With the excitement of ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, I wanted to hear from people about what makes STAR WARS and the rest of the franchise such an integral part of pop culture, or better yet a part of culture in general.
JAMES KELLY (Trombone player, HUB CITY STOMPERS)
STAR WARS is the shit. Take away my childhood nostalgia for X-Wings, and droids, and Jedi mind tricks, and ewoks. Take away the memory of watching it for the first time on my uncle’s gigantic TV, 20 something years ago. Take away the memories of my dad taking me to see the original trilogy in the theaters when they did the theatrical re-release for the 20th anniversary when I was too young to be pissed about the changes. Take away all of that and I still love STAR WARS.
It’s Campbell’s “hero’s journey”…but it’s in space. What’s not to love? Everything is better when it’s done in outer space and that’s why this movie is engrained in the fabric of modern culture. It’s recognizable enough that it appeals to the masses but it happens in space so it’s automatically more interesting.
The reason I’m most grateful for STAR WARS, though, is because I love low budget knockoffs. Without STAR WARS there would be no STARCRASH. Without STAR WARS there would be no BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. There would be no SPACE RAIDERS. There would be no MESSAGE FROM SPACE. I couldn’t imagine living in that world.
JOHN BOROWSKI (Filmmaker, SERIAL KILLER CULTURE)
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was very iconic for me, coming off so long of a hiatus after STAR WARS. Vader was the most frightening in EMPIRE, hell he even tries to kill his own son! The cliffhanger ending was genius!
I first saw STAR WARS over Thanksgiving when I was probably 8 or 9 years old. My parents had gotten it on VHS and over that weekend we watched all three movies of the original trilogy. As could be expected, I lost my ever-loving mind. It instantly became my favorite thing I’d ever seen.
Several years later, when I was in 8th grade, my school did a very cool thing to commemorate the release of the STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE SPECIAL EDITION theatrical re-release. They decided to do a lesson on mythology and archetypes across several departments, and started it by projecting all three of the original trilogy on a big screen. Lots of kids in my class had actually never seen any of them, and so our collective love for the films grew and was re-invigorated when they were re-released.
The prequels, of course, are their own story, and I won’t get into that here. Suffice to say I was as disappointed as anyone else, but they still hold a special place in my heart. They are, after all, still STAR WARS.
But when I think of what made STAR WARS special to me, it ultimately boils down to the fact that in the years before the internet, or before the TV shows or even some of the later video games, STAR WARSwas a thing that existed either on VHS, those stories locked in time…or in our minds. We had the toys, some of us had costumes (I particularly loved my Red Guard helmet), and we had our imaginations. My friends and I would play STAR WARS and create all new adventures for familiar characters, or new characters altogether, and there was literally no limit to what we could do. The beauty of STAR WARS is how infinite its universe is, and how every tiny character and detail has a name, a history, and an entire life to be uncovered.
I think that’s what makes STAR WARS so universal, is that for so long it lived almost entirely in the minds of those that loved it. Before VHS was readily available to the masses, it lived almost exclusively in the toys after the films were no longer in theaters. That forced imaginative element for kids that wanted to continue the adventure helped fuel the life of the films, and kept them fresh. Whereas you might forget the thrill of KRULL a year after you’ve seen it, the marketing machine behind STAR WARS kept you learning names of incidental aliens and inventing scenarios to sate your thirst until the next movie came out. Then, there were games and books and comics, and it didn’t matter what was “canon” and what wasn’t…it was all in an infinite universe, so all of this stuff could exist together. And at the same time, remain deeply personal for every single fan.
When word of the seemingly endless parade of new STAR WARS properties – ROGUE ONE, the Han Solo movie, Rebels, CLONE WARS, new books, etc. – started to trickle out, I feared briefly that some of that magic would be gone. But quickly I lost all of those concerns. Not only is the property being handled with extreme care and reverence, but it is kept smart, and sophisticated, and, frankly, they’re nailing it.
And the size of the universe isn’t any smaller. If anything, it’s gotten larger. As a kid that grew up thinking there was no way we’d ever see an EPISODE VII, I am thrilled beyond measure that we get to enjoy these stories for years to come, delivered to us by a team of artists that clearly cares about this galaxy far, far away as much as I do.
Being a “horror” filmmaker, I always get asked what my favorite horror movie is. I actually never get asked what my favorite movie is. That would be the original STAR WARS.
When I was a little kid, and because times were different back then, I’d pay for the early movie and sit through 3 showings every Saturday for like 2 months watching STAR WARS when it came out. It’s the film that made me want to be a filmmaker and tell my stories. Even to this day I still get goosebumps watching it. The film is a blue print on how to make a great film. Great story, great characters, great adventure equals great film!
I’ve never missed opening day since then, even as a adult I still make it out to see them. It takes me back to that feeling I felt as a kid watching the first one. I’m excited for ROGUE ONE, as I’m expecting we get to see the ultimate baddie in Darth Vader and that he will unleash some serious damage onto the Rebels! Of course I’m a fan of the Darkside of the Force!
STAR WARS is the first true mythology created for the film medium. It’s uniquely American, stemming from the main characters themselves. Americans make lonely farmers, snarky princesses, and scruffy-looking nerf herders as their heroes… Not Greek Gods or King Arthur types.
STAR WARS to me specifically drew me into cinema. I saw STAR WARS in the theatre when I was four years old. My first cinema memory. Like everyone in 1977 I became obsessed with it and I think that really is a result of the mythology behind it all. It’s ours. It’s our art. It’s our medium. We all feel like we own a part of STAR WARS. And we do.
DOUG LANGWAY (Director, BEAR CITY TRILOGY)
In the spring of 1977 a 7-year old boy and his dad went to the local theatre in New Jersey to see a film that would forever shape their lives. The boy was me, the film was STAR WARS… The Force was the bondbetween a father and son that would last a lifetime. I was a STAR WARS kid.STAR WARS opened up a realm of possibility that, until then, was locked away in imagination, books or comics. The eye-popping special effects (at the time) and the classic “heroes journey” storytelling filled a generation of kids with aspirations to reach for the stars and rebel against the establishment.I grew up wanting to make films. I went to film school. I did every production job before helming my own Trilogy. With BEARCITY 3 in theaters now, and my dad a part of every film I have made, I can’t deny the power of the Force on that Spring evening in 1977.
HARRISON SMITH(Director, DEATH HOUSE)
STAR WARS, at its best, represents hope and the light and darkness of life. Beyond the ships, the light sabers and the creatures, it is about the people and what the embody to all of us.
The over produced and lifeless prequels embody this. You can cram all the spaceships, money and big budget CGI into a film, and it still does not replace a good story. Good stories relate to the reader and viewer. They speak to us, which is why certain stories have endured the centuries. Simply…they are good.
Summer, 1981, I sat in The Sherman Theater for the first of eventually five theatrical viewings of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. I was fourteen. The first STAR WARS film was something that grabbed most of my generation. The effects, cool light sabres and a basic tale of good and evil. However, I was not prepared for the concept that the sequel could actually be better.
So why, exactly, is THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK considered the best of the franchise to date? It didn’t really have more space battles. It didn’t really have more action. In fact, the myopic, Millennial view is that this entry is “the most boring.” When you’re raised up in instant gratification, shallow social media postings and define your existence in a series of Snapchats and Instagrams, yeah, then I guess story depth is boring.
While STAR WARS brought us into this world, but Empire took us further, and the amazing thing was that the trip brought us closer to our own selves. it really wasn’t such a new world. Despite frozen and swamp terrains, cloud cities, Tauntauns, and Wampas, we got a human story–one a fourteen year old boy could relate to as well as someone way older. The film was universal because it played on the very basic principles of being alive.
One scene in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK defines why the films appeal to such a mass audience. It shows how the story, its characters connect with any culture.
The scene where Han Solo is dipped into Carbonite threw chills up my neck, wet my eyes with tears and it was done with virtually no dialogue. John Williams’s operatic score (The best of all the films and one of the best of his entire career) conveyed the agony of evil’s triumph. Chewie throws his head back in a mournful wail as his friend is lowered. Abrams failed to find this heart wrenching grief in Solo’s death in THE FORCE AWAKENS. Chewie’s love and devotion to his buddy was never captured so masterfully as in this scene.
Leia loses the man she’s just discovered she loves. Vader stands by as a black monolith of moral corruption. There is no greater scene in any of the films. There is no scene that comes close to so many emotions, excitement, despair and…hope. It is truly powerful.