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Entertainment Earth


"Star Wars takes place in a galaxy far, far away.
I think it's near Pasadena."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator



Star Wars is a science fantasy saga and fictional universe created by writer / producer / director George Lucas during the 1970s. The saga began with the film Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), which was released on May 25, 1977, by 20th Century Fox. The film became a pop culture worldwide phenomenon - spawning five more feature films, three spin-off films, five television series and an extensive collection of licensed books, comics, video games, and other products - all of which are set within a fictional "galaxy far, far away."

An example of the space opera genre, the Star Wars story employs archetypal motifs common to both modern science fiction and ancient mythology, as well as the romantic music motifs now often associated with those genres. Unlike the traditional science fiction films preceding it, the Star Wars world was initially portrayed as dirty and grimy, rather than sleek and futuristic. In interviews, Lucas tells of rubbing the new props with dirt to make them look weather-worn, a concept he has referred to as "a used or ancient future", a concept further popularized in the film Alien of the same era. He may have been inspired by Sergio Leone, whose 1960s films performed a similar function for the Western genre.

Arguably, one of the most important film innovator working today, George Lucas has continually "pushed the envelope" of filmmaking technology since his early days as a student at USC. Considered a wunderkind by his contemporaries, he had a much harder time communicating his vision to studio executives, whose meddling managed to compromise each of his first three feature directing efforts in some way. The monumental success of "Star Wars" (1977) ushered in the era of the 'blockbuster', which, despite the recent popularity of low-budget, independent films, is still the prevailing mentality powering the Hollywood engine. Though he set the tone and established the expectations influencing studios to devote the bulk of their energy and resources to films designed to blast off into hyperspace and earn spectacular profits, it is doubtful that a film as revolutionary as "Star Wars" was in its day could get made in the current climate.

The saga shows us a very "ancient" galactic civilization thousands of years old. The setting is totally unrelated to Earth or our galaxy, which gives it more liberty, in a sense. The Star Wars Galaxy prominently features aliens who are essentially identical to humans. Their civilization was able to develop space travel, terraform, build ecumenopolises and build space colonies 200,000 years ago.

Star Wars melds science with supernatural elements that strongly relate to epic stories and fairy tales (for example, magic, knights, witches, princesses and whimsical alien races such as Ewoks and Gungans).

The scope of Star Wars history spans over 5,100 years among all the Star Wars fiction produced so far (from Tales of the Jedi to Star Wars: Legacy), even though the films span only two generations. Later novels from a series dubbed New Jedi Order opened up the Star Wars setting with alien beings named Yuuzhan Vong that came from a different galaxy. Most aliens prior to this series came from the one galaxy in which the films are set.

Episodes I, II, and III (the Clone Wars) chronicle the downfall of the Old Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire. It is also the story of Anakin Skywalker's rise as a gifted young Jedi and his eventual fall to the Dark Side of the Force. Episodes IV, V, and VI (the Star Wars) pick up approximately nineteen years after the events of Episode III, during the Galactic Civil War, which leads to the downfall of the Galactic Empire at the hands of the Rebel Alliance. These films follow the story of Luke Skywalker, the son of Anakin Skywalker, and his rise in the Rebel movement against the Empire.

Many different influences have been suggested for the Star Wars films by fans, critics, and George Lucas himself. For example, Lucas acknowledges that the plot and characters in the 1958 Japanese film The Hidden Fortress, directed by Akira Kurosawa, were a major inspiration and influenced him to tell the story of Star Wars from the viewpoint of the humble droids, rather than a major player. It also played a role in the conception of Darth Vader, whose trademark black helmet intentionally resembles a kabuto. More particularly, the arch-villain in Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai wears a black samurai helmet to which Vader's helmet bears a remarkable resemblance. The Jedi, nearly extinct futuristic knights of the former Republic, also have a high influence from the Samurai as spiritual warriors and duelists with a strong sense of honor and devotion to their duty. Their traditional clothing even resembles kimonos.

Prior to writing the script for Star Wars, George Lucas originally wanted to make a film of Flash Gordon. The rights for Flash Gordon, however, were held by Dino De Laurentiis, and Lucas decided to work on his own science fiction project instead.

Other influences in Lucas's creation of Star Wars was the writings of Joseph Campbell (Campbell's work explored the common meanings, structures, and purposes of the world's mythologies) and from Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, published in the early 1950s. It is often argued that Star Wars was influenced by Frank Herbert's classic science fiction book Dune. Many elements of Star Wars are also evident in Dune. There are so many similarities, in fact, some Dune devotees consider Star Wars little more than a campy film adaptation of Herbert's work. Some comic book fans have drawn parallels between Star Wars and Jack Kirby’s epic Fourth World series, published by DC Comics and Darth Vader shares some visual similarities with Kirby’s armored über-villain Dr. Doom, co-created with editor/scripter Stan Lee at Marvel Comics.

The Star Wars saga has also been influenced by historical events; Lucas claims to have drawn on ancient Rome, World War II and the Vietnam War for inspiration. The reference to the historical past can be seen with Lucas's use of stormtroopers, commonly associated with the stormtroopers of World War I Germany and Nazi Germany, and also associated with the SS under Hitler in World War II. These troopers acted as the Nazi party’s military force, under Hitler’s direct control. Similarly, the stormtroopers of Star Wars acted as the Empire’s military force, under Palpatine’s direct control. Lucas also based the space battles in A New Hope on World War II-era aerial dog fights. The rise of Palpatine mirrors Hitler in that a democracy becomes an empire.


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The Star Wars saga began with a 14-page treatment for a space adventure movie that Lucas drafted in 1973. According to one source, Lucas initially wrote summaries for fifteen stories that would make up the Star Wars saga. Out of these fifteen stories, Lucas originally planned to film only one of them as a feature film. Then, in 1978, following the success of the first released Star Wars film, he publicly announced that he would create a total of twelve films to chronicle the adventures of Luke Skywalker (in the original scripts, the character’s name was Luke Starkiller). In 1979, Lucas retracted his former statement, saying that he would instead make nine films. Four years later, having completed Return of the Jedi, Lucas announced that he was putting Star Wars on indefinite hold until special-effects technology had improved to his satisfaction. Finally, in 1995, (after seeing the effects results of ILM's work on Jurassic Park) Lucas decided that he would produce the trilogy of prequels (Episodes I, II, and III), for a total of six films. He also claimed at the time that he had always envisioned "the whole thing as a series of six films".

Other sources, including publicly available draft scripts of Star Wars, show that Lucas had an incomplete and quickly-changing conception of the Star Wars story up until the release of the first film in 1977. Story elements such as the Kaiburr crystal present in early scripts are missing entirely in the films, while names were freely exchanged between different planets and characters - "Organa Major" being the original name for Alderaan, for instance (Organa later became Princess Leia's surname). Even as late as the production of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, there were significant differences from the films which emerged - for example, Lando Calrissian being a clone from the Clone Wars and the climactic battle of Return of the Jedi taking place against two Death Stars orbiting the Imperial capital planet, then known as Had Abbadon. Another version of the Return of the Jedi script had Luke turning to the dark side after killing Darth Vader. Leia would then become the next Jedi to fight the dark side. This did not happen, however, because Lucas felt that the ending would be too dark.

Lucas has been criticized for allegedly deviating from his original conception of the universe that was introduced in the original 1977 film. The Star Wars prequel trilogy has also been accused of similar retroactive changes that were allegedly not part of Lucas' original concept for Star Wars. But, hey, it's his story, he can do what ever he wants!

For his part, Lucas claimed that the original Star Wars story was intended as a single film but was later split into three because the story was too long to be told in a single film. Lucas claims that many story elements were changed within the production of the films - for instance, the attack on the Death Star in A New Hope was moved from the end of the trilogy in order to strengthen A New Hope on its own merits, while the character of Chewbacca established the Wookiees as a technologically advanced race, necessitating their replacement with Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Other changes, including the death of Obi-Wan in A New Hope, were made during the filming. Lucas also stated in the prequel stories existed only as "notes" explaining the backstories of characters such as Obi-Wan. It has been reported that Lucas's original script was almost 500 pages long. The title, originally The Adventures of Luke Starkiller, was changed several times before becoming Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

The term "Expanded Universe" has come into existence as an umbrella term for all of the officially licensed Star Wars material outside of the six feature films. This includes television productions, books, comics, games, and other forms of media. The material expands and continues the stories told in the films, taking place anywhere from 25,000 years before The Phantom Menace to 120 years after Return of the Jedi. The first Expanded Universe story appeared in Marvel Comics' Star Wars #7 in January 1978 (the first six issues of the series having been an adaptation of the movie), followed quickly by Alan Dean Foster's novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye the following month.

George Lucas retains ultimate creative control over the Star Wars universe. For example, the death of central characters and similar changes in the status quo must first pass his screening before authors are given the go-ahead. In addition, Lucasfilm Licensing devotes considerable effort to ensure continuity between the works of various authors across multiple companies.

Some purists reject the Expanded Universe as "Apocrypha", believing that only the events in the film series are part of the "real" Star Wars universe. However, elements of the Expanded Universe have been adopted by Lucas for use in the films. These included the name of the Republic/Empire capital planet, Coruscant, which first appeared in Timothy Zahn's novel Heir to the Empire before being used in The Phantom Menace, while a character introduced in Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars series, a blue Jedi Knight named Aayla Secura, was liked enough by Lucas to be included as a character in Attack of the Clones (and is seen meeting her demise in Revenge of the Sith in an ambush on a jungle planet).

What was the original name of the first Star Wars movie when it went into production?

Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Starkiller
The Star Wars
Adventures of Luke Skywalker
Adventures of Luke Starkiller, As Taken From the Journal of the Whills, Saga 1: The Star Wars


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