Princess Leia Organa, a member of the Rebel Alliance, steals the plans for the Death Star, an Imperial space station. She is captured by Darth Vader, the Galactic Empire's deadliest enforcer, but not before programming the plans into the droid R2-D2. R2 and C3PO flee to the planet Tatooine to deliver Leia's plans to former Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi. A young romantic named Luke Skywalker falls in love with Leia upon seeing R2's recording of their message. When he finds out that Imperial troops killed his uncle and aunt while he was chasing the droids, Luke helps Obi-Wan hire Han Solo and his partner Chewbacca to fly them to the rebel base on Alderaan, only to find that the Planet was destroyed by the Death Star. After the Death Star captures Solo's ship, Luke and Solo rescue Leia while Ben arranges her escape. Vader, once Obi-Wan's student of a mystical religion called Force, challenges his former mentor to a lightsaber duel. Vader apparently kills Obi-Wan, but his friends escape to deliver the plans to the rebels, who discover the Death Star's weak point: an exhaust duct leading to the nuclear reactor. As Ben/Obi-Wan's voice urges him to trust the Force, Luke closes his eyes and fires a torpedo from his starfighter, ending the Death Star's deadly career.
If you've been studying film for a few years, you take on your duties as a matter of course, just like in any other profession - until new acquaintances ask you about it. When people ask what exactly I do, their next question inevitably takes one of two forms: What made you do this? Or: What is your favorite film? These are reasonable questions, but they terrify me because no particular movie or viewing experience has made me march to the grad school catalogs to seek my fortune. I chose this profession because it seemed a natural extension of my interest in literary interpretation and in the history of such mass culture media as comics, films, television and video games, not because the profession chose me.
Yes, exactly. I've been telling myself that for a long time, but finally I see that I've blocked out the real answer. After years of mumbling answers about post-war French cinema and Hollywood film noir and Gloria Grahame and Luis Buñuel, I've finally come to terms with my primal professional scene: My revelation came in 1977, when I was nine and watching a summer of blockbusters, my small-town, single-screen theater was showing a season late because it hung over Smokey and the Bandit for 20 weeks. That blockbuster was Star Wars, and it's my absolute favorite movie.
Why did it take me so long to admit this to myself? The best reason I can think of is that the original Star Wars is a world-class Guild Pleasure for a serious film scholar. For one thing, it's not as original as we imagined three decades ago. There is not much that is new about the story and the portrayal of Luke Skywalker's development from a tearful farm boy to a galactic freedom fighter. The plot is cobbled together - some would say plagiarism - from excerpts from sources as diverse as Tolkien's swords-and-sorceries epic The Lord of the Rings; Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic Dune, with its desert-dwelling moisture builders (Tatooine, anyone?) and the intrigues of the spice trade; and even Joseph Campbell's nonfiction The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949), a work of comparative mythology influenced by Carl Jung's theory that all cultures portray human maturation as a mythical journey from antisocial naivety to public heroism. For influences on Star Wars' visual style, look no further than Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) with its massive but plausible-looking space stations, thanks to Douglas Trumbull's detailed plastic miniatures and groundbreaking process photography.
But writer-director George Lucas cast his genre-poacher's net further than fantasy, myth, and sci-fi. He showed his effects team aerial combat sequences from Hollywood war movies to demonstrate the shot settings and pacing he wanted for the Millennium Falcon's combat against Imperial TIE fighters. Thematically, Lucas drew on the obsession with honor, duty, and the spoils of loyalty and betrayal found in post-war Japanese chanbara (swordplay) films, particularly the epics directed by Akira Kurosawa. Lucas' eclecticism was hardly unique. His generation of "movie brat" directors, which included his friends Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, and future Raiders of the Lost Ark collaborator Steven Spielberg, learned their craft not through traditional Hollywood schooling, but through film -Became omnivores. They grew up watching classic films on late-night television and in big-city art-house theaters, eventually attending film schools such as Lucas's own University of Southern California, which offered courses in global film history and production. The credentials Star Wars sweeps up probably seemed as natural to Lucas and his cohort as they first seemed incoherent and unprofitable to 20th Century Fox executives. Were it not for Fox executive Alan Ladd Jr.'s faith in Lucas' "kids movie," the studio would have abandoned this expensive, uncategorizable project without hindsight.
Before you start berating those industrial cloth shirts for their lack of vision, please remember that the “old” Hollywood generation has too often been burned by big ideas not to play it safe. Witnessing expensive flops in the recent past (like Dr. Doolittle, Darling Lili and Cleopatra, the epic that Fox almost scuttled in the early 1960s), studio bosses took note of the surprise success of the no-frills counterculture film Easy Rider in 1967 and placed smaller stacks of their investors' chips on personal films about anti-heroes grappling with everyday obstacles. After Coppola's Godfather films (1972 and 1974) and Spielberg's horror-thriller Jaws (1975) became smash hits, Hollywood seemed to turn a different corner, back to the straight-forward, goal-oriented plots and more formulaic filmmaking processes of its past, but no studio felt forced to jump on the blockbuster model simply because some extraordinary films had made extraordinary business. Rather, Star Wars earned its place in Hollywood history by demonstrating the earning potential of a new breed of formula film, the "high-concept" blockbuster. Its success helped convince studio executives that they needed to reorganize their business model if they hoped to reap the unprecedented profits generated by the Blockbuster phenomenon.
While differing in obvious ways from its immediate predecessors in the blockbuster world, Star Wars also borrowed key elements from The Godfather and Jaws: the epic scope of historical conflicts and the changes they bring about, the American family as the setting for that conflict, and Techniques of suspense and surprise from detective films, Hitchcock's suspense thrillers and horror films. Lucas was as familiar with the subject of discord between generations as he was with science fiction. His USC graduation film, a science fiction short titled THX-1138 (remade as a feature film in 1971), chronicles one man's attempt to escape from a post-apocalyptic society that is dehumanizing its citizens. In Lucas' groundbreaking film American Graffiti (1973), two boys from the 1962 high school class spend one final night drag racing through their hometown, wrestling with doubts about going to college the next day. Frustrated by the cuts he was forced to make to American Graffiti by MCA/Universal, Lucas demanded the Final Cut rights to Star Wars and has since obtained or acquired those rights. His legendary commitment to overseeing his projects at every stage was evident from his founding of Lucasfilm LTD to produce Star Wars (Fox studio just funded the production and distributed the film) and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), the In-house special effects department that quickly made founder John Dykstra the most desirable effects company in Hollywood.
What no one predicted was that Lucas' reboot of the sci-fi genre would be a film so disrespectful of the genre's conventions that its first title screen set the scene not in the future, but "a long time ago, a long way away." , Galaxy Far, Far Away would garner such critical admiration and viewer fanaticism that it would gross more than $100 million ($1977, mind you) by the end of the summer — before Centerville's Burt-Reynolds-drunk Majestic Theater , Iowa even went to the trouble of bringing the film to my attention. As unoriginal as its plot and premise, as unintentionally clumsy as its dialogue, the film was successful then (and still captivates viewers today) because it simultaneously surprised us with its unexpected juxtaposition of different elements and immersed us in the aura of straight-forward, plot-driven filmmaking dived - something most viewers at a new release cinema, to paraphrase Ben Kenobi, hadn't experienced in a long, long time. This mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar certainly caught the attention of my father, who was particularly interested in the orchestral score by John Williams. My father was a lifelong opera fan who spent a winter's Saturday afternoons taping radio broadcasts of Wagner's Ring cycle with his reel-to-reel, and loved William's use of musical leitmotifs to punctuate the performances of characters like Luke and Leia To reflect plot twists and mood swings by modulating these themes as needed. The classical score, inspired by Kubrick's use of classical masterpieces in 2001, immediately made Williams an industry star himself. It is now difficult to see spaceships on a movie screen without hearing the blowing of strings or the hammering of trombones, even if only in our imagination.
In 1977, of course, I could not have put all of this into words. Little did I know that Hollywood had ever experienced a business model crisis, or that Lucas's dialogues made his actors want to strangle him, or that Star Wars was practically the only thing that set Star Wars apart from Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (1958) at the core Comic duo consisted of the androids R2-D2 and C-3PO instead of Japanese pawns, and secondly, that Lucas Fortress star Toshiro Mifune couldn't convince to play Obi-Wan. What drew me to the film at the time was its sharpness. No film I've seen outside of a Disney feature film presented such clear and vivid heroes - young, attractive, squabbling idealists, accompanied by the grandfatherly Kenobi (an unselfconsciously noble Alec Guinness) - and grotesque villains with names like Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin (played by British B-movie vampire killer Peter Cushing), spouting bwa-haha villain lines like "There's no escaping this time" as slimy as Ming the Merciless in the old Flash Gordon series (which also borrows from Star Wars). . It maintained an unrelenting tension as Luke, Princess Leia, and Han improvised their way out of the Death Star space station, then returned to destroy it. A world evolved, more like a galaxy, where smart-ass droids and giant starships looked so scruffy and were treated with such nonchalance that they seemed as plausible as my dad's Impala station wagon. I speak for the kid I was who dreamed of being either a cartoonist or a superhero in a town where neither aspiration meant much to anyone, a story about a frustrated kid who dreamed just as passionately, misunderstood to become as he dreamed of escaping the stars seemed to be the pinnacle of truthfulness.
Star Wars' low-tech, high-tech aesthetic might actually be its key innovation. Suppressing the science of sci-fi and allowing the fantasy elements to dominate allows the film's special effects to engage and persuade us more fully than they could have done had Lucas embraced the gospel of the "tough ” science fiction that novelist Larry Niven preached in the 1970s. Dykstra built his spaceships from spare parts from hundreds of model cars and airplanes, artificially aged them with grease, dirt and dents, and filmed them using an electronically clocked motion control system that he and ILM essentially invented for the film. By precisely synchronizing the models' movements with the background shots into which they were later overlaid, Dykstra gave 'ships' no larger than a foot or two in length a solidity and kinetics more compelling than any computer-generated spacecraft ever produced I have since seen . This aesthetic makes Star Wars an important bridge between the warts-and-all realism of '70s Hollywood and the future-grunge look of the action blockbuster era, particularly visible in movies like Alien and Aliens, Blade Runner, the Terminator -Movies, Total Recall and The Matrix. Lucas's technological galaxy seemed to reflect American culture's alternating complacency and fear of its scientific achievements. Machines could pull moisture from the Tatooine sands and cool a movie theater on a summer afternoon, but they could also destroy a planet at will, a concern as close to Americans as the Cold War and its hottest hotspot, the recently abandoned one Vietnam conflict.
In fact, Lucas's obsession with mass culture led him to make a personal film that happened to address the growing conservatism of post-Vietnam US political culture. Star Wars changed the industry, making a book about spectacle and simplicity while reflecting the political means conservative politicians used to try to "heal" the wounds of an ambiguous and humiliating war: a hard turn to the political right, to an ideology , which split the planet into the light and dark sides of the Force as clearly as Lucas divided the galaxy. When US President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" and dubbed his administration's never-realized nuclear deterrent plan "Star Wars," it should not have surprised anyone who has paid close attention to the film's simplified depiction of political conflict .
Lucas' wealthy decision to retain the rights to all Star Wars marketing, including everything from action figures to pyjamas, now strikes me as a gross betrayal of the idealistic ethos he espoused for me once I knew his name. And I, along with scholar Will Brooker, get angry as he chides Lucas for banning the original release versions of Star Wars and its first two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), by saying has refused to re-release them in theaters or on the domestic market since he foisted digitally "enhanced" special edition versions of the films on to the public in the late 1990s. Sure Lucas invented those characters and concepts and stories, but what gives him the right to change or erase the work of the actors and crew that helped make the film the hit that it became, or who Herd about the historical significance of this ride? films originally looked and sounded like? (To be fair, I must note that Lucas eventually gave in to fan pressure and appended the original versions to the latest special edition DVD sets.) However, by the late seventies Lucas was raising all the funds from the mounds of toys, Produced for the connoisseurs, Lucasfilm seemed to me to be more than just his desserts. I wasn't even envious of his own intergalactic empire built on billions of painted plastic pieces doomed to fall out of car windows or get lost in furniture cushions forever; The original Star Wars action figures weren't so much things I wanted as necessities like Nacho Cheese Doritos or my bike. Without having plastic figures of Luke, Leia, Vader, and the droids as totems close to me, my frustrated dream of proving myself a deep, sensitive hero would have become unbearable. Like most proper nerds, I suppose, but unlike most Star Wars fans, I fully identified with Luke, avoided bad boy Han Solo for his resemblance to the anti-intellectual bullies I encountered in middle school, and Princess Leia wanted to be very idiosyncratic to me, with all the proto-erotic, pre-pubescent angst a straight nine-year-old boy could muster, no matter how much her hairstyle resembled a Danish twin.
That is my confession, dear reader. But tell me at a cocktail party and I'll deny everything, screech something about Citizen Kane or Antonioni fame and accuse you of remaining a secret Wachowski Brothers fan even after Speed Racer crashed and burned. Then please let that be our secret, OK? I'll keep silent if you want.
1. Katherine Fusco provided invaluable research support for this paper.
Cast and Crew:
[Country: United States. Production Company: Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox. Directed by George Lucas. Screenwriter: George Lucas. Camera: Gilbert Taylor. Sound Designer: Ben Burtt. Music: John Williams. Editors: Richard Chew, Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, TM Christopher (Special Edition). Production Sound Engineer: Derek Ball. Dolby Stereo Sound Consultant: Stephen Katz. Cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin), Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO ). ), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), David Prowse (Darth Vader), James Earl Jones (Darth Vader, voice), Phil Brown (Uncle Owen), Shelagh Fraser (Aunt Beru).]
„Star Wars“: The Year’s Best Movie“, Time, 30. Mai 1977, S. 54–6ff.
Gary Arnold, „Star Wars“: A Spectacular Intergalactic Joyride“, Washington Post, 25. Mai 1977, S. B1.
Peter Biskind, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the SexDrugs-and-Rock-’N’-Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1998.
Will Brooker, Using the Force: Creativity, Community, and 'Star Wars' Fans, London, Continuum, 2002.
Owen Gleiberman, "Empire of Fun [review of the "Special Edition" re-release of Star Wars]," Entertainment Weekly, January 31, 1997, pp. 32-3.
Matt Hills, „Star Wars in Fandom, Film Theory, and the Museum: The Cultural Status of the Cult Blockbuster“, in Julian Stringer (Hrsg.), Movie Blockbusters, London, Routledge, 2003, S. 178–89.
Derek Johnson, "Star Wars Fans, DVD, and Cultural Property: An Interview with Will Brooker," Velvet Light Trap, Vol. 56, Fall 2005, pp. 36–44.
David A. Kaplan, with Adam Rogers and Yahlin Chang, "The Force is Still With Us [Report on the Re-release of the Star Wars 'Special Edition']," Newsweek, Jan. 20, 1997, p. 52.
Jack Kroll, „Fun in Space“, Newsweek, 30. Mai 1977, S. 60.
„Murf“, „Star Wars“, Variety, 25. Mai 1977, Nr. P.
Justin Wyatt, High Concept: Filme und Marketing in Hollywood, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1994.
The Routledge Encyclopedia of Films edited by Sarah Barrow, Sabine Haenni and John White, first published 2015.
- Film review: The Station Agent