Star Wars-Lots of Borrowing But Lots of Originality As Well
Much could be said about the whole Star Wars phenomenon, in fact books have been written. But in terms of the first film, which most people reading this review are likely to be at least fairly familiar with, I will keep my review more focused on why the film worked. Many of the reasons that Star Wars was so successful is brutally obvious. No one had seen anything like the film in 1977. It was truly a breakthrough film and the visual effects could have carried the film even if the script had been weak. However, the solid script focusing in on the universal issue of self-discovery and crossing into adulthood combined with the visual effects made the film unstoppable. Lucas’s heavy borrowing of Asian mythology, lore, philosophy and thought gave the film an additional universal appeal.
Yet, I would argue as I am sure others have, as this topic has been endlessly explored, that the political turmoil of recent years made Star Wars even more attractive as a vehicle for escapism. The Vietnam War and Watergate Scandals were still fresh in the minds of many and escapism of this magnitude were more than welcome. In fact the message of good versus evil and clearly cut lines of morality clearly resonated with the audiences of the day.
A further reason for the success of the film is that it taped into the emerging techno-culture that we now find ourselves living in today. Clearly, there was a large segment of the population that found technology and the possibility of what technology could do to be endlessly fascinating. We were living in a society that had seen rapid technological advances and many young people were, of course, fascinated with what technological advancements were around the corner. Star Wars and other popular science-fiction helped feed and spark that imagination.
To a certain extent one could argue that the success of Star Wars and Star Trek had a large generational component, as we see the decline of the Western and the steady rise of science-fiction at the box office. In short, Star Wars was to become the new archetype of the Western or the Western in space if you will. Just as Gene Rodenberry pitched Star Trek as a Western wagon train in space, Star Wars has similar elements as well. Space was viewed as wild and untamed, everyone had a gun on their hip and shoot outs were common and the law was never on hand.
It would be too easy to say that the success of Star Wars was strictly based upon the visuals of the film, there were numerous other elements ranging from flashes of brilliance in the script and understanding the mood of the times, to the digital transition that our society, all help explain the success of the film. That said, we should not forget that it was a film that roped the audience in with universal themes, excellent set design for its day, fast pacing, solid acting and a story that captivated audiences in 1977.
Today, many would say that the story is not that original, but that is only because we now live in a pop-culture world that has imitated and recycled Star Wars endlessly. In some ways it is an amazingly simple story, a young man discovers that he is more than be believes himself to be, that he has a destiny and must face numerous challenges. Yes, that is a very old story, but Lucas was the first big-budget filmmaker to place the story in space and simultaneously wraps his story up with stunning visuals on the big screen. Yes, he borrowed endlessly from all sorts of sources and he has tarnished his legacy with his newer incarnations of the Star Wars saga, but we should not forget why these films were successful and we should not forget to give Lucas credit for being the first to pull it off. Sadly, he was also the first to “pull-off” Jar-Jar.
Enjoyability Grade A+
Home Theater/HD Factor A+
Overall Grade A+