Star Wars is an influential science fantasy saga and fictional universe created by writer/producer/director George Lucas in the early 1970s. The saga began with the film Star Wars, which was released on May 25, 1977. more...
The film, later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, became a pop culture phenomenon, spawning five more feature films and an extensive collection of licensed books, comics, video games, spin-off films, television series, toys, et al.
An example of the space opera genre, the Star Wars story employs archetypal motifs common to both modern science fiction and ancient mythology, as well as the classical music motifs of those genres. The film series is widely considered to be the major impetus which launched the new era of high-budget, special-effects blockbuster movies that continues to this day. In 2005, Forbes Magazine estimated the overall revenue generated by the entire Star Wars franchise (over the course of its 28-year history) at nearly US$20 billion, easily making it one of the most successful film franchises of all time.
Star Wars began with a 13-page treatment for a space adventure movie which George Lucas drafted in 1973, inspired by multiple myths and classic stories.
- See also: Star Wars sources and analogues
Many different influences have been suggested for the Star Wars films by fans, critics, and George Lucas himself. For example, Lucas acknowledges that the plot and chracters in the 1958 Japanese film The Hidden Fortress, directed by Akira Kurosawa, were a major inspiration. Lucas has said in an interview, which is included on the DVD edition of The Hidden Fortress, that the movie influenced him to tell the story of Star Wars from the viewpoint of the humble droids, rather than a major player. It also played a role in the conception of Darth Vader, whose trademark black helmet intentionally resembles a samurai helmet.
Prior to writing the script for Star Wars, George Lucas originally wanted to make a film of Flash Gordon. The rights for Flash Gordon, however, were held by Dino De Laurentiis, and Lucas decided to work on his own science fiction project instead.
Another influence in Lucas's creation of Star Wars were the writings of Joseph Campbell. Campbell's work explored the common meanings, structures, and purposes of the world's mythologies. Lucas has stated that his intention was to create in Star Wars a modern mythology based on Campbell's work. The original Star Wars film, for example, closely followed the archetypal "hero's journey", as described in Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
It is also thought that the setting for the Star Wars universe came from Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, published in the early 1950s. This saga also involves a galaxy teeming with inhabited worlds held together by a collapsing galactic empire using hyperdrives (for long-distance transportation). It also features the planet Trantor, which is entirely covered by the galaxy's capital, similar to Coruscant, and the protagonist of Foundation and Empire is Lathan Devers, a character resembling Han Solo. Even lightsabers have precursors in the The Foundation Trilogy as force field penknives.
According to one source, Star Wars creator George Lucas initially wrote summaries for fifteen stories that would make up the Star Wars saga. Out of these fifteen stories, Lucas originally planned to film only one of them as a feature film. Then, in 1978, following the success of the first released Star Wars film, he publicly announced that he would create a total of twelve films to chronicle the adventures of Luke Skywalker (in the original scripts, the character was then known as Luke Starkiller). In 1979, Lucas retracted his former statement, saying that he would only make nine of those twelve films. Four years later, around 1983, having completed Episode VI of the series, Lucas announced that he was finished with Star Wars and no additional films would be made. Finally, in 1995, Lucas suddenly announced that he would produce a trilogy of prequels (Episodes I–III), for a total of six films. He also claimed that he had always envisioned "the whole thing as a series of six films".
Other sources, including publicly available draft scripts of Star Wars, show that Lucas had an incomplete and quickly-changing conception of the Star Wars story up until the release of the first film in 1977. Story elements such as the Kaiburr crystal present in early scripts are missing entirely in the films, while names were freely exchanged between different planets and characters—"Organa Major" being the original name for Alderaan, for instance (Organa later became Princess Leia's surname). Even as late as the production of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, there were significant diversions from the films which emerged. For example, Lando Calrissian being a clone from the Clone Wars and the climatic battle of Return of the Jedi taking place against two Death Stars orbiting the Imperial capital planet, then known as Had Abbadon. Another version of the Return of the Jedi script had Luke turning to the dark side after killing Darth Vader. Leia would then become the next Jedi to fight the dark side. This did not happen, however, because Lucas felt that the ending would be too dark especially with for children, a major part of the audience. In addition, the story released as the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye was intended as a possible direction for a low-budget Star Wars sequel — however, the success of A New Hope allowed Lucas to pursue the more ambitious The Empire Strikes Back instead.
For his part, Lucas claimed in a segment filmed for the THX-remastered VHS release of the original trilogy that the original Star Wars story was intended as a single film, but was later split into three because the story was too long to be told in a single film. In the DVD commentaries for the original trilogy, Lucas claims that many story elements were changed within the production of the films—for instance, the attack on the Death Star in A New Hope was moved from the end of the trilogy in order to strengthen A New Hope on its own merits, while the character of Chewbacca established the Wookiees as a technologically advanced race, necessitating their replacement with Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Other changes, including the death of Obi-Wan in A New Hope, were made during the filming. Lucas also stated in the commentaries that the prequel stories existed only as "notes" explaining the backstories of characters such as Obi-Wan. In an interview with Wired prior to the release of Episode I, Lucas remarked that he had allowed the publication of novels written as sequels to the films (see Expanded Universe) because he would never make the sequels himself.
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