Related subjects: Films
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 2007, the overall box office revenue generated by the six Star Wars films has totalled approximately US$4.3 billion, 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 six films feature the Jedi Knights, who use the Force for good, and the Sith, who use the dark side for evil in an attempt to take over the galaxy.
The Star Wars franchise began as a film series. The initial trilogy was comprised of three films: Star Wars, released on May 25, 1977, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, released on May 21, 1980, and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, released on May 25, 1983. The opening crawl of the sequels disclosed that they were numbered as "Episode V" and "Episode VI" respectively, though the films were generally advertised solely under their subtitles. Once Star Wars became a success and sequels were realized, Lucas numbered the initial film as the fourth episode in his series, and gave it the subtitle A New Hope when the film was re-released in 1981. This was among the first of what would become many changes.
In 1997, to correspond with the twentieth anniversary of the release of Star Wars, Lucas released "Special Editions" of all three films to theaters. The re-releases featured many alterations to the original films, primarily motivated by the improvement of CGI and other special effects technologies, which allowed visuals that were not possible to achieve at the time of the original filmmaking. Lucas continued to make changes to the original trilogy for subsequent releases, such as the first ever DVD release of the trilogy on September 21, 2004.
On May 19, 1999, Lucas released the first of the long-awaited prequel trilogy, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. This was followed Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones on May 16, 2002, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith on May 19, 2005.
The prequel trilogy follows the upbringing of Anakin Skywalker: A child of parthenogenesis who is discovered by Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn who believes him to be the "Chosen One" foretold by Jedi prophecy to bring balance to the Force. The Jedi Council, led by Yoda, sense his future is clouded by fear, but reluctantly allow Jinn's apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi to train Skywalker after Jinn is killed.
At the same time, the planet Naboo is under attack, and its queen, Padmé Amidala, seeks the assistance of the Jedi to repel the attack. The attack is, in fact, merely a ploy by Naboo senator Palpatine, to overthrow and replace the Supreme Chancellor of the senate. Palpatine is secretly Sith Lord Darth Sidious, and is attempting to take over the galaxy.
The remainder of the prequel trilogy chronicles Skywalker's fall to the dark side, as Sidious attempts to create an army to defeat the Jedi and lure Skywalker to be his apprentice. Amidala and Skywalker fall in love and eventually she becomes pregnant with twins. However, Skywalker soon succumbs to his anger, culminating in a lightsaber battle between him and Kenobi. Kenobi leaves Skywalker for dead, but Sidious arrives shortly after to save him and put him in to a suit of black armour that keeps him alive.
The original trilogy begins nearly 20 years later as Vader nears completion of the massive Death Star space station which will allow him to crush the rebellion which has formed against his evil empire. He captures Princess Leia Organa who has stolen the plans to the Death Star and hidden them in droid R2-D2 who, along with his counterpart C-3PO, escape to the planet Tatooine. There, the droids are purchased by Luke Skywalker, son of Anakin, and his adoptive step-uncle and aunt. R2-D2 escapes and leads Skywalker to Ben Kenobi — formerly Obi-Wan. Kenobi tells Luke of his father's greatness, but tells him that he was killed by Vader. Kenobi and Skywalker hire pilot Han Solo and his co-pilot Chewbacca to take them and the plans to the rebels. Kenobi begins to teach Skywalker about the Force, but is killed in a showdown with Vader during the rescue of Princess Leia. His sacrifice allows the group to escape with the plans that allow them to destroy the Death Star.
Vader continues to hunt down the rebels, and begins to build a second Death Star. Skywalker travels to find Yoda and become trained as a Jedi, but is interrupted when Vader lures him into a trap by capturing the others. Vader reveals that he is Luke's father and attempts to turn him to the dark side. He escapes, and returns to his training with Yoda. He learns that he must face his father before he can become a Jedi, and that Leia is his twin sister.
As the rebels attack the new Death Star, Skywalker confronts Vader under the watch of now-Emperor Sidious. Instead of convincing Skywalker to join the dark side, Skywalker defeats Vader and is able to convince him that there is still some good in him. Vader kills Sidious before succumbing to his own injuries and the second Death Star is destroyed.
Star Wars features elements such as (Jedi) knights, witches, and princesses that are related to archetypes of the fantasy genre. The Star Wars world, unlike many science-fiction and fantasy films that featured sleek and futuristic settings, was portrayed as dirty and grimy. Lucas' vision of a "used universe" was further popularized in the science fiction-horror films Alien, which was set on a dirty space freighter; Mad Max 2, which is set in a post-apocalyptic desert; and Blade Runner, which is set in a crumbling, dirty city of the future.
Lucas made a conscious effort to parallel scenes and dialogue between films, and especially to parallel the journeys of Luke Skywalker with that of his father Anakin when making the prequels.
There were countless problems during the production of Episode IV with effects, editing, funding, and shooting, causing the film to be pushed back from its expected release date of December 1976. According to reports, it was a daily struggle merely to complete the film on time.
All six films of the Star Wars series were shot in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The "original trilogy" was shot with anamorphic lenses. Episodes IV and V were shot in Panavision, while Episode VI was shot in Joe Dunton Camera (JDC) scope. Episode I was shot with Hawk anamorphic lenses on Arriflex cameras, and Episodes II and III were shot with Sony's CineAlta high-definition digital cameras.
George Lucas hired Ben Burtt to oversee the sound effects on A New Hope. The enormity of Burtt's accomplishment was such that the Academy of Motion Pictures: Arts and Sciences gave him a Special Achievement Award because they had no award for what he had done. Lucasfilm developed the THX sound reproduction standard for Return of the Jedi.
The scores for all six Star Wars films were composed by John Williams. George Lucas' design for Star Wars involved a grand musical sound, with leitmotifs for different characters and important concepts.
George Lucas himself has cited a number of inspirations for his films, including the novels Watership Down and Dune. Lucas acknowledges that the plot and characters in the 1958 Japanese film The Hidden Fortress were a major inspiration. Lucas has said in an interview, which is included on the DVD edition of that film that it influenced him to tell the story of Star Wars from the viewpoint of the humble droids, rather than from the viewpoint of a major player. It also played a role in the conception of Darth Vader, whose trademark black helmet intentionally resembles the black kabuto of the arch-villain in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.
There are many myths surrounding the writing of Star Wars, many perpetuated by Lucasfilm and George Lucas himself. Recently, author Michael Kaminski tried to set the record straight in his book The Secret History of Star Wars, as did Jonathan Rinzler in The Making of Star Wars, both released in 2007.
Lucas' original concept was a swashbuckling space adventure movie. He says "the film was a good concept in search of a story." He first tried to buy the rights to remake Flash Gordon, but was unsuccessful.
In 1971, United Artists agreed to make American Graffiti and Star Wars in a two-picture contract, though they would reject Star Wars in its early concept stages. Graffiti was made first and when it was completed in 1973, Lucas set to work on making his space adventure movie. In early 1973, Lucas wrote a short summary called "The Journal of the Whills", which told the tale of the training of apprentice C.J. Thorpe as a "Jedi-Bendu" space commando by the legendary Mace Windy.
Frustrated that his story was too hard to understand, Lucas then wrote a 13-page treatment called The Star Wars, which was a loose remake of Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress. By 1974, he had expanded the treatment into a rough draft screenplay, which added elements such as the Sith, the Death Star, and once more had the protagonist as a young boy, named Annikin Starkiller. For the second draft, Lucas made heavy simplifications, and also introduced the young hero on a farm, with his name now Luke rather than Annikin. Luke/Annikin's father is still an active character in the story at this point, a wise Jedi knight, and "the Force" now became a supernatural power. The next draft removed the father character and replaced him with a substitute named Ben Kenobi, and in 1976 a fourth draft had been prepared for principal photography. The film was titled "Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars." During production, Lucas changed Luke's name to Skywalker and altered the title to just "The Star Wars" and finally "Star Wars".
At this point, Lucas was thinking of the film as the only entry that would be made — the fourth draft underwent subtle changes that made it more satisfying as a self-contained film that ended with the destruction of the Empire itself, as the Death Star was said to achieve; possibly this was a result of the frustrating difficulties Lucas had encountered in pre-production during that period. However, in previous times Lucas had conceived of the film as the first in a series of adventures. The second draft contained a teaser for a never-made sequel about "The Princess of Ondos", and by the time of the third draft some months later Lucas had negotiated a contract that gave him rights to make two sequels. Not long after, Lucas met with author Alan Dean Foster, and hired him to write these two sequels — as novels. The intention was that if Star Wars was successful — and if Lucas felt like it — the novels could be adapted into screenplays. He had also by this point developed a fairly elaborate backstory — though this was not designed or intended for filming; it was merely backstory. "The backstory wasn't meant to be a movie," Lucas has said.
When Star Wars was successful, and not just successful but the biggest hit ever made at that time, Lucas decided to use the film as a springboard for an elaborate serial, although he considered walking away from the series altogether. However, Lucas wanted to create an independent filmmaking centre — what would become Skywalker Ranch — and saw an opportunity to use the series as a financing agent for him. Alan Dean Foster had already begun writing the sequel as a novel, but Lucas decided to disregard that for filming and create more elaborate film sequels; the book was released as Splinter of the Mind's Eye the next year. At first Lucas envisioned an unlimited number of sequels, much like the James Bond series, and in an interview with Rolling Stone in August of 1977 said that he wanted his friends to take a try directing them and giving unique interpretations on the series. He also said that the backstory where Darth Vader turns to the darkside, kills Luke's father and fights Ben Kenobi on a volcano as the Republic falls would make an excellent sequel. Later that year, Lucas hired sci-fi author Leigh Brackett to write "Star Wars II" with him. They held story conferences together and in late November of 1977 Lucas had produced a handwritten treatment called "The Empire Strikes Back." The story is very similar to the final film except Darth Vader does not reveal he is Luke's father. In the first draft that Leigh Brackett would write from this, Luke's father appears as a ghost to instruct Luke.
During this period, Lucas had now had time to attach a numeric figure to the amount of sequels — he revealed to Time magazine in March, 1978 that there will be twelve films altogether. This was then revealed in the official Star Wars fanclub newletter, Bantha Tracks. The figure of 12 was likely selected due to its tradition in serial episodes.
Brackett finished her first draft of Empire Strikes Back in early 1978; Lucas has said he was disappointed with it, but before he could discuss it with her she had died from cancer. With no writer available, Lucas had to write his second draft himself. Here Lucas finally made use of the "Episode" listing in the film — Empire Strikes Back was Episode II. As Michael Kaminski argues in The Secret History of Star Wars, the disappointment with the first draft probably made Lucas consider different directions to take the story in. Here he made use of a new plot twist: Darth Vader says he is Luke's father. According to Lucas, he found this draft enjoyable to write, as opposed to the year-long struggles of the first film, and quickly wrote two more drafts in the same month — April of 1978 — which both retained the new Vader-as-father plot. He also took this darker ending farther by imprisoning Han Solo in carbonite and leaving him in limbo.
This new storyline where Vader was Luke's father had drastic effects on the series. Michael Kaminski argues in his book that it is unlikely that this was a plot point that had ever seriously been considered before 1978, or even thought of before then, and that the first film was clearly operating under an alternate storyline where Vader was separate from Luke's father; there is not a single reference to the Vader-as-father plot point before 1978. After the second and third drafts of Empire Strikes Back where Lucas first introduced this point, he reviewed the new backstory he had now created: Annikin Skywalker is Ben Kenobi's brilliant student, has a child (Luke) but is swayed to the dark-side by the Emperor (who was now a Sith and not just a politician), battles Ben Kenobi on the site of a volcano and is wounded but resurrected as Darth Vader; meanwhile Kenobi hides Luke on Tatooine while the Republic becomes the Empire and Vader has hunted down the Jedi knights. With this new backstory, Lucas decided to film this as a trilogy — moving Empire Strikes Back from Episode II to Episode V in the next draft. Lawrence Kasdan, who had just completed writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, was then hired to write the next drafts, and was helped by additional input from director Irvin Kershner. Kasdan, Kershner, and producer Gary Kurtz saw the film as a more serious and adult film, which was helped by the new, darker storyline, and brought the series far away from the light adventure roots it had existed as only a year earlier.
Lucas had also around this time developed a third trilogy as well, which took place twenty years after Episode VI.
By the time of writing Episode VI — Revenge of the Jedi, as it was then known — in 1981, much had changed. Making Empire Strikes Back was a stressful and costly fiasco, and Lucas' personal life was disintegrating. Burnt-out and not wanting to make any more Star Wars films, he vowed to be done with the series, as he makes explicit in a May, 1983 interview with Time magazine. Lucas' 1981 rough drafts of Revenge of the Jedi had Darth Vader competing with the Emperor for possession of Luke — and in the second script, the "revised rough draft", Vader was turned into a sympathetic character. Lawrence Kasdan was hired to take over once again, and in these final drafts Vader was explicitly redeemed, and finally unmasked. This change in character would provide a springboard for the "Tragedy of Darth Vader" storyline in the prequels.
After getting a divorce in 1983 and losing much of his fortune, Lucas had no desire to return to Star Wars, and had unofficially cancelled his Sequel Trilogy by the time of Return of the Jedi. However, the prequels, which were quite developed, remained fascinating to him. After Star Wars became popular once again, following in the wake of Dark Horse's comic line and Timothy Zahn's trio of novels, Lucas saw that there was still a large audience. His children had begun to grow older, and with the explosion of CG technology he was now considering returning to directing. By 1993 it was announced, in Variety among other sources, that he would be making the prequels. He began outlining the story, now offering that Anakin Skywalker would be the protagonist rather than Ben Kenobi and that the series would be a tragic one examining his transformation to evil. He also began to change how the prequels would exist relative to the originals — at first they were supposed to be a "filling-in" of history, backstory, existing parallel or tangential to the originals, but now he began to see that they could form the beginning of one long story: beginning with Anakin's childhood and ending with Anakin's death. This was the final step towards turning the franchise into a "Saga".
In 1994, Lucas began writing the first screenplay, titled Episode I: The Beginning. At first it was planned to write and then film all three prequels at once, but this was changed, possibly because the writing process took much longer than first thought. Although Lucas initially planned on having others write and direct, he kept writing on his own, and eventually decided to direct the film as well. In 1999, Lucas announced he would be directing the next two films as well, and began working on Episode II at that time. The first draft of this was completed just weeks before principal photography, and Lucas hired Jonathan Hales, a writer from the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, to polish up his draft. Unsure of a title, Lucas had jokingly called the film "Jar Jar's Big Adventure." By now the backstory had undergone large changes — Ben Kenobi had discovered Anakin as an adult in Episode I's first draft, but he was changed to be a young student, and Anakin a child, and in Episode II the Clone Wars were decided to be a personal manipulation of Palpatine's. At the time of the original trilogy, Lucas had many ideas for this war: in Empire Strikes Back it was decided that Lando was a clone and came from a planet of clones that caused a war, but later a different version was decided wherein "Shocktroopers", including Boba Fett waged war against the Republic from a distant galaxy but were then repelled by the Jedi knights.
Lucas began working on Episode III even before Attack of the Clones was released, offering concept artists that the film would open with a montage of seven Clone War battles. As he reviewed the storyline that summer, however, he says he radically re-organized the plot. Michael Kaminski, in The Secret History of Star Wars, offers evidence that issues in Anakin's fall to the darkside prompted Lucas to make massive story changes, first revising the opening sequence to have Palpatine kidnapped and Dooku killed by Anakin as a first act towards the darkside. Lucas' first draft was written in 2003, and is largely similar to the film, though much simplified. After principal photography was complete in 2003, Lucas made even more massive changes in Anakin's character, re-writing his entire turn to the darkside — he would now turn out of a quest to save Padme from dying, rather than the previous version where that was one of many reasons and genuinely believed that the Jedi were evil and plotting to take over the Republic. This fundamental re-write was accomplished through editing and many new and revised scenes filmed in additional pick-ups in 2004.
George Lucas has often exaggerated the amount of material he had written for the series, most of these exaggerations stemming from the post-1978 period where the film grew into a true phenomenon. Lucasfilm often indicated that he had written twelve stories to be filmed, and Lucas was quick to tell how Star Wars was always Episode IV that was meant as a middle-chapter. Lucas also began to claim that Darth Vader's parentage of Luke and redemption was always a major part of his plan from early on, and even that this was his very first script or treatment. As Jonathan Rinzler and Michael Kaminski show, this is demonstrably false. Kaminski rationalises that these exaggerations are part publicity device and part security measure — with the series and story radically changing throughout the years, Lucas would emphasize that its current embodiment was the original intention; with the series previously existing as different and often contradictory forms, this makes audiences view the material only from the perspective that Lucas' wishes them to view the material, and it also may protect against outrage that such a popular storyline was being changed post-release after being cherished by so many.
Information on the screenplays comes from many sources. Most of the drafts of Star Wars were leaked to the public in 1977 and have circulated since then. 1987's Annotated Screenplays thoroughly documented the early drafts of the trilogy, and Rinzler's Making of Star Wars supplemented this info with even more detail, including drafts which had not yet been publicly leaked, as well as Lucas' personal notes. Information on the prequel scripts is comparatively more scarce, but a number of making-of books give insight into the writing process and early drafts. The prequels drafts are largely similar to the final films due to Lucas exploring ideas in the art department rather than on paper. Michael Kaminski's The Secret History of Star Wars is the most complete collection of information on all six films.
At a ShoWest convention in 2005, George Lucas demonstrated new technology and stated that he planned to release all six films in a new 3-D film format, beginning with A New Hope in 2007. However, by January 2007, Lucasfilm stated on StarWars.com that "there are no definitive plans or dates for releasing the Star Wars saga in 3-D." At Celebration Europe in July 2007, Rick McCallum confirmed that Lucasfilm is "planning to take all six films and turn them into 3-D," but they are "waiting for the companies out there that are developing this technology to bring it down to a cost level that makes it worthwhile for everybody".
Lucas has hinted in the past that he will release his definitive (often called "archival") editions of all six of his Star Wars films on a next-generation home-video format. It has been speculated that he will take this opportunity to make any final adjustments, changes, additions, and/or subtractions to his films for this final release. An altered clip from The Phantom Menace included in a featurette on the DVD release of Revenge of the Sith (in which a computer generated Yoda replaces the original puppet) appears to be a sign that the "archival" editions are indeed in the works. Lucasfilm Vice President of Marketing Jim Ward confirmed that Lucasfilm is likely to do even more work on the films (possibly digital contemporization of the original trilogy), stating "As the technology evolves and we get into a high-definition platform that is easily consumable by our customers, the situation is much better, but there will always be work to be done."
Starwars.com is currently conducting a poll (From 2008-01-08 to 2008-01-22) that is inquirying about fan interest of potential Star Wars movie releases on high definition media formats, such as Blu-ray or HD DVD.
Producer Rick McCallum has also explained that Lucasfilm has been holding back a large amount of bonus material for this release, including deleted scenes, as well as numerous previous Star Wars "making-ofs," spin-offs, television specials, documentaries, and other special material.
The term Expanded Universe (abbreviated EU) has come into existence as an umbrella term for all of the officially licensed Star Wars material outside of the six feature films. The material expands and continues the stories told in the films, taking place anywhere from 25,000 years before The Phantom Menace to 140 years after Return of the Jedi. The first Expanded Universe story appeared in Marvel Comics' Star Wars #7 in January 1978 (the first six issues of the series having been an adaptation of the film), followed quickly by Alan Dean Foster's novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye the following month.
George Lucas retains ultimate creative control over the Star Wars universe. For example, the death of central characters and similar changes in the status quo must first pass his screening before authors are given the go-ahead. In addition, Lucasfilm Licensing devotes considerable effort to ensure continuity between the works of various authors across multiple companies.
Elements of the Expanded Universe have been adopted by Lucas for use in the films, such as the name of capital planet Coruscant, which first appeared in Timothy Zahn's novel Heir to the Empire before being used in The Phantom Menace, while a character introduced in Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars series, a blue Twi'lek Jedi Knight named Aayla Secura, was liked enough by Lucas to be included as a character in Attack of the Clones.
To date, three films and three animated series have been produced for television, with a live-action series in pre-production. For the most part, Lucas has played a large role in the production of the television projects — usually serving as storywriter and/or executive producer.
A radio adaptation of A New Hope was first broadcast on National Public Radio in 1981. The adaptation was written by science fiction author Brian Daley and directed by John Madden. It was followed by adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back in 1983 and Return of the Jedi in 1996. The adaptations included background material created by Lucas but not used in the films. Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams reprised their roles as Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, and Lando Calrissian, respectively. The series also used John Williams' original score from the films and Ben Burtt's original sound designs.
Star Wars-based fiction predates the release of the first film, with the 1976 novelization of Star Wars (ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster and credited to George Lucas). Foster's 1978 novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, was the first Expanded Universe work to be released. In addition to filling in the time between the films, this additional content greatly expanded the Star Wars timeline before and after the film series.
Star Wars fiction flourished during the time of the original series (1977–1983) but slowed to a trickle afterwards. In 1991, however, Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy debuted, sparking a new interest in the Star Wars universe. Since then, several hundred tie-in novels have been published by Bantam and Del Rey. A similar resurgence in the Expanded Universe occurred in 1996 with the Steve Perry novel Shadows of the Empire, set between Episodes V and VI, and accompanying video game and comic book series.
LucasBooks radically changed the face of the Star Wars universe with the introduction of the New Jedi Order series, which takes place some 20 years after Return of the Jedi and stars a host of new characters alongside series originals. However, several significant events which occur during the course of this series (such as the death of a major film character) have sparked much fan criticism.
For younger audiences, three series have been introduced. The Jedi Apprentice series follows the adventures of Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi before Episode I. The Jedi Quest series follows the adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker after Episode I and before Episode II. The third and currently on-going series is The Last Of the Jedi series which follows the adventure of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the adventures of a surviving Jedi almost immediately after Episode III. All three series are written by Jude Watson.
Marvel Comics published Star Wars comic book series and adaptations from 1977 to 1986. A wide variety of creators worked on this series, including Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, Al Williamson, Carmine Infantino, Gene Day, Walt Simonson, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont, Whilce Portacio, Jo Duffy, and Ron Frenz. They also published a Star Wars newspaper strip by Russ Manning, Steve Gerber, and Archie Goodwin, the latter under a pseudonym. In the late 1980s, Marvel announced it would publish a new Star Wars comic by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy. However, in December 1991, Dark Horse Comics acquired the Star Wars license and used it to launch a number of ambitious sequels to the original trilogy instead, including the very popular Dark Empire stories. They have since gone on to publish a large number of original adventures set in the Star Wars universe. There have also been parody comics, including Tag and Bink.
Since 1982, over 120 video games have been published bearing the Star Wars name, beginning with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back published for the Atari 2600 by Parker Brothers. Since then, Star Wars has opened the way to a myriad of space-flight simulation games, first-person shooter games, roleplaying games, RTS games, and others. Two different official tabletop role-playing games have been developed for the Star Wars universe: a version by West End Games in the 1980s and 1990s, and one by Wizards of the Coast in the 2000s. The best-selling games so far are the Lego Star Wars and Battlefront series, with 12 million and 10 million units respectively.
The latest released game was Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. LucasArts is also currently developing a next-gen Star Wars game, The Force Unleashed, for the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii. The game,of the same name of the multimedia project which it is a part of, takes place in the largely unexplored time period between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and casts players as Darth Vader's "secret apprentice" hunting down the remaining Jedi. The game features a new game engine, and is set for a Spring 2008 release.
Star Wars trading cards have been published since the first 'blue' series, by Topps, in 1977. Dozens of series have been produced, with Topps being the licensed creator in the United States. Some of the card series are of film stills, while others are original art. Many of the cards have become highly collectible with some very rare 'promos', such as the 1993 Galaxy Series II 'floating Yoda' P3 card often commanding US$1000 or more. While most 'base' or 'common card' sets are plentiful, many 'insert' or ' chase cards' are very rare. Star Wars card game cards are different from the trading cards. A thriving market for both types exists on eBay.
The Star Wars saga has inspired many fans to create their own apocrypha set in the Star Wars galaxy. In recent years, this has ranged from writing fan-fiction to creating fan films. In 2002, Lucasfilm sponsored the first annual Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards, officially recognizing filmmakers and the genre. Because of concerns over potential copyright and trademark issues, however, the contest was initially open only to parodies, mockumentaries, and documentaries. Fan-fiction films set in the Star Wars universe were originally ineligible, but in 2007 Lucasfilm changed the submission standards to allow in-universe fiction entries.
While many of the serious fan films have used elements from the licensed Expanded Universe to tell their story, they are not considered an official part of the Star Wars canon. Lucasfilm, for the most part, has allowed but not endorsed the creation of these derivative fan-fiction works, so long as no such work attempts to make a profit from or tarnish the Star Wars franchise in any way. Lucasfilm's open support and sanction of fan creations is a marked contrast to the attitudes of many other copyright holders. Some owners, such as Paramount Pictures with the Star Trek properties, have been known to actively discourage the creation of such works by fans.
The Star Wars saga has had a significant impact on modern global pop culture. Science fiction since Star Wars, particularly in films, has often been influenced by and compared to Star Wars. References to the main characters and themes of Star Wars are casually made in American society with the well-justified assumption that others will understand the reference. George Lucas is also famous for using the best possible cameras and technology (see also Industrial Light and Magic) in his films. Many say that the visual and virtual effects that take over today's films would have never been created if not for Lucas's revolutionizing of the film industry with Star Wars.
Both the film and characters have been parodied or spoofed in popular films and television. Notable film parodies of Star Wars include: Hardware Wars, a 13 minute 1977 spoof which George Lucas has called his favorite Star Wars parody; Spaceballs, a feature film by Mel Brooks which featured effects done by George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic; " Thumb Wars," the 1999 short film by Steve Oedekerk in which the characters are all portrayed by thumbs; and Troops, a COPS-style documentary. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders also created a parody of Star Wars on their comedy sketch show French & Saunders. Lucasfilm itself made two mockumentaries, Return of the Ewok (1982), about Wicket W. Warrick's actor Warwick Davis, and R2-D2: Beneath the Dome (2002), which depicts R2-D2 "life story".
There have been numerous parodic references to Star Wars in films such as Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Hot Shots! Part Deux, and most of the films of Kevin Smith. In 1997, the first film's twentieth anniversary, Saturday Night Live featured a pair of skits that parodied the film's screen tests, which included Kevin Spacey playing Christopher Walken auditioning for Han Solo. Walken was originally considered for the role before Harrison Ford was chosen.
Star Wars has also been parodied in numerous TV shows, such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, Dexter's Laboratory, Teen Titans, Robot Chicken, Animaniacs, The Fairly OddParents, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Codename: Kids Next Door, Drake & Josh , Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide and many others.
Backyard Productions, a British amateur film production company, have recreated the story of Star Wars Episode III in their feature length film "Star Wars - The Emperor's New Clones (TENCLO)". Filming was carried out in a garage studio, and the total production budget was approximately £3000. The complete DVD is available as a bittorrent download.
There have been many songs based on, and in, the Star Wars universe. The most notable of these are "Weird Al" Yankovic's " Yoda", (a parody of The Kinks' " Lola"), which describes Luke's training with the "wrinkled and green" Jedi master, and " The Saga Begins", (a parody of Don McLean's " American Pie"), which chronicles the events of Episode I. The latter of these was released one week before the film. On Blink-182's album Dude Ranch, the track "A New Hope" discusses bassist Mark Hoppus' obsession with Princess Leia. A New Zealand Rapper, MC Stormtroopa, sings only about Star Wars and has released a free EP called "The Dark Side Of The Death Star." MxPx's song "Empire" (which is included in a "songs inspired by" soundtrack for The Passion of the Christ) has a lyric that reads: "You're the Empire or the Rebellion."
In late 1977, at the height of the original Star Wars craze, comedian Bill Murray portrayed Lounge Lizard Nick Winters on Saturday Night Live and sang a swanky version of the Star Wars theme, complete with inane improvised lyrics. Carrie Fisher reprised her role as Princess Leia on SNL in a parody of Star Wars and the old beach party movies with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello with Fisher as Annette singing about Obi Wan Kenobi.
In 1977 an album called Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk was released by Meco which featured disco remixes of Star Wars music. Other songs based on the Star Wars saga include The Star Wars Gangsta Rap and Star Wars Cantina. Northern Ireland band Ash released an album called 1977, named in honour of the year Star Wars was released, on which "Lose Control" used sound bytes of a TIE Fighter, and a song entitled "Darkside Lightside" is an obvious reference to the mythology created by the films.
The Phenomenauts mention that their intergalactic tour van "The Phenomenator": "Does the Kessel Run in one parsec." Supernova recorded the song "Chewbacca" for the soundtrack of Kevin Smith's movie Clerks. The entire lyrics are "Chewie! Chewbacca! What a wookie!," with what appears to be samples of a Wookie. Adult Swim icon MC Chris recorded the rap song "Fett's Vette" which details the lifestyle of the legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett.
When Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a system of lasers and missiles meant to intercept incoming ICBMs, the plan was quickly labeled "Star Wars," implying that it was science fiction and linking it to Ronald Reagan's acting career. According to Frances Fitzgerald, Ronald Reagan was annoyed by this, but Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle told colleagues that he "thought the name was not so bad."; "'Why not?' he said. 'It's a good movie. Besides, the good guys won.'"
This gained further resonance when Reagan described the Soviet Union as an Evil Empire, which was taken from the opening crawl to A New Hope, while the term he used for the Contras, "freedom fighters", was taken verbatim from the opening crawl to The Empire Strikes Back. John McCain originally likened himself to Luke Skywalker during the 2000 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, repeatedly hefting lightsabers and calling Jerry Falwell an "evil influence" on the GOP. His embrace of the right leading up to the 2008 election prompted journalists to liken him to "a fallen Jedi knight." President George W. Bush described Vice President Dick Cheney as dressing up like "Darth Vader" for Halloween 2007.