2017 is a big year for Star Wars, having just celebrating its 40th anniversary last month in Orlando, as well as its 8th “Skywalker Saga” installment The Last Jedi hitting the silver screen this Christmas. Star Wars is bigger than ever. Amidst all the massive marketing campaign, large scale conventions, future films planned into the 2030s, it is hard to believe that the film which started it all, 1977’s Star Wars (later retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope), was originally a low budget independent film that almost never saw the light of day (it was passed on by Universal Studios and United Artists before being picked up by 20th Century Fox). What is it about Star Wars that has solidified itself as one of cinema’s most significant picture?
At its heart, Star Wars is a saga about storytelling and character. Sure, the climatic trench run sequence remains as breathtaking as ever, lightsabers remain one of Sci-Fi’s most innovative creations. However, what makes Star Wars such an enduring masterpiece is that its relatable characters and humanizing theme resonates even with audiences of today. At its core, Star Wars deals with many themes that parallels aspects of our lives through the lens of compelling and relatable characters. In particular, the legendary trio of the film – Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia Organa.
Star Wars is a children’s film, there’s no denying that. However, Star Wars serve as a viewfinder for many of us to identify the challenges that we’d ultimately face as we grow up. Perhaps the strongest theme of the film, is the notion of light versus dark, good against evil. The Galactic Civil War between the Rebel Alliance and the daunting Empire teaches us the struggle in facing a greater force.
The film follows the journey of its protagonist, Luke Skywalker. Luke has dreams, but feels incredibly confined due to where he is. Luke represents the uncertain adolescent who wants life to begin but doesn’t know where to start. The idea of an uncertain future is something that plagues many of us at some point in our lives. In many ways, Luke serves as a conduit for audiences to immerse themselves into a galaxy far, far away. Throughout the course of the film, we see one boy accepting his true calling to stand against the Empire. The journey from reluctant farm boy to galactic hero remains a timeless and inspiring tale for many of us.
However, what makes Star Wars truly different from the rest, is that it shows us that sometimes life isn’t as simple as light and dark, good and evil. Of its rich library of compelling characters, there is probably no other character that threads the line on the grey yet still radiates undeniable coolness like Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
Luke Skywalker is the hero of the saga, there’s no question about it. Though Luke’s journey into a galactic savior is an exhilarating one, it is however one that was set up. Throughout the saga, Luke was trained under the wings of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and then Yoda, with a clear motivation to confront Vader and take down the Empire. Han’s story in Star Wars is one about redemption and finding out what you really fight for in a moment of adversity. During his journey in Star Wars, we see Han start off as a cold-blooded murderer (Greedo never fired!) who’s only in it for the money, to being a key component in the destruction of the Death Star. Han Solo has the biggest arc of any of the characters in that movie. Solo starts out a despicable scoundrel and ends up getting a freaking medal! (Sorry Chewie)
Now unto the galaxy’s favorite princess, Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Unlike many female protagonists portrayed at the time (à la damsel in distress), Princess Leia is a leader. Sure, she was rescued every now and then, but she spent as much time rescuing the others from the group as well. After all, if it wasn’t for her, Han and Luke’s rescue attempt would’ve been futile.
Princess Leia is a royal and politician. She was fighting long before the events of Star Wars, and continues to fight for what is right throughout subsequent films of the series. Leia is fearless, determined, and all around awesome. She doesn’t give away any information vital to the rebellion even when she was being tortured by arguably cinema’s greatest villain, Darth Vader. Leia paved the way for many great female heroes (such as Ripley from Alien and Sarah Connor from Terminator). The Princess of Alderaan is a feminist icon and the ultimate role model for girls.
In the four decades that Star Wars has graced our screens, Star Wars has evolved into a saga that continues to enlighten and inspire our hearts and mind. As we’re closing in to the release of The Last Jedi, Star Wars as a saga continues to inspire young people to be bold and daring, with thought provoking themes, as well as compelling characters that show true greatness can come from anyone and anywhere. At 40, the Force is stronger with Star Wars than ever.