Atlanta, GA— On May 25th, 1977, Star Wars, (later subtitled “A New Hope”) came out in the theatres. To put into perspective how long ago that was, the last man to be executed by the guillotine in France was put to death seven months later. Jimmy Carter was president, man had first walked on the moon less than a decade before, the Cold War was still going on, the internet was something many had never heard of, and the 2016 presidential race hadn’t even started yet.
Since that time there have been five more films, too many books to count, fan films, an animated show, and billions of dollars made off of George Lucas’ idea. Everywhere you go you are met with Star Wars images and paraphernalia. Lego sets, coloring books, quotes, references, and people that think they know how to talk like either Jar-Jar or Yoda.
Yet for all that, the secret to the franchise’s success seems allusive. After all, in the traditional sense of the word, it isn’t even a franchise, the movies came first. The acting is often wooden, and sometimes downright dreadful. It is filled with overly animated scenes that can make you bleary eyed, and the story itself swings from helplessly complex to little more than family feud. The stories are occasionally stretched, sometimes absolutely ludicrous. Case in point is the final installment of the first trilogy, The Return of the Jedi, when Hans Solo’s master strategy is to tap a storm trooper on the shoulder and run the other way.
Then there are the many inconsistencies and glaring problems in the story lines; for instance, if Yoda and company are so powerful that even a teenager trained in the Jedi arts can feel the movement of tiny worms in the next room, (Attack of the Clones) why can’t they tell that the emperor, who they are always hanging out with, is planning on putting them to death? And if these guys have all this ultra-modern equipment so that they can whiz around in spaceships or create wormholes at will, why are they still using swords?
It’s hard to say why we all like Star Wars, maybe George Lucas has played Jedi mind tricks on us all to so that we will mindlessly watch his stuff whether its good or not.
More likely, however, is that the epicenes of Star Wars, combined with the fact that there is a little something for everyone, is what gives the tale its massive audience. And that audience keeps coming back despite the fact that they hate some characters, don’t like some story lines, and say that some of the movies were horrible.
The tale is much like a mirror, which will allow you to cast your own ideas onto its reflective surface and find something you can relate to. If you are prolife, there is a line in Revenge of the Sith that you will say supports your cause. If you are into eastern mysticism, the Jedi are your friends. If you are into political allegories, there is plenty in this work to either support arguments that big government is big, or that it is bad. If you are a Catholic you might like the fact that much of Star Wars revolved around a character born of immaculate conception -virgin birth.
All throughout history mankind has had his legends. The Greeks had Homer’s Odyssey, the Romans had their Romulus and Remus. The ancient Germans, living in the dark depths of their never ending forests, told each other tales of golems and horrors, some of which have survived to this day. But throughout the world, all of these legends had their heroes. From China to Peru, from London to Baghdad, the stories of heroes as different and varied as the lumber jack in little red riding hood, Sung Su, King Arthur, and Beowulf have captured the imaginations of generations of earth dwellers.
And now Star Wars is one of our legends, one of the epics of our time, as much as Hobbit, Harry Potter, or Captain America is.
Some might protest that Star Wars is different, King Arthur and Sung Su were based on real people, and the world of Lucas is pure fantasy. But that isn’t quite true. Not really. Maybe there never was a grand Republic, maybe Anakin and Luke never lived, but just like any great epic, they didn’t need to. They were based on the emotions, the struggle between light and darkness, that all of mankind has always been involved in. And, much like the true struggle, there are times when the darkness triumphs-for a time. But in the end the light always wins, weather it is Beowulf defeating the dragon at last, David killing Goliath, Dr. Who destroying the Daleks, Luke bringing down his enemies, or Jesus, in the ultimate story upon which all others, both true and legend are based, finishing off Satan.
Star Wars is nothing more than the most recent reincarnation of a very old tale that began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
May the force be with you.
Andrew C. Abbott