Thursday, September 11, 2014

Revisiting A Classic: Star Wars - 33 Years Later.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 is the 33 anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope

W hat were you doing on May 25, 1977?  I know where I was; I was getting off my paper route and rushing to the theaters to see a movie my best friend from Junior High told me about the day before.  I waited in the lobby for a few minutes, and then I walked down into the dark rows of seats.  On the screen, a cartoon was playing while I tried to find my friend.  I was wearing my news press delivery bag over my shoulders as I took my seat.  The cartoon ended, and then the Fox Pictures fanfare played, and then for a moment, silence...  An orchestral crescendo and the solid blue words appear on the screen, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away."  The next two hours went by in such a blur, that all I know is that I didn't move from my seat, perhaps not even a muscle as the spectacle that is now titled Star Wars: A New Hope unfolded before my eyes.  Well after all this time, I can still remember just about every line, every nuance of every character.  In the decades that followed the release of Star Wars, we have seen two sequels, and three prequels, an animated series, a universe of licensed books and merchandise.  The phenomena that are Star Wars has infected new generations of loyal fans.

The story is classic, a teenage farm boy, on the desert world of Tatooine, wanting a find a life of adventure and excitement waits for the day that he can escape from his life of boredom.  A young princess, captured by a wicked dark-lord, tortures her into revealing the base of rebels against the evil empire.  The swashbuckling pirate, who seeks to make a quick buck, ends up as a hero.  Throw in an old wizard, two Laurel and Hardy like robots for comic relief, and you have the makings of what American mythologist, Joseph Campbell would call the archetypal hero.  Starring Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa, and Harrison Ford as Han Solo, George Lucas has not only reinvented the modern myth, but also reinvented how we create visual effects in films are done today.  The visual effects of the original team, led by John Dykstra, developed the techniques and systems that have now become Industrial Light and Magic, a name recognized around the world for the high quality and leading edge technology.  As a young man, I studied the works of illustrator Ralph McQuarrie and the storyboards and conceptual designs.  A technique I later put to excellent use as a designer as a project manager for the marketing departments of some of the world's leading technology companies.  What is a film director but the manager of a highly complicated project?  One of the many legacies that /Star Wars gave to us is the grand musical scores by Academy Award Winner, composer and conductor, John Williams.  From the opening theme of all the Star Wars pictures, to the haunting melodies that serve as the themes for each of the characters, Williams weaves a musical tale that almost rivals the film itself.

The many mythological comparisons that writers like Mary Henderson, in her book "Star Wars the Magic of Myth," she matches each character with each of the various archetypes from myth, legend.  Drawing chiefly from Joseph Campbell's book, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces," and giving full credit to Campbell, Henderson illustrates concepts such as when Han and Luke running around the Death Star in search of detention block AA23, where Vader is holding Leia, and comparing the scene to Theseus and the Labyrinth of the Minotaur.  Or one can compare Darth Vader as the Dragon guarding over a treasure.  Luke, like Prince Charming, finds and awakens Leia sleeping in her prison cell, like Sleeping Beauty, for example.  Another comparison to the Star Wars plot line is from Lloyd Alexander's 1964 publication of "The Book of Three.'" Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain" series that feature Taran, a young farm boy, orphaned at birth, raised by, and cared for by an old, wise wizard.  After chasing after the farm's prize possession out into the dark forest, an oracular pig, Taran returns to find his farm set on fire by the evil Horned King, his forever covered with a skeletal mask of a human with the antlers of a deer or elk.  Taran, in "The Book of Three," journeys to the center of the land, saves a princess along the way, finds a glowing sword of immense power, and meets archetypal and memorable characters along the way.  Some these characters may remind one of C-3PO, R2-D2, and Han Solo.  Lloyd Alexander is also the author of Disney's 1985 release, '"The Black Cauldron."

With the 33rd anniversary of what the America Film Institute ranks as the second best Science Fiction film ("2001: A Space Odyssey" is the number one) of all time, perhaps it might be time to dust of that Blu-ray, DVD or VHS and re-watch or introduce members of a newer generation to a film


Movie Data
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Year:  1977
Staring:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker
Director: George Lucas
Producer(s): Gary Kurtz
Writer: George Lucas
Rating: PG
Running Time: 121 minutes
Release Date: 5/25/1977

Originally published on Associated Content by Robert Barbere on 5/19/2010