Not having seen any of the Star Wars movies is a cultural faux pas the knowledge of which is best kept hidden from the public at large. Although the fanbase of this phenomenal cinematic franchise continues to grow the world over, there still remain some unfortunate few who remain untouched by the “force”, and oblivious to the rich and varied mythology that goes into making the Star Wars universe. If you are one of those, and are feeling somewhat left out in the face of the media buildup for the latest Star Wars film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this dummy’s guide will equip you with all that you need to get the hang of, before you begin your journey to that galaxy far, far away.
What is Star Wars?
It all started with a short story called The Journal of the Whills, by George Lucas that everyone found too hard to understand. To simplify his story, Lucas then wrote a 13 page treatment which eventually became the script of the The Star Wars by 1974, featuring elements like the Sith, the Death Star, and a protagonist named Annikin Starkiller. This has now become the great space opera phenomenon originating from the films. It is one of the rare stories which was first adapted to cinema and then came to literature in the form of comics and novels explaining the profound details of the Star Wars Universe for fans who refuse to leave it.
After making the commercially and financially successful American Graffiti for which he received an Academy Award Nomination, George Lucas started work on Star Wars. Making what is now an epic and a money making machine was not easy. Universal studios turned the film down when it was in its conceptual stage. Things came back on track when 20th Century Fox agreed to make the film which, at first perceived to be a flop, earned totaling $775 million. George Lucas was so sure the film would flop that instead of attending the premiere, he went on holiday to Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg, where they came up with the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). After Star Wars’ box office collection surpassed the Steven Spielberg-directed Jaws in December 1977, Spielberg took out an ad congratulating Lucas and the film. The newspaper ad showed a Star Wars character fishing out the Jaws’ shark out with a fishing hook.
Star Wars, the cultural touchstone that its become, is acknowledged to have been inspired by many sources such as Hinduism, Qigong, Greek philosophy, Roman history, Shinto and Taoism. Movies like Hidden Fortress and The Seven Samurais by Kurosawa were some of Lucas’ early cinematic influences. George Lucas confesses that chivalry, knighthood, paladinism, and related institutions inspired some concepts in the Star Wars movies, most notably the Jedi Knights. The work of the mythologist Joseph Campbell, especially his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, directly influenced Lucas, and is what drove him to create the “modern myth” of Star Wars.
All wishing to understand Star Wars must first seek to understand the “Force”. It is described in the first film as “an energy field created by all living things that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” An epic space adventure as it is the characters are capable of various supernatural abilities such as telekinesis, clairvoyance, precognition, and mind control. The Force can also enhance other physical traits such as speed and reflexes of the Force sensitive, people who can harness the Force. But the same force also has a dark side which can pull its user towards hatred, aggression, and malevolence.
The planets of The Star Wars Galaxy
A major part of understanding Star Wars lies in understanding the world it is set in. One of the main planets is Alderaan, which is a terrestrial planet and home to Princess Leia. It was destroyed by the Death Star’s superlaser. Courscant, which was first revealed in Return of the Jedi is an urban planet that was renamed the Imperial Center during the reign of the Galactic Empire. The adjective form of the planet name is Coruscanti. Naboo, a planet with mostly green terrain, is home to the Gungans who dwell in underwater cities and the humans who live in colonies on the surface. The government of the planet is an electoral monarchy and maintains a peaceful culture that defends education, the arts, environmental protection and scientific achievements. It was first seen in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Tatooine, a desert planet, is another important planet as it home to three major characters in the story. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker. Hoth, a terrestrial planet covered ice, was seen first in The Empire Strikes Back, is a base for the Rebel Alliance. The scientifically advanced planet of Kamino is the only planet where cloning technology is developed. It appeared first in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
It started in March 1976 in Tunisia, which stood in for the Star Wars planet Tatooine. The shoot started with Alec Guinness set to play Obi-Wan Kenobi. Reports then also mentioned that the film would star three younger and relatively unknown stares. Later, Mark Hamill, then 23, was signed on to play the character called Luke Starkiller (the name changed later). Subsequently in May 1976 Harrison Ford was signed on to play Han Solo in a film which was then called an “outer-space comedy-adventure”.
Sequels and Prequels
The enormous amount of fanfare, merchandising and franchise around the Star Wars galaxy has made it very hard to find out where it all started. In 1977 the first film Star Wars, written and directed by George Lucas, came out followed by two sequels. The Empire Strikes Back, 1980, was the first of the later two and was directed by Irvin Kershner and written by Leigh Brackett & Lawrence Kasdan. This was followed by Return of the Jedi in 1983, written by Richard Marquand and directed by George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan. Trilogy of squeals, produced by 20th Century Fox, restored the production house financially after a string of flop movies had brought it close to bankruptcy. In 1987 Lucas returned to Star Wars after his divorce. He had decided to give it up after the third installment but advances in filmmaking technology with CGI and a high demand for more stories from the Star Wars Galaxy, Lucas got back on the director’s chair to direct the first prequel to his brainchild called Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones that came out in 2002 and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith that came out in 2005 were all written and directed by Grorge Lucas with the exception of Attack of the Clones which Jonathan Hales co wrote with Lucas. The first three parts were later renamed episode IV, V, and VI respectively.