I was first introduced to the Star Wars film series a long time ago, in a day care center far, far away. I was probably six, or perhaps seven years old. I see my memory eludes me. The pattern of my elementary school’s day care program was unmistakable: you have some time to do homework after school, then you have nap time, then the tall people serve you snacks with a movie on a nice HD analog TV before you go home. While I can’t really remember which episodes I have seen in elementary school, I do remember watching them. After all, who doesn’t remember a little green alien jumping around with some serious sword skills? To date, I have seen six of the seven films (all but the CGI/animated one) at least twice. Though I do not consider myself a hardcore Star Wars fan, I do have great admiration for the series.
The Star Wars franchise became so immense because of two key factors: historical relevance and revolutionary film technology. In terms of historical relevance, the franchise drew directly from WWII and the Cold War. For example, many of the imperial guards in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi wore helmets and uniforms reminiscent of the German soldiers in Nazi Germany. Furthermore, in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the final scene depicts Luke Skywalker and Han Solo walking down a great hall with formations of soldiers flanking them on both sides, quite reminiscent to the Throne Room scene during Hitler’s Third Reich. While the franchise may have lost some of its connection to WWII today, its militancy is still relevant, especially with the recent “war on terror”. The Star Wars setting is a definite head nod to the Space Race during the Cold War (1957-1975). Light sabers, floating ships, different life forms, colonized planets, and battle-ready droids are all fantasy creations that paralleled with the unprecedented drive in scientific innovation and technological spin-offs during this era. Indeed, anything seemed possible with the power of imagination. As space still represents the potential of technological advancement and the mystery of the great unknown, the Star Wars series still remains rather relevant today.
The advancement of visual and sound effects helped the Star Wars franchise achieve its popular success. Camera techniques contributed to the success of the franchise. According to Devy, a writer for the peer-shared encyclopedia website Bukisa, Star Wars was the first film to exhibit a camera move across a star field. In addition, George Lucas created the Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) visual effects studio during this time, which specifically made special effects for his Star Wars films. ILM still continues to create special effects for Hollywood today, playing a major role in classics like Jurassic Park (1993), Forrest Gump (1994), Men in Black (1997), and in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. The sound effects of light sabers, robots, aliens, and spaceships of the Star Wars series were innovative, and inspired many sound engineers after the first film. Lucas consequently established the Skywalker Sound Company, which provided high quality sound effects and played an important role in many blockbuster films like Forrest Gump (1994), Titanic (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and King Kong (2005). Lucas also created THX Ltd., which set standards to ensure high quality sounds in audio devices. If there had been no Star Wars, there would have been a longer wait for improved qualities of sound and visual effects in the film industry.
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say I’m a Jedi knight on the Millenium Falcon enroute to Tatooine with Jar Jar Binks, R2D2, C3PO, and an Ewok. Apparently something goes awry and a life must be exchanged for the survival of all. Jar Jar Binks is vital to the crew because he’s a morale booster – he provides comic relief. Furthermore, he led his brethren in battle against the Trade Federation in Star Wars Episode I, so he possesses some courage and bravery as well. R2D2 is a brave and robust robot, who seems to be adequately equipped in handling a variety of situations, like flying a spaceship, shocking enemies, and hacking into enemy mainframes. I wouldn’t want to give R2D2’s versatility. Now here’s the difficult choice: C3PO or an Ewok. C3PO is a great partner because he can speak millions of languages. They say the pen is mightier than the sword, so it’s not a bad quality to have indeed. However, this quirky robot is scared and doubtful of everything. He couldn’t even convince the Ewoks to let go of Luke and his friends with his “divine powers”. Ewoks are brave, fearless, and big on tribal unity. However, they are also primitive and rely on strength in numbers. But who has the heart to kill a teddy bear not even half the size of human? Perhaps I can kill the enemy with the Ewok’s cuteness. So with all things considered, I vote to scrap C3PO. I suppose I could find raw materials to build another C3PO on Tatooine at my leisure. I suppose this makes me a candidate for the dark side.