Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Reel 35

"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."

This month marks the 35th anniversary of STAR WARS.

The significance of STAR WARS has often been lost, or forgotten over the years.  Most Film Appreciation classes will begin their lessons by teaching the date of May 25, 1977 as a vital one in cinematic history; not only because of the multi-generational fanbase, but for the way STAR WARS altered the course of the movies forever.
Beginning with the story…STAR WARS is inspired heavily (and makes no attempt to hide it) by the revered works of Joseph Campbell, the early FLASH GORDON TV serials, and the classic film THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958). It is familiar ground which is given a fresh spin courtesy of a new universe presented in an opera-like style. The story is a coming of age tale, coupled with good vs. evil and a few reluctant heroes for good measure. The characters took on familiar personas that felt fresh; a farmer, a pirate, a wizard, and a bad guy who wore black. It was a throwback, and a reminder to future filmmakers of the power of classical stories.

Maybe not so difficult to conceive, it was a near-impossible task to craft. The vision for STAR WARS was a literal galaxy away from existing motion-picture technologies in the 1970’s. With nowhere to go, technologies were invented on the spot; tech that would evolve into the now infamous effects company, Industrial Light and Magic. ILM would become a juggernaut in visual effects; pioneering the way to digital creations backed by outstanding sound. Things we take for granted today in the media/tech world; Blu-ray, surround sound, CGI…can all trace their roots back to STAR WARS.
The film made household names out of virtual unknowns. Although Sir Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing and James Earl Jones had already been around the block for a few years, it would be their STAR WARS roles which would define them for the rest their lives. The same would be said for the younger cast, which involved a certain actor destined to wear a leather jacket and fedora hat. And there would be no STAR WARS without the magical score by John Williams.

And then there was the merchandising, which is one of the major reasons Film Appreciation classes tend to teach 5/25/77 every semester. STAR WARS was the first of its kind to be promoted through a toy line; action figures, vehicles, playsets, mugs, lunchboxes, pajamas, video games and anything else limited only by imagination. Today, toylines are an automatic thing to attach to a new movie. Prior to STAR WARS, it was not.

And the cultural impact was, and still is massive. It is arguably the most quoted and parodied film in history. Character names and costumes seem to be everywhere, and events like the Oscars and the Super Bowl can’t seem to get by without a few references.

This Blogger has certainly written plenty about the influence STAR WARS has played in his life, so no more will be written about it here. Despite the many debates the film can spur, the impact it has made on cinema is clear, and that will never change.  

"This will be a day long remembered..."

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