After discussing his future plans with his Uncle Owen, Luke Skywalker leaves the Lars Homestead and heads towards the vista to watch the twin suns of Tatooine set while he reflects upon his destiny.
by Charles Q. Choi
It's been more than 38 years since "Star Wars" first exploded into theaters, but the swashbuckling sci-fi films from writer-director George Lucas have left a legacy no other blockbuster has surpassed.
Increasingly, the impact of "Star Wars" is not limited to pop culture or even world politics. As science and technology advance, the world is little by little growing more and more like that galaxy far, far away.
A taste of the science fiction franchise's impact is landing in Orlando, Fla., this week, where devotees from around the world are expected to congregate for the Star Wars Celebration V convention. The four-day convention runs Thursday through Sunday at the Orange County Convention Center.
The cultural influence of the six "Star Wars" films, plus the novels, comics, television shows, games, toys, spoofs and documentaries linked with "Star Wars," is such that, in the 2001 United Kingdom census, some 390,000 people stated their religion as Jedi, making it the fourth largest religion surveyed. Just last month, members of the performance art group Improv Everywhere filmed themselves re-enacting Princess Leia's capture by Darth Vader on the New York subway, and the automotive navigation systems company TomTom recently made "Star Wars" voices an option for its GPS devices.
"Star Wars" also has had more-subtle influences on Hollywood. It pioneered the modern special effects blockbuster as well as the modern movie trilogy, leading the way for "Lord of the Rings" and "The Matrix," among others. It also showed that merchandising can make even more money than the movies do ? the deal that "Star Wars" creator George Lucas made with Pepsico over merchandising rights for the prequel films was estimated to be worth roughly $2 billion.
New Age thinking
In the year "Return of the Jedi" first came out, "Star Wars" unexpectedly became drafted into a high-tech controversy in a real and different kind of war ? the Cold War.
The Strategic Defense Initiative, created by Ronald Reagan in 1983, aimed to use ground- and space-based lasers, missiles and other weapons to help protect the United States from attack by nuclear missiles. Critics derisively referred to it as "Star Wars." Reagan himself may have drawn upon "Star Wars" for inspiration when he dubbed the Soviet Union "the Evil Empire," echoing the use of "evil Galactic Empire" in the opening crawl for the first film six years earlier.
A stranger link to "Star Wars" lay in the New Age ideas that U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jim Channon had for a "First Earth Battalion." As detailed in the book "The Men Who Stare at Goats" and fictionalized in the film of the same name, the U.S. military researched the idea of super-soldiers they called "Jedi warriors," who could, among other abilities, adopt cloaks of invisibility, pass through walls, precognitively sense knowledge of the future and, yes, kill goats and others just by staring at them.
As outlandish as those notions were, the advance of science and technology are increasingly producing inventions that, intentionally or not, recall the films.
During election night in 2008, CNN famously ? or infamously ? presented correspondents and musician will.i.am as "holograms" much like in scenes from "Star Wars," complete with partial translucence and a glowing blue haze around them. CNN political correspondent Jessica Yellin even noted, "It's like I follow in the tradition of Princess Leia." (In reality, these were "tomograms," made by capturing images of a person from all sides, reconstructing them with computers and displaying them on screen.)
On a more serious note, bionic hands like the ones sported by heroes and villains in "Star Wars" are now finding use by amputees. Indeed, during an NPR interview earlier this month concerning a man with a bionic hand, his daughter noted: "Darth Vader just pops into my head. And so does Luke Skywalker, 'cause they both have robotic hands."
Weapons and robots from "Star Wars" are making their way into real life, as well. A Hong Kong company recently made an ultra-powerful handheld laser that looks like a lightsaber. ?Walking robots resembling the giant AT-ATs that Imperial forces used to attack rebels are being developed for the military to carry equipment where conventional vehicles can't go. The U.S. Army's Future Soldier Initiative went as far as to draft plans for armor that looked much like what Imperial stormtroopers wore, although in light of the probable cost, they face an uncertain future.
Even the Death Star is beginning to appear, albeit in far miniaturized form. ?At this year's Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in February, Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer for Microsoft, demonstrated a "Death Star" bug-zapper designed to use lasers to shoot down mosquitoes in flight. The hope there is not to crush microscopic rebels, but to help prevent malaria. This means if all goes well, a future influenced by "Star Wars" could go on to save millions of lives. May the Force be with it.
Yoda is a fictional character in the Star Wars space opera franchise created by George Lucas, first appearing in the 1980 film The Empire Strikes Back. In the original films, he trains Luke Skywalker to fight against the Galactic Empire. In the prequel films, he serves as the Grand Master of the Jedi Order and as a high-ranking general of Clone Troopers in the Clone Wars.
C-3PO, sometimes spelled See-Threepio and often referred to simply as Threepio, was a 3PO unit protocol droid designed to interact with organics, programmed primarily for etiquette and protocol. He was fluent in over seven million forms of communication, and developed a fussy and worry-prone personality throughout his many decades of operation. Along with his counterpart, the astromech droid R2-D2, C-3PO constantly found himself directly involved in pivotal moments of galactic history, and aided in saving the galaxy on many occasions.
C-3PO was built from spare parts by Anakin Skywalker, a human slave who lived in Mos Espa, a city on the Outer Rim world of Tatooine. C-3PO's memory was erased, though R2-D2's memory was not. C-3PO and R2-D2 were assigned to the Alderaan cruiser Tantive IV, where they served senator Bail Organa for nineteen years. At some point during this time, 3PO's right leg was fitted with a mismatched droid plating.
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The decade wait is over for “Star Wars” fans with the opening of the seventh film “The Force Awakens” this week. Some diehard movie fans camped out for over a week in Hollywood for the chance again to see droids, Imperial Stormtroopers , Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker. “May the Force be with you” all.
Shiva Siddharth, 10, of West Bend gives a thumbs up as he has his photograph taken in a Kylo Ren mask for the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Dec. 17 at the Paradise Theaters in West Bend, Wis. (John Ehlke/West Bend Daily News via Associated Press)
The Pawn Awakens
"Star Wars" items include a Boba Fett prototype; an autographed poster; a card collection; and piece of the Death Star. Also, an early 1900s Shelby bicycle.
Richardson, Texas police officer Shaun Morgan, left, inspects the light sabers of “Star Wars” fans Sam Revell, second from right, and his wife Callie Revell, right, outside the Alamo Drafthouse cinema in Richardson, Tx., where Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie will be showing, on Dec. 17. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via Associated Press)
The Star Wars Vault "Star Wars" memorabilia features an original "Revenge of the Jedi" poster, a set of 1978 action figures, a Jabba the Hutt Play-Doh set and movie props, including a Stormtrooper blaster.
Andrew Porters and Caroline Ritter of Australia are married in a “Star Wars” themed wedding in the forecourt of TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on Dec. 17 in Hollywood. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Members of the media are seen as “Star Wars” movie character R2-D2 wearing a black bow tie glides down the red carpet for the wedding of “Star Wars” fans, Caroline Ritter and Andrew Porters, from Australia. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)
A Star Wars fan waits with his mock light sabre for the start of the movie premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Helsinki, Finland on Dec. 16. After months of teasing trailers that raised more questions than answers, and a Hollywood premiere from which the celebrity audience emerged smiling but sworn to secrecy, some of the franchise's millions of fans finally got to see it for themselves. (Vesa Moilanen/AFP/Getty Images)
Charlene Hartman, 17, of Dickson City, Pa., strikes a pose in her Chewbacca outfit, as she waits in line with many other fans for the premier "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on Dec. 17 at the Great Escape IMAX theater in Dickson City, Pa. (Butch Comegys/The Times & Tribune via Associated Press)
Julianna Backoski, 7, of Linden, dressed as Princess Leia poses for a portrait during the opening night of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on Dec. 17 at NCG Trillium Cinema in Grand Blanc, Mich. (Danny Miller/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via Associated Press)
Charlie Kline, of Clio, wearing a Chewbacca outfit poses for a portrait during the opening night of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on Dec. 17 at NCG Trillium Cinema in Grand Blanc, Mich. (Danny Miller/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via Associated Press)
Victoria Castro, dressed as “Star Wars” character Queen Amidala, poses for a portrait before the first showing of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at Grand Cinemas in Sunnyside, Wash., on Dec. 17. (Sofia Jaramillo/Yakima Herald-Republic via Associated Press)
A “Star Wars” character with the 501st Legion Wisconsin Garrison waits for fans during the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at Marcus Theaters Appleton East Cinema on Dec. 17 in Appleton, Wis. (Wm. Glasheen/The Post-Crescent via Assocated Press)
Fans attend the opening night of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at TCL Chinese Theatre on Dec. 17 in Hollywood, Calif. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
A couple takes a selfie together in front of over 100 Jakks Big-Figs Stormtrooper action figures part of an installation at The Americana at Brand for the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Dec. 17 in Glendale, Calif. The new Big-Figs Stormtroopers, inspired by the latest “Star Wars” movie, are available now at all major retailers. (Danny Moloshok/Invision for Jakks via Associated Press)
Five hundred replicas of the Stormtroopers characters from "Star Wars" are seen on the steps at the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall of China during a promotional event for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" film, on the outskirts of Beijing, China, on Oct. 20. (Jason Lee/Reuters)
Hungary's Zsolt Toth carves “Star Wars” character Darth Vader for the ice sculpture festival in Liege, Belgium, on Nov. 13. (Eric Vidal/Reuters)
An ice-sculptures in the form of a Stormtrooper from the “Star Wars” series is displayed during the “Star Wars” ice-sculpture festival in Liege on Dec. 16. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)
A cleaner walks past a poster advertising "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Hong Kong on Dec. 17. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)
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Star Wars is an epic space opera franchise initially developed by George Lucas during the 1970s and significantly expanded since that time. The first film in the franchise was simply titled Star Wars, but later had the subtitle A New Hope added to distinguish it from its sequels and prequels. Star Wars was released on May 25, 1977 by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, initially spawning two sequels. Twenty-two years after Star Wars was released, Lucas began the release of a second trilogy as a prequel to the original trilogy. The franchise has also spawned other media including novels, television series, video games, comic books, and other merchandise. These supplements to the film trilogies comprise the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and have resulted in significant development of the series’ fictional universe.
As of 2016, the overall box office revenue generated by the seven Star Wars films has totalled approximately US$6.5 billion ($6,553,537,074), making it one of the most successful franchises of all time.
The events of Star Wars take place in a fictional galaxy. Many of the main characters in the film are essentially identical to humans, though alien creatures are commonplace, as are robotic “droids” built generally to serve. Space travel is also common, with many of the planets in the galaxy members of a Galactic Republic, and later a Galactic Empire.
One of the prominent elements of the Star Wars series is the “Force” — an omnipresent form of energy which can be harnessed by those with unique abilities. It is described in the first film as, “an energy field created by all living things [that] surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” Those who can use the Force can perform feats of telekinesis, clairvoyance, precognition, and mind control, as well as amplifying certain physical traits, such as reflexes. While the Force can be used for good, it has a dark side, which, when pursued, imbues users with hatred, aggression, and malevolence. The seven films feature the Jedi Knights, who use the Force for good, and the Sith Lords, who use the dark side for evil in an attempt to take over the galaxy.