Luke Skywalker is bored. He lives with his aunt and uncle on a desert planet and works on their moisture farm. A high point for him is visiting Tosche Station to pick up power converters. Luke longs for adventure and wants to be a pilot for the Rebel Alliance in the fight against the Empire. What he doesn’t yet know is that his life is about to change in a big way, leading him to places he never imagined to learn things about himself that he had never suspected. So starts the journey of the hero of the 1977 movie Star Wars. A movie that began an entertainment empire and made George Lucas a household name.
I didn’t want to see Star Wars at first. In my rebellious teen years, I decided anything my parents enjoyed was not for me. So I fought to stay home instead of going to the movie, but my parents won out. And, as much as I wanted to hate it, I couldn’t. During the first release in that summer of 1977, I saw the movie in the theater so many times I lost count. When I wasn’t at a matinee, I would listen to the soundtrack (a vinyl LP that I played on my parents console stereo system) while the scenes replayed in my mind.
George Lucas imagined Star Wars as a space opera that harkened back to Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. He wanted to create something geared toward teens, unlike the darker and grittier sci-fi so popular at the time. So Lucas started working on the idea that would eventually become the story we now know. Lucas didn’t want the movie to be a futuristic one, but to seem more like mythical lore, as explained in the title crawl: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
Studio executives weren’t sure about the idea and didn’t believe Lucas could pull off such an ambitious project. He continued to hone the idea over several years, the story and characters evolving, with the updates continuing even after filming had begun. I didn’t know any of this at the time the movie came out as I wasn’t yet as interested in writing as a potential career. Learning a little more of the background about Lucas’ struggles reinforces the idea that tenacity, not talent, leads to success. Something I try to remember when I feel especially discouraged.
Lucas accomplished what he’d set out to do. He caught and held the imagination of teens, and adults, with his epic space opera. The movie was so popular it remained in theaters for a full six months during the initial run. Luke’s story resonated with audiences. His humble beginnings on the barren desert planet felt like the backstory of many of our lives. Who didn’t want to leave the place where they’d grown up to seek adventure?
More than forty years later, I still take great pleasure in watching the original Star Wars trilogy. Revisiting the first movie is like reminiscing with a life-long friend. I tend to view the story through the golden haze brought about by the passage of time.
Or maybe that glow is from the twin suns setting beneath the horizon of Tatooine.