by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum
Up above the desert Outer Rim planet of Tatooine, a desperate battle rages between the evil Galactic Empire and the Rebellion who oppose them. But down on the planet’s surface, Luke Skywalker lives on a quiet moisture farm with his over-protective uncle and aunt where nothing interesting or exciting ever seems to happen. At least, not to Luke. But all that changes one day when Luke’s uncle purchases two new droids to work on the farm and one of the mechanical helpers claims to be on a secret mission from the Rebellion to find the mysterious Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke must choose between the mundane but safe life he’s always known or the mantle of a hero destined to fight against evil in the galaxy.
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“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” might be one of the most famous openings to a film in cinematic history, but back in the 1970s before the first Star Wars film was released, there was no guarantee that George Lucas’ audacious space opera would make any money, let alone revolutionize the way people thought about movies forever. Beset with on location difficulties (rain and sand storms, oh my!), budget issues, a hefty bit of scorn from the higher ups at the studio, and starring three relative unknowns in the leading roles, Lucas’ space epic, inspired by the stories of his own youth, might have seemed doomed to failure.
Yet despite all this, Star Wars (which would later be renamed “Episode IV: A New Hope”) made record breaking amounts of money at the box office and kick-started an unprecedented level of fan hysteria which continues to this day (for proof one need only look at the latest installment of the franchise, The Last Jedi, which to date has made over $1.3 billion and has been nominated for four Oscars). Fans were lining up around the block to see this movie! People were connecting with this strange yet familiar fairy tale in space, with its hopeful messages and its princesses and scoundrels and farm boys fighting against galactic monolithic evil.
Two more films (The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) were released in 1980 and 1983, completing what is now referred to as the original trilogy. In 1999, The Phantom Menace was released as the first film in the prequel trilogy (followed by 2002’s Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith), which follows events in the life of Luke’s father. In 2012, George Lucas sold Lucasfilm, along with the rights to the Star Wars franchise, to Disney who in turn launched their own series of films (The Force Awakens, 2015. Rogue One, 2016. The Last Jedi, 2017) following new sets of characters and centering female protagonists.
Amidst all the hype nowadays, it might be easy to forget that Star Wars began as one man’s passion project. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and the late Carrie Fisher might be household names now, but back in the ’70s almost no one knew who they were. Today Star Wars has been branded across the collective consciousness as a true cinematic phenomenon, but its humble origins are still important to remember.
So, travel back to the cinema of the ’70s, turn down the lights, make some popcorn, and experience the beginning of the Star Wars Saga whether for the hundredth or the very first time!
A note to parents: Although all three original trilogy films and the first two prequels are rated PG, Revenge of the Sith, Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi are all rated PG-13. Revenge of the Sith in particular contains disturbing themes and imagery. We recommend looking up the films on sites like Common Sense Media before deciding if they are right for your family.
- One of the most distinguishing features of the Star Wars films are their soundtracks composed and conducted by John Williams, who has himself become a fixture of the film industry. Do you have a favorite musical moment from the first film and how do you think the film might change if it were scored differently?
- R2-D2 and C-3P0 are bought and sold at the beginning of the film and are later banned from the cantina for being droids. Do you think it’s okay to treat artificial forms of intelligence this way? Why or why not?
- After the destruction of her home planet, we don’t see Princess Leia work through this colossal loss on scene, however the film spends whole scenes with Luke dealing with the loss of his family and later “Ben” Kenobi. Why do you think this is and how do you feel about it?
- George Lucas stirred up controversy years after the release of Star Wars by creating “special editions” of the original trilogy films with updated special effects and some deleted scenes put back in. Do you think it’s a filmmaker’s right to alter their own creations or should a film be left alone once it has been released and never be altered? Explain your answer.
- If you have seen the other films in the saga, how do you think the first film holds up to them?
- Do you have a favorite film in the saga? Which one and why?
StarWars.com – the official website
The Star Wars Show – go behind the scenes with the latest additions to the franchise with news and interviews
DIY Death Star Nightlight (flashing lights warning)