BY JACOB LAURITZEN
When Star Wars was first released in May 1977, no one knew the impact that it would have on future generations of filmmakers and film goers. What later became, Episode IV: A New Hope, was made for just 11 million dollars. By today’s standards, that is a very small budget film. It has gone on to gross 775 million dollars. That doesn’t even account for inflation.
So, what was (and continues to be) the big deal about Star Wars? Well, I’m glad you asked. When it was released, it was unlike anything film goers had ever seen before. The scale of the movie was as grand as it gets and the special effects alone motivated fans to return again and again and again. Remember, in 1977, if you wanted to watch a movie again, you couldn’t just Netflix and chill, you had to pay again and again–and fans did.
But special effects alone aren’t enough to garner the attention that Star Wars has maintained over the years. It had to tell an engaging story as well. Star Wars is not just a movie about battles in space or about laser swords. It is a movie about a farm boy from a desert planet he leaves his home to make a difference in the universe. Deep, right? It’s also the story of a daring rescue of a princess from an impenetrable fortress. It’s also the story of how two droids can help overthrow an empire. And it’s also the story, or rather part of the story, of how the galaxy’s greatest hero, becomes it’s greatest villain, and returns to grace. It’s a lot of things to a lot of people.
I grew up watching Star Wars on VHS. And I loved it. It’s hard to say why. When I rematched the movie this past week, I had to ask myself honestly why I like this movie. It’s a classic, sure. It’s part of a larger story that I love, sure. But this movie is simply fun to watch.
It’s slow in the beginning. There is a lot of screen time spent introducing fans to this galaxy far, far away. There are a lot of new creatures and characters, which by today’s standards, don’t seem that unusual.
Since we are judging the movie by today’s standards, it is fair to note that the special effects now look very dated. Over the years, George Lucas has rereleased the movies several times and with each iterations he has added new things. I can see why he changed what he did. I won’t even get into whether Han shot first or not, because if one was seeing the movie for the first time, they probably wouldn’t care. It’s the fans that have grown to love the movie so much that care about things like that.
For me, what it comes down to is that I can watch a movie that came out before I was born and love it because it’s still that good. I think the lines are funny and catchy. I think the characters are interesting and engaging. I think the ideas are fascinating. With all the criteria one might use to determine the historical value of a movie aside, what good is a movie if it does move you in some way. Star Wars moves me to laugh. Star Wars moves me to smile. Star Wars moves me to talk and share and have fun with friends.
You may not enjoy watching a movie that came out in the 1970’s and that’s fine. It had been a long time since I had watched it in it’s entirety. But I have to admit, I really loved it. I have little doubt that I’ll feel any different in the future.