Star Wars

Year: 1977

Production: 20th Century Fox

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing

Screenwriter: George Lucas

Novelization (1976) by George Lucas

121 minutes; Color


One of the most financially successful sf film to date, Star Wars is an entertaining pastiche that draws upon comic strips, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, Errol Flynn swashbucklers and movies about WWII - the ending, for instance, is lifted from The Dam Busters (1955). Lucas may not succeeded in unifying these diverse elements into a seamless whole, but Star Wars is always visually interesting. The gratifyingly spectacular special effects and martial music hypnotize the audience into uncritical acceptance of the basically absurb, deliberately pulp-magazine-style conflict between Good and Evil. Young Luke Skywalker (Hamill) becomes involved in a mission to rescue a princess (Fisher) from the evil head of a decadent galactic empire.

The Empire's military headquarters is the Death Star, the size of a small moon and capable of destroying whole planets. With the help of an old man who possesses supernatural powers (Guinness), a human mercenary (Ford) and his alien sidekick Chewbacca, plus 2 cute robots, Luke rescues the princess and secures information that enables a group of rebel fighters to destroy the Death Star. He is assisted by a power of good, the "Force", left vaguely ecumenical enough to be equally inoffensive to all. The plot is almost precisely that of a fairy tale. The villainous hit of the film was the Emperor's associate, the asthmaticaly breathing, masked, black-clad giant, Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones). The film received a Hugo.

The special effects are very sophisticated. John Dykstra, in charge of Star Wars's miniature photography, used an automatic matteing system with the help of such technical innovations as a computer-linked effects camera. While the model work was created by US effects man, the live-action setting and effects were created by UK technicians, such as John Barry, production designer, and John Stears, physical effects.

Star Wars's influence was great, and not just within the cinema. As a direct consequence of its success, many paperback publishing houses switched their sf lines strongly toward juvenile space opera. The two sequels are The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983).

The Star Wars Trilogy - Special Edition (1997) was released on the 20th anniversary with extra footage added.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

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