By Lauren Fralinger, Learning & Research Services
In 1977, there was nothing quite like it. A fantasy story with the scale of an epic history, the overtones of a war story told through old news reels and touches of a Western from its saloon brawls and quick-drawing characters.
Star Wars planet Alderaan. User: Yesuitus2001 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
The opening lines of “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” put early audiences in mind of a fairy tale’s promise of “once upon a time”—and Star Wars indeed had all of these fairy tale elements as well.
Set in space and amid a series of exotic worlds and creatures, Star Wars tied together themes and characters that were familiar to audiences, but set in a strikingly complex, futuristic setting in a time when science fiction movies were not unheard of, but rare.
The story of the tyrannical Galactic Empire at war with the upstart Rebellion has not only continued to survive but also has evolved. The original is at the top of the list of highest grossing movies ever, and it has inspired a host other movies with similar characters, settings, themes, and ideas.
Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller is one of the more recent literary spin-offs to the series.
The enormous success of the original Star Wars led to sequels continuing to chronicle the adventures of the Rebellion’s heroes as they overthrew the Empire and restored the Republic. Followed in 1980 by The Empire Strikes Back and 1983 by Return of the Jedi, the second and third movies seemed to complete the adventures of the original three heroes—Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo. Fans demanded more, and an expanded universe of books and graphic novels were released detailing the heroes’ further adventures in the galaxy far, far away.
After 1983, the juggernaut that was Star Wars slowed, but never stopped. Rumors of prequels percolated for years, sparked by the Episode V preceding the title of The Empire Strikes Back. In 1999, those rumors became reality, and a prequel trilogy made its way to theaters, telling the story of Darth Vader’s fall to the Dark Side.
Though the prequels were fraught with criticism, their release sparked off a renaissance in Star Wars, bringing in new fans and spurring the creation of new merchandise and stories, ensuring that another generation would grow up familiar with Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, lightsabers, and the Force.
Hot air balloon in Mexico built to resemble Star Wars’ infamous villain. Tomas Castelazo / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
That renaissance is still continuing. On December 16 of this year, Star Wars will once again hit theaters around the world. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be the first of a new series of sequels, picking up after the end of the original trilogy. Though old heroes such as Luke, Leia, and Han will be returning, new heroes will be introduced, and the saga of Star Wars will continue to grow, thrive, and sweep us off to a galaxy far, far away. Until then, be sure to check out some of UM Libraries’ films and books based on the Star Wars franchise.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The Science of Star Wars: An Astrophysicist’s Independent Examination of Space Travel, Aliens, Planets, and Robots as Portrayed in the Star Wars Films and Books by Jeanne Cavelos
The Gospel According to Star Wars: Faith, Hope, and the Force by John McDowell
Finding the Force of the Star Wars Franchise: Fans, Merchandise, and Critics by Matthew Wilhelm Kapell and John Shelton Lawrence
Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination by Ed Rodley
How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise by Chris Taylor
Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn