Star Wars: why did the film make history?


From History Extra by Nicholas John Cull:

There is a moment in the first Star Wars film when the mystic Obi Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) detects across at great distance of space the destruction of a planet and remarks: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force… as if as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”

The release of the seventh installment of the Star Wars saga today therefore prompts the question of exactly what the particular “disturbance in the Force” associated with the release of the first film in the series back in May 1977 might mean historically. What does it say about the time in which it was made and the people who so took it to their hearts? And what does the ongoing success of the franchise say about us?

At one level, Star Wars was – and is – a commercial commodity: a milestone in the evolution of the film industry. Its creator, George Lucas, demonstrated that films could be made for families; that spectacular effects could help film to claw back some territory from the small-screen entertainment; and profits could be swollen to astonishing proportions though tie-in merchandise.

Other films of the era attempted similar synergies, but there was plainly something about Star Wars that struck a particular chord. Reports of initial audiences in the US stressed how hungry they seemed for what Star Wars offered: the film was fundamentally not like so many other elements of the culture in which it landed – a world that was only too happy to embrace the film’s escapism because it had so much that it wished to escape from.

Read the rest of the article at History Extra

Categories: Film History, United States History

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