Now don’t misunderstand me, when I say Star Wars, I mean the original three-film trilogy that I grew up with. I am not including the “Special Editions” with “additional footage” that George Lucas released to cash in on the original trilogy’s continued popularity. He took some footage off the cutting room floor, slapped it in, and marketed it to the college-age Gen Xers, who had been children during the films’ original theatrical runs.
Nor am I talking about the CGI-driven, profit-seeking prequel trilogy. The prequels have some great moments, but not their own moments, just nostalgia moments for those of us who love the original trilogy and its characters.
And when I speak of “The Trilogy”, I am certainly not talking about the Lord of the Rings films, which are ok, but not great at all, unless you like documentaries about walking long distances. The original Star Wars Trilogy is a brilliant slice of Pop Culture History, which needs to be cherished as such by all generations.
I will start off by telling you that I am not a “Fanboy”, but a fan. I can’t tell you what planet Grand Moff Tarkin is from, or who played the Gamorrean Guards. But I have always been a big fan of the films and their characters, having grown up in the wonderful 1980’s, the best time in history to be a kid. We had the best toys, the best cartoons, and the best movies.
Now, let’s get to the reasons Star Wars is great…
1. Sci-Fi Impact
Star Wars made the Space Genre, and Sci-Fi in general, cool again for the first time since Star Trek.
I’ve never understood the rivalry between fans of the two most influential Sci-Fi creations of all time. If you’re a true fan of Sci-Fi, and/or the Space Genre, how can you not love both?
The fact that both are still popular today, and both series continue to release new content in one form or another speaks to their cultural impact. And add in the countless Sci-Fi films and TV shows that were inspired by them, or at very least influenced by them, and definitely were made possible by their popularity, and you see where I’m going with this.
Is there anyone living in a modernized part of the world today, who hasn’t heard of Star Wars, and wouldn’t recognize it’s major characters? I doubt it.
2. Great Characters
That brings me to point number two: Star Wars has the best characters of any film in history.
What little boy growing up in the 1980’s didn’t long to be Han Solo? What little girl didn’t try to fix her hair like Princess Leia, and then try to do so again in their college days? Who wasn’t terrified of Darth Vader as a child, and then idolized him as an adolescent and young adult? Who doesn’t admire Boba Fett’s cool and intimidating presence, despite barely saying a word? Who doesn’t appreciate the Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello, straight man/foil, comic relief of the droids, R2D2 and 3CPO? They were HILARIOUS! And you just know R2 is cussing 3PO out 90% of the time, in whatever curse words droids use!
And we got to see the growth of the main characters throughout the trilogy, as we grew up ourselves. We see Luke’s progression from an annoying, nerdy farmboy, mourning the loss of his family and his mentor, to become an annoying and nerdy, yet very powerful Jedi Master, saving the world in the process. We witness Han’s progression from a selfish criminal, to a galactic hero with love in his heart. We watch Leia grow from a demanding, spoiled brat princess, to a levelheaded leader, who leads by example, and a great encourager to those around her. We’re engrossed as we watch Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker transform from a brutal, machine-like tyrant, to a loving father and a last minute hero, with flashes of the humanity within him peeking out along the way. We see Yoda progress from a strange thief with mixed up grammar, to a brilliant master, imparting to us such brilliant philosophies as, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
And these films make you care about the wellbeing of their characters. You have to care about them, because you grew up with them. You worry when they are in danger. You feel for them when they are sad. You cheer with them when they are victorious.
And what’s cooler than a Wookie? Nothing!
3. The Subtle Messages Within
When we watched these films as kids, to us, it was all about The Rebel Alliance vs. The Empire, but that wasn’t the only battle being portrayed within.
It was also a metaphor for Good vs. Evil, Right from Wrong.
Being released at the height of the Cold War, it was also an Anti-Communism, Anti-Imperialism statement.
It also mirrors Christianity, with the battle of good vs. evil, the false savior coming first and taking over the world, and then being defeated by the true savior, who uses an unseen force within him to defeat evil and darkness once and for all, and make the world a better place.
With the little guys beating the rich and powerful Empire, it’s also a great metaphor for “The Battle of the Underdog”.
4. The Toys!
All of you who grew up in the 80’s will agree with me, there never has been, and never will be, better toys than Kenner’s Star Wars line of toys.
Their 3.75” plastic action figures, complete with detachable weapons and accessories, became the industry standard that all future toy lines strove to replicate. GI Joe toys in the 80’s may have been more intricate, but they own it all to the popularity and way-paving of Star Wars toys.
5. Still A Factor
Even now, decades later, as the original fans begin to show signs of aging, Star Wars is still relevant in today’s Popular Culture. The original fans are still as passionate as ever, and new generations of fans are born every day.
The original Star Wars Trilogy is still great, and always will be. Its impact is here to stay.
©2010 Denim McDemus