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Friday, February 5, 2016

The Star Wars Saga

Three prequels and three sequels (with two more in the offing).
On course to become the biggest
grossing film ever.
We have a family tradition that every New Year's Eve, we go out to dinner then to see a movie (sometimes the only movie we see all year). Normally I acquiesce to something my wife likes, usually some dumb (and very forgettable) romantic comedy. This year, however, I dragged her kicking and screaming to see Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens (episode VII). She had in mind to sleep through the whole thing but literally came in for a rude awakening (several, in fact). They kept blowing things up...and waking her every few minutes. As you might have guessed, she's no great fan of the Star Wars franchis which George Lucas in 2012 sold to Disney for $4.2-billion. For myself, I've seen (I think) all six of the previous episodes. Therefore, as we left the theater and all the way home, I spent the next hour filling her in on all the character's relationships and the background leading up to the most recent installment. I'm not going to get involved in any of that, nor discuss the new plot or characters. I've already paid homage to George Lucas, one or two of his movies, and the artwork involved in their creation. This is not about any individual Star Wars episode. There are way too many to single out any particular one to expound upon. Instead I propose to discuss all of them--what some have called the Star Wars saga.

The first trilogy (the prequels, top row) a the second trilogy (the sequels, bottom row).
Trivia question: Which characters appear in both trilogies?
"Long ago in a galaxy far, far away..." George Lucas opened up his creative genius brain and gave us Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV). The long ago year, to be more precise, was 1977, the galaxy far, far away was Hollywood. It was the first time in history a motion picture storyteller began his tale halfway through the adventure. Why? Simply because, in Lucas' galaxy far, far away, when you strike gold, you hang on to it, mining it for every yellow nugget you can. Lucas worked his golden mind to tell what happened to bring Luke, Leia, Solo, Yoda, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2D2, and C3PO together in the first place, and what happened to them later. Thus, in terms of characters (and casts), the Star Wars saga has three prequels (the first trilogy), three sequels (the second trilogy), and eventually, once Disney gets done milking their mega-billion-dollar franchise for all it's worth, three sequels to the sequels (the third trilogy). By the time all is said and done, the galaxy may still be far, far away but it's not going to have been all that long ago.

The "Force" behind the Star Wars saga. Does he have a dark side?
Aside from its science-fiction technology, Star Wars features elements such as knighthood, chivalry, and princesses all related to archetypes of the fantasy genre. However, the Star Wars world, unlike fantasy and science-fiction films which featured sleek, futuristic settings, has always been portrayed as dirty and grimy. Star Wars contains many political themes which mainly favor democracy over dictatorship. The plot climax of Star Wars is modeled after ancient history, specifically the fall of the democratic Roman Republic and the formation of an empire. Star Wars also reflects events following the September 11th attacks. Some critics have drawn similarities between the rise in authoritarianism from around the beginning of The Clone Wars until the end of the Old Republic and the U.S. government's actions after 9/11, specifically the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001.

 Even in the far, far off galaxy of Hollywood, actors continue to age.
With so many episodes and two distinctly separate casts, it's interesting that the second trilogy cast featuring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Alec Guinness (now deceased) had been the most memorable. So great has been their popularity and identification with the Star Wars saga that all three living actors were cast with important roles in the most recent episode, Harrison Ford having a starring role, while Mark Hamill has no lines and little more than a few seconds on screen. Carrie Fisher maintains her gutsy, no-nonsense demeanor that made her such a breath of fresh air in the original second trilogy (no bikini get-up this time around, though).

Intelligent life in a galaxy far, far away.
Quite apart from the main (humanoid) characters Lucas created, his secondary cast of alien-looking characters have become as beloved as those wielding light sabers. (I almost forgot, Yoda was a Jedi Knight.) "I'd rather kiss a Wookie than..." became a figure of speech while Yoda's strange syntax could be heard as often in school yards as between office cubicles. And come Halloween, Darth Vader lives again. To date, the Star Wars film franchise has grossed over $30-billion with the remaining three episodes having the potential to rake in for Disney another thirty-billion in revenue. Depending on sources, the Star War saga is the most lucrative film series in motion picture history, though the ongoing James Bond series and Harry Potter give it a run for the money. The only question remaining is whether Disney can finesse such a valuable property in line with the demanding expectations of the massive army of Star War fans (or fanatics) Lucas sold them as an intangible bonus of Lucasfilms.

George Lucas' worst nightmare.
Lucas' latest undertaking, eventually will grace Chicago's lakefront.


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