Star Wars 101: Force yourself to know your facts

WITH the release of The Force Awakens imminent, it's time for a little 'Star Wars 101' - a crash course for those who've managed to avoid succumbing to the power of this cultural phenomenon for almost 40 years.

For those who think an Ewok might be some kind of wok-based email menu service - or that R2D2 is a type of portable rubbish bin.

But, before there was Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games ... and even Lord of the Rings in movie trilogy form, there was Star Wars.

Cue the opening crawl...

 

BY GEORGE, HE'S DONE IT

A FAIRLY long time ago (the early-1970s), in a country far, far away (the United States) Star Wars was born out of George Lucas' sense of adventurous filmmaking.

As a young writer-director he wanted to make a Flash Gordon film, but couldn't secure the rights so instead invented his own sprawling science-fiction saga.

Ironically, Flash Gordon would get made on the back of Star Wars' success, and, with a hit soundtrack by Queen, have its own place in movie 'geekdom'.

 

FORCE TO BE RECKONED

IN THE end, it wasn't entirely Lucas' own work anyway as he was influenced heavily by a number of pieces, especially the work of Japan's Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress).

Like all good fantasy adventure stories, at the heart of Star Wars is an ancient battle between good and evil, in this case the Jedi (a cross between a Buddhist and a samurai) and the Sith (likened to religious extremists). Both are able to harness the mystical 'Force' and wield bright, colourful laser swords, ideal for night-time duels.

The ways of the Jedi have struck such a chord with the public - 65,000 Australians declared themselves members of the Jedi Order in the 2011 Census.

 

FROM ONE CAME MANY

Of course the original Star Wars wasn't a surefire hit before its release in May 1977. And in light of the fact it could bery well have been the one and only Star Wars movie, there was no Episode IV or A New Hope part of the title (that came with its re-release in 1981). And any sequels, let alone prequels were merely a pipedream.

However, after surpassing Jaws as the highest grossing film of all-time, Lucas proved he hadn't bitten off more than he could chew with the film also garnering 10 Academy Award nominations, winning six.

The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980, only upped the ante and would go on to be considered one of the few sequels to top its predecessor. And a lot of it had to do with the big twist during an epic climax.

 

 

FAMILY TIES

ON THE surface Star Wars revolves around arguably the universe's most dysfunctional family. It's certainly got its own galaxy covered and would give the Kardashian/Jenner clan a run for their money.

The Skywalkers are such a sordid bunch The Jerry Springer Show could easily fill a week's worth of episodes featuring certain members.

'I Was a Virgin Mother Impregnated by the Force' (Shmi Skywalker); 'My Secret Affair with a Teenage Jedi Padawan' (Padme Amidala); 'I Became a Sith Lord and I Never Felt Better' (Anakin Skywalker); 'My Estranged Father's Trying to Turn Me to the Dark Side' (Luke Skywalker); and possibly 'Hubby, it's Me or the Wookie' (Leia Organa).

Star Wars isn't called a space opera for nothing.

 

 

IT'S COMPLICATED

THE original trilogy was about Luke Skywalker's journey from whiny farm boy to powerful Jedi Knight who helps overthrow the tyrannical rule of the Empire … while discovering the dad he thought dead (Anakin Skywalker) is in fact the evil Darth Vader and the princess (Leia) he helped rescue - and shared a brief kiss with - is actually his twin sister separated at birth. Awkward.

Anakin/Vader wasn't initially aware he had children. If Facebook had existed then a quick search of the name 'Skywalker' may have led to him at least finding Luke a lot earlier. Leia went by her adopted name Organa.

The prequels explored Anakin's turning to the Dark Side and transformation into Vader after Sith master, Emperor Palpatine, preyed on his insecurities. A study has shown Anakin, who was supposedly conceived via some form of immaculate conception, suffered from borderline personality disorder, hitting six of the nine criteria.

 

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NEW BATTLE

WHILE the Empire suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the rebels, the First Order has taken up its fight with the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke at the helm, backed by Sith wannabe and Vader sycophant Kylo Renn.

New director JJ Abrams has kept the seventh instalment The Force Awakens shrouded in mystery, but it appears it's up to new heroes such as Rey, Finn and Poe, with a little help from old ones Han Solo, Leia and Chewbacca, to keep them at bay while also tracking down Luke, who seems to have gone AWOL. After what he went through who could blame him?

After the prequel trilogy was criticised for being too heavy on both CGI and corny lines like "just being around her again is … intoxicating", Abrams is getting Star Wars back to its more grounded roots with practical effects and dialogue you can actually swallow.

 

CASH COW

LUCAS walks away a multi-billionaire - we're talking at least $7b - and he owes it all to Star Wars.

After getting the green light to make Star Wars, first released in 1977, Lucas struck a deal that would produce a veritable gold mine - he would forgo a $500,000 salary offered by 20th Century Fox, and instead accept just $150,000 ... and the rights to both any sequels and all merchandising.

The total revenue accumulated by the Star Wars juggernaut has since topped $28 billion, with about $12b coming from toy sales, and another $5.5b from books and games - and 'only' $4.3b from the box-office.

Lucas even has his own action figurines - one in a Stormtrooper armour, another in his trademark flanelette shirt and jeans. We're not quite how much sales of those particular collectables have contributed to the overall total, however.

But, it's no wonder Disney bought Lucasfilm and with it Star Wars … and is releasing The Force Awakens just in time to stock the shelves for Christmas.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens nationally today.

 



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