George Lucas's original Star Wars
trilogy is a clever synthesis of pop-cultural and mythological references, taking classic fairy-tale themes, adding more than a dash of Arthurian legend, and providing cinematic high adventure inspired as much by Kurosawa's Samurai epics as by Flash Gordon
and Buck Rogers
. As a result, audiences of all ages can find something to identify with in Luke Skywalker's journey from disaffected teenager dreaming of adventure to Jedi Knight and saviour of the galaxy. He not only rescues a Princess, but discovers she's a close relative. And if there's a lesson to be gleaned from the Skywalker clan, it's that no matter how bad things get in the average dysfunctional family, it's never too late for reconciliation. Originally released in 1977, Star Wars
, the first film, was made as a standalone. Perhaps that's why Obi-Wan Kenobi seems a tad inconsistent in his attitude towards his old pupil Anakin Skywalker, and perhaps also why Luke is allowed to develop a guilt-free crush on Princess Leia. Lucas's story, told from the point of view of the two bickering droids (a device taken from Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress
), also borrows freely from Errol Flynn's Robin Hood
, as does John Williams's seminal Korngold-inspired music score.
Thanks in equal part to Leigh Brackett's screenplay and Irvin Kershner's direction The Empire Strikes Back
(1980) is the most grown-up instalment in the series. The basic fairy-tale is developed and expanded, with the principal characters experiencing emotional turmoil--blossoming romance, mixed feelings and confused loyalties--amid a very real threat of annihilation as Darth Vader's motivations become chillingly personal. Luke's quasi-Arthurian destiny is complicated still further by the half-truths of his wizardly mentors; and swashbuckler Han Solo finds the past catching up with him, quite literally in the form of bounty hunter Boba Fett. The film is graced by more fabulous landscapes (ice, forest, clouds), more unforgettable new characters (Yoda), more groundbreaking special effects (the asteroid chase), and John Williams's finest score.
The difficult third film, 1983's Return of the Jedi
, seems schizophrenic in its intentions, hoping to please both the kiddies who bought all the toys and an older audience who appreciated the narrative's epic and mythological strands. The result is a film that splits awkwardly into two. One thread, which might be subtitled "The Redemption of Anakin Skywalker", pursues the story of the Skywalker family to a cathartic conclusion. The other thread, which might be described as "The Care Bears Go to War", attempts to say something profound about primitivism versus technological sophistication, but just gets silly as furry midgets doing Tarzan whoops defeat the Emperor's crack legions.
In 1997 Lucas re-released the three original films in digitally remastered "Special Edition" versions, in which many scenes have been restored and enhanced (some would say "unnecessarily tinkered with"). Despite loud and continued criticisms from fans, these Special Editions are now considered definitive, if only by Lucasfilm. --Mark Walker
The first three Star Wars films reworked as creator George Lucas intended. Using state-of-the-art technology, Lucas and his team cleaned up the prints, updated the special effects and added new footage. Originally released before 'Episode I - The Phantom Menace' (1999) the films have been renamed to fit in with Lucas's original vision. The story follows the adventures of a band of fearless rebels who try to take on the might of the awesome Empire, led by the evil Emperor and Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader (Dave Prowse). Throughout their quest, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) meet terrifying foes, new allies and bizarre creatures. In 'Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope' (1977), on discovering a secret hidden inside a droid that his family have bought, young farmhand Luke Skywalker becomes involved in a battle between the forces of light and the evil Empire. Along the way he meets up with a Jedi Knight (Alec Guinness), a roguish space pilot, a beautiful princess and an evil tyrant. In 'Star Wars Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back' (1980), after the destruction of the Death Star, the rebels led by Luke and Leia are on the run from the vengeful Empire. Holed up on an inhospitable ice planet, they are soon discovered and must flee across the galaxy. Luke decides to visit an old Jedi Knight while Han and Leia become involved in a game of cat and mouse with Vader and a host of bounty hunters led by Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch). In 'Star Wars Episode VI - Return of the Jedi' (1983), with Han being held captive by Jabba the Hutt (voice of Larry Ward), his friends Luke, Leia, Lando (Billy Dee Williams), Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO plan a rescue mission. Then the intrepid group must make another assault on the new, more powerful Death Star and Luke must face his destiny in the shape of Darth Vader and the Emperor.