Thursday, May 25, 2017

Archival: Star Wars: 20 Years and Still in Force

First published March 27, 1997
Note: With today marking the fortieth anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars, I thought it'd be fun to dip into my personal archives and present the remembrance I wrote for my high school paper, The North Current, on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, with the Special Edition release still fresh in theaters. I cringe a little while reading this (dig that timely reference to the Flintstones movie!), and I'd like to think my writing has improved in the intervening two decades, but for the completeness' sake, here it is!

It's still hard to believe that its has been twenty years since the Star Wars saga first entered the public arena. During that time, the films and their strange and wonderful assortment of characters have become an indelible part of the collective consciousness. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and Princess Leia are all unforgettable characters who have evolved beyond their movie origins and transformed into icons.

In addition to breaking any and all existing box office records of the time (the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, has once again taken its spot as king of the hill, the highest grossing movie of all time), Star Wars also brought with it an avalanche of merchandising and licensing which the movie industry is still indebted to.

It seems unlikely that the massive tie-in push which accompanies such films as Jurassic Park or even The Flintstones would be likely without the precedent set by Star Wars. One could argue about the reasons behind Star Wars' longevity for an eternity.

There is the fact that it offers an escape, something through which audience members can get a thrill, living vicariously through our heroes. In addition, there is the classic struggle between good and evil, with all of the archetypal elements of the hero's journey. Certainly the brilliance of the special effects is a factor. Regardless of the "whys" and "hows," Star Wars remains a very special movie to a great many people.

With the amazing response that greeted the recent theatrical re-releases of the films, it seems safe to say that George Lucas' modern mythology will remain a cinematic masterpiece and a theatrical mainstay for years to come. The merits of the new "Special Editions," with changes to the originals, are certainly up for debate, but the fact remains that they reinforced the importance of the saga, not just as a movie experience, but as a generational experience.

With Lucas now ensconced in bringing us back to his universe with three prequels, it seems that audiences can expect to once again look forward to finding adventure in a galaxy far, far away.

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