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1977: The Year of Pop Culture. Star Wars

When one is asked “what is the most significant breakthrough of pop culture during the year of 1977”? Two words come to mind. I would say three- Star Wars, Godamit!!

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What started out as an adaptation of the Kings Feature comic strip Flash Gordon, became an instant success and phenomenon! Despite Creator George Lucas borrowing aspects from eastern culture, Star Wars is one of the most influential films of modern cinema. Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope revolves around a young protagonist Luke Skywalker who is the center character of this film as well as the following sequels. Luke, being a disillusioned farmhand for his Uncle and Aunt purchases a pair of droids, not realizing that one harbors a major secret-the battle plans of the Galactic Empire’s satellite, the Death Star!

The empire takes drastic measures to recover these plans to the extent of wiping out Jawa merchants and worse, incinerating Luke’s caretakers. This tragic incident serves as Skywalker’s epiphany, to avenge Owen and Beru’s murders, Luke decides to train as a Jedi-“like his father”!

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And so, begins a journey that thrusts moviegoers into a world of stunning visuals, space dogfight combat, wizardry, humor, laser gunfights, swordplay, pathos and sheer heroism. Alongside the young Jedi apprentice’s “traveling companions”, is a beautiful princess, the cynical space smuggler, his fierce but loyal crewmate, a wise elderly wizard, a kvetch droid and his not so silent lil’ buddy and the sinister servant from the dark side who is the main antagonist of this space fantasy. The premise of the narrative, unlikely allies united to achieve a common goal for the greater good, exemplifies the importance of teamwork, something most individuals should be aware of its significance!

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Star Wars ANH has it all and its popularity is well deserved but has this movie which coined the sub-genre, “Space Opera” aged after four decades? Well, if The Godfather, The Exorcist, Jaws and other classics from that bygone era, have yet to lose the appeal of cinema enthusiasts, then A New Hope has nothing to fear! Aside from the action and aesthetics, I really enjoyed the narrative and especially the undercurrent message of faith as shown during the epic Death Star battle. This segues to a fantastic scene in which Han appearing out of nowhere, in a Calvary fashion to save the day in an incredible camera angle.

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What I found impressive, were even the minute scenes like the chess game demonstrated Lucas’ ambition and in some ways, gave us a glimpse of the future. (Holograms)

Anyway, here’s a brilliant summation from a friend of ours, Stuart;

“This is the film that opened up my imagination.

And that’s the beauty of it! You want to know what Star Wars is really about?

It’s about YOU. Yep, YOU. The person watching it”.The Man Who Saved Movies

Well said, but I can’t leave this op- ed piece without mentioning the awesome talents of Composer John Williams whose contributions breathed life into this cinematic masterpiece via an unforgettable soundtrack!

Here’s my top picks!

The Hologram Binary Sunset

Shootout in the cell bay

Cantina Band

The Death Star

Ben Kenobi’s Death/ Imperial Attack

The Battle of Yavin

How influential was Star Wars? Let’s just say, aside from the knockoffs like Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars’ influences can be found virtually every medium-be it TV, Movies, Anime and especially Videogames! And let’s not neglect to add up and coming filmmakers along with application developers. This is a breakthrough on so many levels and Disney made an ingenious business decision when acquiring the rights from Lucasfilm. But the question remains-can they continue to go the distance after the torch has been passed? Time will surely tell.

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And now, It’s Trivia time!!

“I find your lack of faith disturbing”

George Lucas was so sure the film would flop that instead of attending the premiere, he went on vacation to Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg, where they came up with the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Prior to the film’s release, George Lucas showed an early cut of the film to a group of his film director friends. Most, including Lucas himself, felt the film would be a flop; Brian De Palma reportedly called it the “worst movie ever.” The only dissenter was Steven Spielberg, who correctly predicted the film would make millions of dollars. 20th Century Fox was so convinced that the film would bomb that they focused all their marketing on Damnation Alley (1977), a film that they hoped would be a big hit, instead.

Franchise fanaticism

George Lucas’ decision to accept a lower salary on the film in exchange for full merchandising rights was considered a fool’s gamble on his part. Toys based on movies had never been major money-earners (though some movie-toy combinations had done moderate retail returns) because of the long gap between when a movie would go through its theatrical run and when any products based on it would be available. Star Wars, however, was such a phenomenon that it reached the holiday 1977 sales period in full swing, and changed the way movies were merchandised forever.

Being first, doesn’t always mean being the best

Despite Star Wars being the very first science fiction film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, it lost out to an independent film by Woody Allen (Annie Hall).

Jack Kirby, Nuff Said!!!

To say how Jack Kirby had drastically changed the pop culture climate is an understatement! Long before Star Wars, the character who has served as an inspiration to Darth Vader, is no doubt Marvel’s Dr. Doom and if the Comic arch nemesis isn’t proof enough, let’s compare Kirby’s New Gods series produced exclusively for DC Comics to Star Wars. For starters, the mythologies between Father and Son bear relevance to George’s Space Fantasy epic, and as for mysticism, prior to the Force, there was “The Source”! Here’s one of many articles state this case! This is further testament why Kirby is still “The King”!

East beats West

Yes, it’s been often said how Japanese culture was the main influence behind Star Wars and it’s not limited to The Hidden Fortress, no there are major similarities between Lucas’ Magnum Opus and a lesser known anime series outside of Japan called Space Battleship Yamato aka Star Blazers. From the hyperspace dogfights, space operatic themes to even a droid whose appearance is akin to a certain short beeping bot. Leiji Matsumoto’s Sci-Fi anime, predated Star Wars a few years prior to its theatrical release and had it not been for this anime, Star Wars may have not been the film that we all know and love.

 

John Williams!

George Lucas planned to score the film with existing classical music like Stanley Kubrick had done on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), before Steven Spielberg introduced him to composer John Williams. Lucas and Williams agreed on a classical 19th-century Romantic music style with liberal use of leitmotif for the score. Since the movie would show worlds never seen before, the music had to serve as an “emotional anchor” for the audience to relate. The music by John Williams is ranked #1 on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores.

Rated?

Out of all six live-action Star Wars films from the original and prequel trilogies, this is the only one to feature profanity more than once. “Hell” and “damn” are used several times, and R2-D2 “swears” in droid language, but he only chirps and beeps. The language was added to get the movie a PG rating, and avoid its being stereotyped as a G-rated “kids’ movie”. Despite not being R-rated, the scene where Owen and Beru’s skeletal remains are spotted by Luke is arguably one of the most disturbing scenes in the Star Wars series.

Casualties of Star Wars

Body count: 2,002,795,192.

Who shot first?

The shootout between Han Solo and Greedo inside the Cantina was the subject for a lot of controversy and debate among Star Wars fans as to who shot first. Many fans debated that Greedo actually shot first a split second before Solo did, but with careful examination of the scene, it was obvious that Greedo never fired his shot at all. For the 1997 special edition release of this movie, George Lucas had edited the scene to include Greedo shooting first at Solo at point blank range, with Solo moving his head slightly to the right to dodge the shot before firing back at Greedo. This caused perhaps the worst backlash of all the alterations made to the original trilogy from outraged fans. The shooting scene was therefore edited for a third time for the 2004 DVD release, so that both Greedo and Han Solo fired their guns more or less at the same time.

Say wut?

The following characters “have a bad feeling about this”: Obi Wan (Episode I), Anakin (Episode II), Obi Wan (Episode III), Luke (Episode IV), Han (Episode IV and Episode VII), Leia (Episode V), C-3PO (Episode VI). See also Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). The line is also spoken by Harrison Ford again as Indiana Jones in George Lucas’ Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

Luke went through several changes. George Lucas toyed with the idea of changing him into a woman, after cutting Princess Leia from the script. He also entertained the notion of casting the principal characters as dwarves. In an early screenplay, Skywalker was a 60-year-old general. In the shooting script, he was called “Luke Starkiller,” but this was changed to Luke Skywalker during production.

Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher were all taken aback by George Lucas’s decided lack of good dialogue skills. They stood up to him-and Lucas, chastened, allowed the actors to basically improvise their own wording for the basic points of the screenplay’s dialogue.

Moulin Rogue

The spin-off film Rogue One (2016) which is a prequel to Star Wars (1977) details how the Rebel Alliance stole the Death Star plans and reveals how Darth Vader knew the Death Star plans were aboard Tantive IV.

 

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