while "Revenge of the Sith" and "Return of the Jedi" both refer to the ultimate victory of a decimated, Force-based religious order.

Expanded Universe

Main article: Expanded Universe (Star Wars).
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Splinter_of_the_Minds_Eye.jpg
Splinter of the Mind's Eye, 1978

The Expanded Universe (EU) refers to all of the officially licensed Star Wars material outside of the two trilogies, including books, comics, games, and other forms of media. The works of the EU began with Alan Dean Foster's 1978 book Splinter of the Mind's Eye. George Lucas has chosen to personally concentrate on his films rather than EU material, but he retains ultimate creative control over the Star Wars universe. Therefore, Lucasfilm Licensing must devote considerable effort to ensuring continuity between various authors' works and Lucas's films. Occasionally, elements from the Expanded Universe are adopted into the highest tier of Star Wars canon, the movies (e.g., the name of the planet Coruscant first appeared in Timothy Zahn's novel Heir to the Empire). Some purists reject the Expanded Universe, believing that only the events in the Film Series are part of the "real" Star Wars universe.

Related films

Since the premiere of Star Wars, there have been a handful of officially sanctioned parodies and Expanded Universe live-action productions:

Radio and television

Star Wars, the radio adaptation (NPR 1981), was written by science fiction author Brian Daley. It was followed by adaptations of the next two films of the series.

Three cartoon series have been based on Star Wars. The first two, Ewoks and Droids, debuted in 1985, while Clone Wars began in 2003. Ewoks features the adventures of the Ewoks prior to Return of the Jedi. Droids follows C-3PO and R2-D2 between Episodes III and IV. Clone Wars is set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, as the Jedi fight against the Confederacy of Independent Systems in the Clone Wars.

On April 23, 2005, at the Celebration III fan convention, George Lucas announced that two new television series would be produced for a 2006 or 2007 debut. The first will be a fully 3-D, half-hour length continuation of the Clone Wars cartoon; the second a live-action, hour-long series taking place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. The latter will fill in story and plot "gaps" such as Leia and Luke growing up, the creation of the 'rebels' and other elements in the series' storyline.

Books

See also: List of Star Wars books

Star Wars-based fiction predates the release of the first movie, with the 1976 novelization of "A New Hope" (written by Alan Dean Foster but credited to George Lucas). However, Foster's 1978 novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, was the first EU work to be released. In addition to filling in the time between the movies, this additional content greatly expands the Star Wars timeline before and after the film series.

Star Wars fiction flourished during the time of the original series (1977-1983), but slowed to a trickle afterwards. In 1991, however, Timothy Zahn's celebrated Thrawn/Heir To The Empire Trilogy debuted, sparking a new interest in the Star Wars universe that gained momentum with the releases of the special editions and new films beginning in the late 1990s. Other notable books include The X-Wing Series, by Michael Stackpole, and the New Jedi Order series, by various authors. Another series of books is the Young Jedi Knights, by Kevin J Anderson, which follow the adventures of Jason and Jaina Solo, and their freinds.

Comic books and strips

See also: List of Star Wars comic books

Marvel Comics published Star Wars comic book series and adaptations from 1977 to 1986. A wide variety of creators worked on this series, including Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, Al Williamson, Carmine Infantino, Walt Simonson, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont, Whilce Poratio, Jo Duffy, and Ron Frenz. Some fans, including some officials at Lucasfilm, no longer consider the Marvel series story canon, although some events have been mentioned in Star Wars reference books. In the 1980s, as part of their Star Comics line aimed at young children, Marvel also published the short-lived series Ewoks and Droids, based on the Saturday morning cartoons.

Star Wars was also a daily newspaper comic strip from 1979 to 1984, written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson.

Starting in the 1990s, Dark Horse Comics has published a large number of original adventures set in the Star Wars universe. These include Star Wars Republic, Star Wars Empire, Star Wars Tales and Star Wars Jedi. Dark Horse has also published the Marvel series in a collection entitled Classic Star Wars. In addition, the company has reprinted several Japanese manga interpretations of the films which retell the stories using the artistic devices and idioms of the form.

Games and toys

See also Star Wars computer and video games.

Since 1983, over 120 video games have been published bearing the Star Wars name, beginning with 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back' published for the Atari 2600 by Parker Brothers. Other early titles include the Star Wars Nintendo Entertainment System game (published by JVC) and three other titles for the Atari 2600. The Rogue Squadron series, developed by Factor 5 and published by LucasArts, is a notable video game series. Dark Forces is a significant computer game series.

Atari produced arcade games based on the original trilogy, beginning with "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back", which were both 'flight sim' style games that utilized vector graphics. The third, "Return of the Jedi", used more traditional raster graphics.

Two Star Wars role playing games have also been published, and in 2005, Hasbro developed and released a DVD TV Game based on Star Wars and utilising the Trivial Pursuit game-play format.

Other games are Knights of the Old Republic by Bioware, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lord by Obsidian, Battlefront, 'Galactic Battlegrounds', Republic Commando, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the loveable Lego Star Wars, Jedi Knight Outcast and Academy and soon to come is Empires at War

For toys, see Star Wars toys.

See also

Star Wars lists

Other Star Wars articles

External links

Template:Wikiquote

  • Star Wars official website (http://www.starwars.com/)
  • TheForce.net (http://www.theforce.net), one of the oldest Star Wars fan sites
  • the Star Wars Wiki, a wiki entirely dedicated to collecting information about the Star Wars universe
  • Holonet News (http://www.holonetnews.com/56/archives/) A "news" website based on the Star Wars prequels. It brings readers "current" events from the Extended Universe of Star Wars. The site has not been updated for several months.
  • George Lucas in Love (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0203523/), a humorous 1999 comedy short, itself a parody of the feature film Shakespeare in Love, exploring (in fiction) George Lucas's possible sources of inspiration for the Star Wars universe.
  • A short parody from the Organic Trade Association- Grocery Store Wars (http://www.storewars.org/flash/index.html)
  • National Geographic News: So how believable is the Star Wars galaxy? (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0603_050603_starwars.html)ca:La Guerra de les Galxies

da:Star Wars de:Star Wars eo:Star Wars es:Star Wars fi:Thtien sota fr:La Guerre des toiles he:מלחמת הכוכבים (סרט) hu:Csillagok hborja id:Star Wars it:Guerre Stellari (serie) lt:vaigdių karai ja:スター・ウォーズ nl:Star Wars no:Star Wars pl:Gwiezdne Wojny pt:Guerra nas Estrelas ro:Războiul Stelelor ru:Звёздные войны sk:Hviezdne vojny (kult) sl:Vojna zvezd sv:Star Wars th:สตาร์ วอร์ส zh:星際大戰 zh-min-nan:Seng-ki Tāi-chin

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