- This article is about the Star Wars saga and franchise. For the original 1977 movie released with that name, see Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. For the missile defense program, see Strategic Defense Initiative.
Star Wars is the name of a nonilogy series of science fantasy movies, a literary franchise, and a series of video games based on the ideas of filmmaker George Lucas.
The original trilogy (Episodes IV, V, and VI in story order) is about the Galactic Civil War, in which the ragtag Rebel Alliance battles the Galactic Empire in an epic struggle between good and evil. Young Luke Skywalker, training to become the last (and the first of a new generation) of the mystical warriors known as the Jedi, may be the only person who can stand against Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith and his master, Emperor Palpatine.
The prequel trilogy (Episodes I, II, and III) portray the events leading to the Galactic Civil War, with the fall of the Galactic Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire, from the Battle of Naboo between Naboo and the Trade Federation through the Clone Wars against the Confederacy of Independent Systems. These wars are secretly orchestrated by the Sith under the mysterious Darth Sidious, who secretly controls both sides. The prequel trilogy centers around the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, who was trained as a Jedi after the Battle of Naboo but gradually turns to the Dark Side of the Force, becoming Darth Vader under the counsel of Palpatine in Episode III.
The films draw extensively on archetypal figures and themes of classical literature. They are based on the concept of "the Force", an energy which can be controlled by someone born with innate ability and trained to perfect his or her skill. The Force can be used to move objects, read or control minds, or even influence the outcome of large battles. A person trained in the use of the "Light Side" of the Force is a Jedi; someone trained in using the "Dark Side" for evil is a Sith.
The story is set "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." This phrase, which also appears at the opening of all six films and many Star Wars spin-offs, has become a part of American pop culture.
The original idea for Star Wars was conceived in the early 1970s and went through many revisions, providing plenty of material for the films. The original Star Wars movie (which did not originally have the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope, until its re-release in 1980, before the release of The Empire Strikes Back) was first released in 1977, but the novelization was released a year earlier, in 1976. The sixth Star Wars film (Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) is due out on May 19, 2005. There were originally supposed to be nine films in three trilogies, in which the later three (Episodes VII,VIII,IX) would tell the tale after the fall of the Empire, and the outcome of the Rebel War; however, Lucas has stated that he does not intend to make any more Star Wars films after Episode III.
The Star Wars story has been presented in a series of American movies, which have spawned dozens of books. The Star Wars mythos is also the basis of many toys and games. The films and books are set in outer space and employ common science fiction motifs. Star Wars is an outstanding example of the space opera sub-genre of science fiction.
Whereas Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, another science fiction franchise that has enjoyed long-lasting popularity in American popular culture, takes a rational and progressive approach to storytelling, Star Wars has a strong mythic quality. Unlike the heroes of earlier space-set sci-fi film and TV series such as "Star Trek", the heroes of "Star Wars" are not militaristic types but romantic individualists. College literature professors have remarked that the Star Wars saga, with its struggle between good and evil, democracy and empire, can be considered a national epic for the United States. The film has many visual and narrative similarities to John Ford's "The Searchers" that also provides a clue to the relationship between Leia and Luke.
The strong human appeal of the Star Wars story probably accounts for its enduring popularity; it has also been postulated that this popularity is based on nostalgia. Many Star Wars fans first saw the films as children, and the revolutionary (for the time) special effects and simple, Manichean story made a profound impact.
The Star Wars films show considerable similarity to Asian Wuxia "Kung Fu" films, as well as Roman mythology. Lucas has stated that his intention was to create in Star Wars a modern mythology, based on the studies of his friend and mentor Joseph Campbell. He has also called the first movie's similarity to the film The Hidden Fortress (Akira Kurosawa) an "homage."
The Star Wars films portray a world full of grime and technology that looks like it has been used for years, unlike the sleek, futuristic world typical of earlier science fiction films. In interviews, Lucas tells of rubbing the new props with dirt to make them look weatherworn. Lucas may have been inspired by the Sergio Leone films of the 60's which performed a similar function on the Western many years earlier. It is tempting to speculate that this break from traditional science fiction film influenced the cyberpunk genre that emerged around 1984.
Officially-licensed Star Wars novels have been published since the original movie was released in 1977. Although these novels are licensed by Lucas (meaning he shares in the royalties), he retains ultimate creative control over the Star Wars universe, forcing Lucasfilm Licensing to devote considerable ongoing effort to ensuring continuity between different authors' works and Lucas's films. Occasionally, elements from these novels are adopted into the highest tier of Star Wars canon, the movies -- the name of the planet Coruscant, for example, comes from the novel Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. Books, games, and stories that are not directly derived from the five (soon to be six) movies of Star Wars are known as the Extended or Expanded Universe (EU for short). Lucas has said that he does not deeply involve himself in the EU, choosing instead to concentrate mainly on his movies instead of "...the licensing world of the books, games and comic books."
The original (1977) Star Wars (A New Hope) has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
In 1978 Lucas sued the creators of Battlestar Galactica for its alleged similarity to Star Wars, although the case was dismissed as having no merit in 1980 by a Federal judge.
The line "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...", which appears at the beginning of every Star Wars film, is the only way the Star Wars galaxy has been defined in relation to the real world. It is alluding to the classic fairy tale line "Once upon a time, in a faraway land..." and variations thereof. It may reflect that the films are to be interpreted as the myths of the future, as opposed to literally meaning the events take place in the past. Lucas himself intentionally left the details open to interpretation.
The scope of Star Wars history spans over 25,000 years among all the Star Wars fiction produced so far, 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. All aliens prior to this series came from the one galaxy the films are set in.
Star Wars stresses the self-destructive nature of anger and hate, summed up in Yoda's words ("Fear is the path to the dark side: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering"), as well as placing one's feelings for certain people aside. For example, Luke Skywalker is told to remain on Dagobah to complete his training rather than rescue his friends from Cloud City, because doing so will "destroy all for which they have fought and suffered."
Some interpret Star Wars to advocate democracy over dictatorship, though it offers no alternative for the corrupt Republic's government, while others see it as supporting monarchy over democracy. It should, however, be noted that the republic presented is portrayed as an initially suitable form of democracy, yet one which demonstrates an almost inherent tendency to fall into corruption (as the first stage in a process of decay which eventually leads to a dictatorship), and that even the films' most prominent monarchy - Naboo - is democratic.
There appear to be anti-technological messages in the films - the primitive Ewoks and Gungans defeating technological adversaries, and the general idea of technology opposed to humanity - fitting with Lucas' vision. This site explains this theme and others in its analysis of the writing of Star Wars.
The galactic setting of Star Wars is never given a name and is called simply "the galaxy." Since the characters never venture beyond the galaxy and the power of both the Republic and the Empire ends at its borders, the galaxy can be said to serve as a microcosm of both Earth and a country.
The main story arc in the films traces the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, mirrored by political events occurring on a galactic scale. As Anakin is seduced by the Dark Side, the Republic slides into despotism and war; when Anakin reclaims the Jedi values of peace and justice, the evil Empire that supplanted the Republic is overthrown by the Rebel Alliance.
- Main article: Expanded Universe (Star Wars).
The Expanded Universe refers to all of the officially licensed Star Wars material outside of the two trilogies, including books, comics, games, and other forms of media. It began with Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye, in 1978. In addition to filling in the time around the movies, this additional content greatly expands the Star Wars timeline. Books, due to the fact that they can have longer, more detailed stories, have made the biggest contributions to the Star Wars universe. They mostly focus on the events around the movies and after Episode VI, and on the main characters of the movies.
Some notable EU characters include the twins Jaina and Jacen Solo, the strong but angry Mara Jade, and the tactical genius Grand Admiral Thrawn (full name Mitth'raw'nuruodo).
In the Expanded Universe, the Empire suppresses alien species because most Imperials are xenophobic, but this idea appears in the films only subtly (or, arguably, not at all). The idea of the Empire enslaving aliens is an analogy to racism.
Listed in order of story time:
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (19 May 1999)
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (16 May 2002)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (scheduled release 19 May 2005)
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (25 May 1977) original title was Star Wars; the first Star Wars movie to be released
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (21 May 1980) (or simply "The Empire Strikes Back")
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (25 May 1983) (or simply "Return of the Jedi")
The recurring leitmotif of the Star Wars Imperial March is one of the best known movie musical themes. Another well-known piece of music created for Star Wars is Duel of the Fates.
All the original films were shot at, among other locations, Elstree Studios. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was filmed at Leavesden Film Studios and the subsequent prequels were filmed in Sydney, Australia. Tunisia has served as the location for filming scenes set on the desert planet Tatooine in A New Hope, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.
George Lucas has tinkered repeatedly with the original trilogy. Episodes IV through VI were remastered and re-released (both theatrically and on VHS) during 1997, and again on DVD in September 2004. The films underwent extensive clean-up and restoration work, and Lucas took advantage of this opportunity to make a number of changes. In a September 2004 interview with AP, he explains his reasons for the changes:
- To me, the special edition ones are the films I wanted to make. Anybody that makes films knows the film is never finished. It's abandoned or it's ripped out of your hands, and it's thrown into the marketplace, never finished. ... Most artists, most painters, even composers would want to come back and redo their work now. They've got a new perspective on it, they've got more resources, they have better technology, and they can fix or finish the things that were never done. ...
- I wanted to actually finish the film the way it was meant to be when I was originally doing it. At the beginning, people went, "Don't you like it?" I said, "Well, the film only came out to be 25 or 30 percent of what I wanted it to be." ... If you read any interviews for about an eight- or nine-year period there, it was all about how disappointed I was and how unhappy I was and what a dismal experience it was. You know, it's too bad you need to get kind of half a job done and never get to finish it. So this was my chance to finish it.
The re-release changes are a point of contention among fans, many claiming that they taint the movies. The fans' ire is increased by the impossibility of legally obtaining DVDs of the original releases. Ironically, Lucas testified before the U.S. Congress in opposition to colorizing black and white films (a position he has reiterated as recently as August 2004 ). Many fans see this attitude as hypocritical, but the types of alterations Lucas is opposed to are done without the consent of the artists involved in the original production, as opposed to changes he made to his own films.
There seem to be certain repeated elements between the original and prequel trilogies.
- In the first part of the trilogy (Episode I & IV) the master of the main protagonist dies (Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan)
- In the second part (Episode II & V) the protagonist suffers the loss of his right hand (Anakin, Luke).
- In the third movie (Episode III & VI) the protagonist battles Palpatine's Sith apprentice before Palpatine. The third movie also displays an army of hairy and primitive woodland creatures (the Wookiees and the Ewoks).
- At the end of several battles, the loser falls down a huge shaft (Darth Maul, Episode I; Luke Skywalker, Episode V; and the Emperor, Episode VI).
Star Wars the radio adaptation, NPR 1981, was followed by adaptations of the next two films of the series. These adaptations were written by science fiction author Brian Daley, who also wrote three novels detailing the adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca prior to their appearance in A New Hope.
Many made-for-TV films have been made about Star Wars. The first was The Star Wars Holiday Special, which became famous for the first appearance of bounty hunter Boba Fett. An originally minor detail, the Wookiee food of wookiee-ookiees, became a cult symbol in the Star Wars fan universe, spawning plays on its name such as wookiee-cookies (a Star Wars-themed dessert) and the term Wookiee-Hooky (the act of skipping school to see a Star Wars film, particularly if it has just been released).
After Return of the Jedi, two films about a family marooned on the forest moon of Endor were made.
Spaceballs (1987) is a Star Wars parody movie by Mel Brooks.
The Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards is a Lucasfilm sponsored contest of short films made by Star Wars fans about, referencing, and parodying the Star Wars phenomenon.
Animated TV shows
Three cartoon series have been based on Star Wars. The first two began in 1985 and Clone Wars began in 2003. Ewoks featured the adventures of the Ewoks prior to Return of the Jedi. Droids featured the adventures of C-3PO and R2-D2 between Episode III and Episode IV. Clone Wars features the adventures of the Jedi as they fight against the Confederacy of Independent Systems in the Clone Wars, set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
Star Wars-based fiction predates the release of the first movie, with the novelization of "A New Hope" (by Alan Dean Foster but credited to George Lucas) released some months before the film itself. In 1978, Foster wrote the first original Star Wars novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, inaugurating a very successful literary spin-off franchise.
The six Star Wars movies provide a basis for dozens of books. The books have been officially authorized by Lucasfilm, and were previously published by Bantam Books (with a few early titles published by Ballantine), though Del Rey now holds the contract again. The stories told by these books extend from a time long before The Phantom Menace to a time long after Return of the Jedi. Books authorized by Lucas are written by fans of the films, and are part of a collection known as the Expanded Universe. The first books considered to be part of the Expanded Universe began to appear in the late 1970s.
The Expanded Universe experienced a revolution in the New Jedi Order (NJO) series, which recently concluded with The Unifying Force. The NJO tells the story of a horrific invasion by the extragalactic Yuuzhan Vong, and includes the passing of many heroic characters.
Some fans of the original Star Wars movies reject the literary works of the Expanded Universe, and insist that only the films and the statements made by George Lucas interpreting his own works can be accepted as canonical. This is bolstered by statement made on StarWars.com to the effect that the only true canon are the films.
Many of the books that have been written also take place during the events of the film. For fans, these can be more exciting stories, as it opens up the narratives for many characters that only have a minor role, or even just briefly seen, in the movies. Every character has their own in-depth tale. Of particular note is Steve Perry's Shadows of the Empire, which is set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In addition to focusing on relatively minor characters, it bridges some events between the two films. It also includes more scenes of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine scheming together, offering a greater understanding of their relationship (the nature of which is only now becoming clear in light of Episodes I through III).
Other books include such titles as , Inside the Worlds of Star Wars , and the Visual Dictionaries , which detail things about the Star Wars universe and the films in a "non-fiction" style.
Perhaps the most widely acclaimed contribution is Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy, which covered what many fans had hoped would constitute Episodes VII, VIII, and IX. These books are considered to have captured the story and flavor of the original movie trilogy very well, and drew upon existing published works from other Star Wars-based fiction writers.
Comic books and strips
See also: List of Star Wars comic books
Marvel Comics published adaptations of the original trilogy as well as a Star Wars comic book series which lasted from 1977 to 1986, a total of 107 issues. A wide variety of creators worked on this series, including Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, Al Williamson, Carmine Infantino , Walt Simonson, Michael Golden , Chris Claremont, Whilce Poratio , Jo Duffy , and Ron Frenz . In the 1980s, as part of their Star Comics line oriented towards young children, Marvel also published the short-lived series Ewoks and Droids, based on the Saturday morning cartoons.
Star Wars was also a daily newspaper comic strip from 1979 to 1984, written for the bulk of its run by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Al Williamson.
Beginning in the 1990s, Dark Horse Comics has published a large number of original adventures set in the Star Wars universe. As of 2004, these mainly include Star Wars Republic, Star Wars Empire, Star Wars Tales and Star Wars Jedi. Dark Horse has also published collections of the Marvel series in seven volumes and the comic strip as Classic Star Wars. In addition, the company has reprinted several Japanese manga interpretations of the films which retell the stories using the artistic devices and idioms of the form.
See also Star Wars computer and video games
Since 1983, over 120 video games have been published bearing the name of Star Wars, beginning with 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back' published for the Atari 2600 by Parker Brothers. Other early titles include the game Star Wars for the Nintendo Entertainment System (published by JVC) and three other titles for the Atari 2600.
Video game pioneer Atari produced arcade games based on the original trilogy, beginning with "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back", which were both 'flight sim' style games that utilized vector graphics. The third, "Return of the Jedi", used more traditional raster graphics and a '3/4' perspective.
The longest running series of computer games is the Dark Forces series. This first person shooter series began in 1995 with Dark Forces. The next in the series was Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, which allowed the player to play as a Jedi. The third game in the Dark Forces series, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, focused more on a third person Jedi adventure than the previous games. And the fourth and latest release was Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, which originated as an expansion pack for Jedi Outcast, but evolved into a game of its own.
Another long running video game series began with Star Wars: Rogue Squadron for the Nintendo 64 and continued in Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II - Rogue Leader and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III - Rebel Strike for the Nintendo GameCube. The first title was also available for PCs, and all were developed by Factor 5 and published by LucasArts. 'Rogue Squadron III' featured emulated versions of the original Atari Star Wars arcade games.
Star Wars: X-Wing returns to the space fighter combat gameplay not seen since the Atari aracde games. Players generally played as a pilot for the Rebel Alliance, completing a variety of goals, culminating in the destruction of the Death Star. This game had sequels, in the form of Star Wars: TIE Fighter, Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter and Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance.
Two role playing games set in the Star Wars universe have been published : a d6-based game from West End Games and a Wizards of the Coast game using the d20 system on which their popular Dungeons & Dragons is based. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, published in 2003, won over 40 different gaming awards in 2003, including Game of the Year recognition from several prominent gaming magazines, websites, etc. A sequel, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, was released for the Xbox in December of 2004 and the PC in February of 2005.
Star Wars Galaxies introduced fans to the gameplay of an MMORPG set in the Star Wars universe. It was released in June of 2003 by Sony Online Entertainment.
Star Wars: Battlefront was released in 2004 and is a vehicle-based first/third person shooter game capable of online play where you can play in both trilogys on places like Hoth, Geonosis, etc. You can also play as Republic Clonetroopers, Rebel soldiers, Confederate Battle Droids, and Imperial Stormtroopers.
Star Wars: Republic Commando is a first person shooter computer game featuring the elite Clone commandos of Delta Squad and set during the Clone Wars. It was released on March 1, 2005.
Still in the works is Star Wars: Empire at War which is a real-time strategy game of the Star Wars universe. Currently being developed by Petroglyph Games, it is scheduled for a Fall 2005 release date.
Also Obisidan Entertainment hinted that they are keen on continuing the Knights of the Old Republic-saga with a couple of more games, possibly making KotOR 3, 4 and 5.
See List of Star Wars characters for more extensive listings.
Anakin Skywalker | Admiral Ackbar | Admiral Piett | Bail Organa | Boba Fett | C-3PO | Chewbacca | Count Dooku | Darth Maul | Darth Sidious | Darth Vader | General Grievous | Grand Moff Tarkin | Han Solo | Jabba the Hutt | Jango Fett | Lando Calrissian | Luke Skywalker | Mace Windu | Obi-Wan Kenobi | Padmé Amidala | Palpatine | Princess Leia | Qui-Gon Jinn | R2-D2 | Yoda |
Jedi | Rebels | Villains | Bounty Hunters | Droids | Tatooine Residents | Miscellaneous |
Cast and crew
Last updated: 10-22-2005 04:07:51