A galaxy far, far away began nearly 39 years ago, when creator George Lucas gave the world Star Wars. Spawned by watching old serials such as “Flash Gordon,” Lucas’s invention was released to the public in May of 1977. In the years since, the property has expanded into seven movies, three cartoons, and an innumerable amount of books, video games, and merchandise. Even without these, Star Wars has taken on a life of its own.
The recent release of “The Force Awakens” has reinvigorated one of media’s largest properties. A new generation of characters was introduced to the world, signaling the beginning of a new trilogy. As with “A New Hope” and “The Phantom Menace,” the new films, including this years “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” will serve as a jumping on point for a new generation of fans.
The release of a Star Wars film is an event. 16 years separated the original trilogy from the prequels, and another decade has passed since we received a new film. Online ticket sites had crashed servers when “The Force Awakens” tickets were released. Deemed “the most anticipated release of all time” by fans, the numbers show, as the film has broken nearly every box office record ever.
A phenomenon without borders, Star Wars fans have diverse feelings towards the films, but generally love the lore the saga has created. “Its ability to bring people together from all ages, all decades,” Sutton Raphael, a University of Oregon journalism student, said. “How cool is it that you have a place where grandparents, nephews, sons, parents, can all feel joy in one place. Its ability to bring people together is real special.”
“Star Wars has inspired me along with millions of others. Helped me to establish relationships that have lasted me to this very day,” Jenica Lamoreaux, a UCC student, said. “It’s very special to me.” Currently, the UCC Student Bookstore is selling shirts and other merchandise to tie in with the new film.
The original 1977 Star Wars was one of the first stepping-stones to Hollywood’s infatuation with video effects. The release of the first film sold out with lines of people wrapped around city blocks. The film also broke ground in music and thematic departments as it proved the once dying science fiction genre. Models and early uses of CGI brought the universe’s alien creatures and vehicles to life in ways previous science fiction films had never done.
The impact Star Wars has had on Hollywood cannot be overstated. Although not the first blockbuster, Star Wars set a new precedent for how films were viewed and created. The “Hollywood Blockbuster,” those films typically reserved for the summer, was altered with the space epic, as it made films more grand, more unbelievable, and, most importantly, more enjoyable to watch. Star Wars sparked influence in both “E.T.” and “Raiders of Lost Ark,” with the two being the highest grossing film in the year they were released.
Since then, Star Wars has gained most of its profits from toy sales. The toy line has survived nearly 40 years with even sets and figures from movies released decades ago still sold. Over 12 billion dollars of revenue has been gained from action figure lines, dolls, Lego, and other toy merchandise based around Star Wars, according to StatisticBrain.com.
Tie-in video games and books have helped to further enhance Star Wars’ legacy. Classic novels like the “Thrawn” trilogy and games like “Battlefront” and “Knights of the Old Republic” give depth to the mythology and offer a greater immersion into the saga.
Several television shows based on the Star Wars universe have also been produced. Two in particular, “The Clone Wars,” and “Rebels,” are noteworthy animated equivalents to the films. These series have been nominated for Emmy awards and Disney officially labels them as part of the Star Wars canon.
Perhaps Star Wars’ greatest claim is its influence on pop culture. Numerous television shows, from “Family Guy” to “The Big Bang Theory” to “30 Rock” have either parodied or referenced Star Wars in some fashion. Culturally, Star Wars is a property known by all, and loved by many. Characters synonymous with the sage such as Darth Vader or Yoda are recognizable icons to even those who have never seen the movies. Phrases like “May the Force be with you,” and “I have a bad feeling about this” are uttered in everyday society. Star Wars popularity has even given rise to an official holiday on May 4th, cleverly titled “May the 4th be with you.”
Star Wars’ full reach will never fully be determined or appreciated. Millions of fans from the original trilogy watched the films and garnered a whimsy, love, and admiration that still serves them today. Their children were raised on the prequels, and now a new generation will follow suit. George Lucas’s imagination created a galaxy in hopes of making a fun, spirited movie; he may never have thought it would impact millions of people and years of society. Like the Force itself, fans know Star Wars as that one things that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.