Star Wars

27 11 2007

Star WarsIt’s hard to overemphasise the impact that Star Wars has had on modern cinema. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws laid the groundwork, but Star Wars became the prototype for the effects-laden blockbuster. That countless imitators (and the imitators of the imitators) often missed the point when it came to the success of Star Wars was a sad but inevitable outcome.

Director George Lucas, who had great success with American Graffiti just prior, filled his screenplay with everything swimming around in his subconscious from childhood entertainment: westerns, adventure serials, comic books, fairytales, samurai films, war films, pulp science fiction and anything else that sprang to mind. Yet everything in Star Wars seemed to exist in a coherent universe, where princesses could exist alongside bounty hunters and fighter pilots. In short, he concocted the most delicious blend of fantastic imagary that bounces around a ten-year-old boy’s head and then splashed it on cinema screens everywhere.

The plot, furthermore, followed closely the monomyth as detailed by Joseph Campbell but never felt written-by-the-numbers. Instead, the audience seems to be partaking in a ritualised retelling of an ancient story dressed in the tropes of 20th century pop culture, and it’s this dual nature of the film — contemporary, yet timeless — that no doubt lead to its massive popularity and longevity. We all knew the sources of inspiration and so it was immediately familiar without being strictly derivative. This was the Hero’s Journey for pop culture junkies.
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