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About Star Wars

By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor


Star Wars: A New Hope premiered in the spring of 1977, followed by its two sequels: The Empire Strikes Back in 1981 and Return of the Jedi in 1983. It quickly became apparent that this was a science fiction trilogy unlike any previous movies of this genre, a fact emphasized by the way the movie shattered previous box-office records and won awards, including seven of the ten Academy Awards for which it was nominated.

The movies tell the story of Luke Skywalker (actor Mark Hamill) who ultimately battles the evil Empire to restore peace to the Galaxy. He does this with his Jedi mentors Ben "Obi-Wan" Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and Yoda. Helping him along the way are his friends Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). And he has two trusty androids C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker).

His nemesis is Darth Vader (David Prowse; voice, James Earl Jones), though as the series moves forward we find there's much more to this relationship and to Darth Vader than we see in the first movie.

The most obvious difference between Star Wars and its predecessors was the special effects. Computer graphics were still in their infancy in 1977, and much of the technology needed to realize director George Lucas's vision had to be developed as the production of Star Wars progressed.

If you compare the first Tron movie to its sequel, which came many years later, you'll get yet another illustration of the difference in computer graphics.

As for Star Wars, the advancement of computerized special effects can be seen by comparing the initial trilogy with the "special edition" versions released in 1997—Lucas had to wait for technology to catch up with his initial vision for scenes such as the Mos Eisley spaceport in Star Wars and Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back.

The special effects in the original trilogy stunned moviegoers. For the first time, spaceships were depicted as vehicles that looked as if they had been through many battles instead of appearing as shiny flying saucers. Battle scenes looked real, and moviegoers felt as if they were in the middle of the action. Aliens displayed a wide variety of appearances rather than simply looking like bulbous-headed humans with three fingers.

The Star Wars trilogy represented the variety of worlds that humans might encounter throughout a galaxy. Planets ranged from the desert planet of Tatooine orbiting a double star to Yoda's swamp world of Dagobah, from the ice-covered world of Hoth to the Bespin with Lando Calrissian's Cloud City.

Remember those old sci-fi movies and television shows, in which the weapons were usually a "laser" of some sort that really looked like a badly modified gun from a cheap Western? Instead of shooting bullets, they'd shoot invisible rays (or a badly animated light beam) and the actor being zapped would take a pratfall. No imagination, when you think about it.

But Star Wars presented an array of new weapons such as the light saber. And it presented a new power, the Force. This could be used for either good or evil. Some of the concepts, such as creatures living on airless asteroids and spaceships traveling at speeds greater than the speed of light, are definitely in the realm of science fiction.

That faster than light travel was a feature of Star Trek, the cult series that preceded Star Wars. So a large core of the audience already accepted this. There's also the fact that, during the Stagflation years, people's paychecks seemed to disappear faster than the speed of light. So all very plausible in a sci-fi movie.

There were enough scientifically reasonable concepts in the movies to make everything seem possible at some other time or place in the universe.

As a proponent of space exploration, Lucas hoped that Star Wars would excite the younger generation about space and its exploration. Lucas has said, "I would feel very good if someday they colonize Mars and the leader of the first colony says 'I did it because I was hoping there would be a Wookiee up there.'"

  • "The Phantom Menace" made $431 million in the U.S. and was nominated for three Academy Awards.
  • "Attack of the Clones" made $310 million in the U.S. and was nominated for an Academy Award.
  • "The Empire Strikes Back" made $290 million in the U.S., was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two.
  • "Revenge of the Sith" made $380 million in the U.S. and was nominated for an Academy Award.
  • "Return of the Jedi" made $309 million in the U.S., was nominated for four Academy Awards and won one.
  • "A New Hope" made nearly $461 million in the U.S., was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won seven.


About Cathy: She and her Doberman Trooper conduct research into all kinds of topics and produce articles like the one you see here. To contact Cathy, write to thecathyfactor@yahoo.com. Get the facts from Cathy, and let the Cathy Factor give you an edge.


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