History of Star Wars

Star Wars Currently

Geeks around the world are having to go through some…changes. We had all just settled into our comfy worlds, where the original Star Wars trilogy was fantastic, the new Trilogy generally sucked, George Lucas hated us, we hated him, and all was good in the world. We still had the Extended Universe Novels, The Clone Wars animated series, and a variety of good, and not so good games based on the franchise in the console, roleplaying and tabletop game arenas. Then, our comfy little geek world suffered a shift, when in October 2012 Disney announced it reached a deal with George Lucas to acquire all Studios, Licenses, and products associated with Lucas. Now, we wait on the edge of our seats for the 1st of reportedly many new films to come.

han solo

Star Wars fandom reacts

The Star Wars fandom was caught completely by surprise and the questions flew. “What is Disney going to do with the series? Who is still involved?” Some of these questions have since been answered, with Disney’s announcement of another series definitely in the works, the cancellation of two Animated Disney projects (including The Clone Wars,) and rumors that the original acting crew might actually come back together to make guest appearances in any new films put out, under the current director’s hand of JJ Abrams. There is still plenty of speculation about the direction of the series though, particularly can anything new, under the Disney banner, possibly accomplish what the first trilogy did, and launch an empire?

Star Wars history

It’s hard to believe, but over thirty years ago, the original Star Wars, A New Hope hit theaters. Put together with a shoestring budget of about eleven million dollars, A New Hope grossed almost eight-hundred million dollars globally in its initial theater run. In the process it also launched the careers of three relatively unknown actors at the time, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford. It also launched a rebirth of science fiction as a new serious genre in film, before dominated by B reel horror films, and art pieces such as Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Followed in 1980 by The Empire Strikes Back, and then in ’83 with Return of the Jedi, the trilogy became the new standard in producing serious epic films set in space. It also spawned a massive fan following, one that created fan-films, stories, and art. The three movies also created massive speculation to his creative process, because starting with Star Wars, the movies titles included the mysteries of being episodes four, five and six, indicating at least three other possible movies in planning.

Star Wars 1978-1997

Not only was there a massive outpouring of support on the fan level, official licensed expansions of the story started production, fueling the massive “Expanded Universe” that surrounds the Star Wars canon. The Expanded Universe started in 1978 with a comic series produced by Marvel, and eventually developed and picked up by Dark Horse comics. Novels followed as well, all of which officially licensed and approved by George Lucas. He often had direct input on the Expanded Universe series of products. He retained all approval on any pivotal character changes included in the novels and comics. Marriages, children, deaths, all had to have the Lucas seal of approval, further building the idea that Lucas wanted the expansion of his universe before, and after the trilogy. Lucas did keep some fan work under wraps though, since he already had episodes one through three written, and was waiting for technology to catch up with his visions for a new trilogy.

As lead up to his new trilogy, in 1997 Lucas re-released the original trilogy with changes to several scenes with added digital technology and effects. He also included scenes he did not have the ability to film as he intended in the original production. To put it mildly, some of these changes (including the infamous change that spawned the t-shirts “Han Shot First”) were not well received by the fandom. Lucas retained support though, as the entire community waited for the release of Episodes 1, 2, and 3.

Star Wars 1999 to present

In 1999, The Phantom Menace hit theaters…and many in Star Wars fandom said, “you mean this is what we get?” Critics were hard on the film, though Roger Ebert rated it at three and a half stars, most fan and community aggregators gave the film a relative panning, with rating in the 5-6 range out of 10 for Metacritic, and a 57% positive review rate on Rotten Tomatoes. For many, it looked like Lucas lost his touch with his audience, as many critics and fans pointed their literary blasters squarely at the character Jar Jar Binks, whom many considered proof that Lucas cared more about marketability then story or his fans any longer. Despite the flat reviews, the film still grossed almost a billion dollars combined internationally.

The two movies that followed, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, definitely did better, though it could never really carry forward the hype of the original film in the prequel trilogy. Attack of the Clones did about seven-hundred million internationally, which still makes it a massive hit. Most fans also were friendlier towards this movie, as despite the comedy made of the name, the movie focused more on the development of the growing conflict, and as a result, we saw less of the politics of the first movie, and more of the heroics that fans wanted to see from the fight between Jedi and Sith. The Prequel trilogy culminated with Revenge of the Sith, and fans agreed that they really wished the rest of the prequel had nearly the personality of this third movie. Lucas’s direction still lacked the impact of the original, but the liberal use of amazing digital effects, and thrilling action sequences made this an eye candy feast for the eyes. Despite the somewhat lackluster acting from most of the cast, the film managed to not only gross over seven-hundred million dollars internationally; it also closed the loop story that began with the original trilogy.

Star Wars games

Star Wars in the future

So now we get to speculate about a new confirmed trilogy, can it live up to the designs of the originals, or will it follow the somewhat lamentable example of the prequel trilogy? Will Disney milk it merely for the money, or do we have people actually invested in the universe? Disney has a history of taking licenses and wringing from them every last dime and dollar, regardless of the consequences concerning fan support. They have already said that they are unlikely to follow the canon created with the Expanded Universe series of stories, so how will fans react to the story splitting of their favored franchise? It looks like we may have to wait until 2015 to find out whether the history of Star Wars will predict its future.

Copyright © 2013 Michelle Harlow

Poster image source: https://twitter.com/amy_geek/status/661951690002685952

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