What accounts for the longevity of Star Wars?

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So, Star Wars: The Complete Saga (all six movies) will be released on Blu-Ray later this year. It’s been over thirty years since A New Hope was released, and Star Wars appears to be as popular as ever.

Even more than that — fiction in the Star Wars Expanded Universe continues routinely to hit bestseller lists, The Clone Wars television series is a huge hit, and Star Wars references appear so often throughout the culture that you’d have to live under a rock not to know the name Darth Vader.

What do you think accounts for the lasting effect of what is, indisputably, a worldwide cultural phenomenon? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.  I’ve tried to answer this in interviews from time to time and have never come up with an answer I’m happy with.  So I turn to you: What do you think?

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19 Comments

  1. Swashbuckling plus space princess vs space nazis.

    • I believe it is the epic feel of it all and good diverse characters. I think people have always been fascinated by space and what’s out there and up to that point everything was kind of cheesy in movies about space travel and aliens. This was I believe the real first world hopping space epic with multi layered characters that were different enough (like the Boy Scout Luke or the rascal Han) that different people could get behind and root for. I also think people could relate due to history with the story of a powerful oppressive ruling government and the rebels fighting the oppression. Let’s face it everyone wants to root for the underdog! That’s my two cents on it but what do I know it was the first movie I remember going to see and was 4 at the time.

  2. Hope, love and adventure.

    It’s a safe and fun way to remember that even when times are evil and oppressive, there is always hope.

    We watch these heroes in big adventures. They make friends. They snark. They triumph over evil.

    It’s comforting. And fun. Bad Guys and Good Guys. Romance.

    And I’m writing in a ton of small sentences trying to express this, but it’s really all about the simplicity of a good adventure that you can make as light or as weighty as you bring to it.

  3. Toys and merchandising. We played with Star Wars as kids and now we want to pass it along to our kids.

  4. Star Wars captures the imagination and the imagination is forever.

  5. Pingback: Paul S. Kemp Wants Your Feedback on the Longevity of Star Wars « Roqoo Depot

  6. I can’t think of any sci-fi movie that came out before Star Wars that had that kind of production value. Even adults had to be in awe of the dogfights in space and lightsabers right? Even though I was a child, I felt like Star Wars was adult content. I didn’t feel talked down to like a child and that goes a long way sometimes.

    Now that said, the prequels kinda changed my feelings about Star Wars. It’s not that I’m older now either. The prequels just seem more like kid movies. Also, Anakin had no redeeming quality. I don’t see what Padme saw in him. He’s a spoiled punk and it changed the way I look at Vader now. I don’t have the respect for Vader that I had before Attack of the Clones. Vader used to be scary, now I just see a snot nosed punk that grew into a old handicapped man. Maybe if we could have spent the ENTIRE 3rd movie watching Vader wipe out the jedi I’d be ok with it but it didn’t work out that way. Best thing to come out of the prequels was Darth Maul and that didn’t last.

    That being said I’ll still see all six movies when they hit IMAX 3-D because deep down I still have that kid in me that grew up immersed in the Star Wars universe.

  7. Perfect versions of the archetypes plus a helluva lot of creativity. Star Wars is something that resonates because the archetypes make it so easy to grab onto the character that suits you and see through their eyes.

  8. I’ve always found that Star Wars is a solid epic fantasy, a tale that seems more refined in storytelling than Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Tolkien’s stories are very difficult to follow and piece through because of the amount of information contained. Essentially, it is true epic fantasy for the modern era.

    The elements of the force (magic) and destiny and new worlds and creatures brings readers and movie goers to an exciting adventure that resonates to our ultimate wants, a desire for meaning, purpose, and sense of identity. Many of us aren’t able to find that kind of meaningful existence in our current lives, what with day to day jobs just to earn a paycheck (I know I’m certainly not doing what I wish I could do, what I think would give me purpose) and that routine of just getting by is taxing, especially when one puts into perspective the amount of youthful time wasted trying to make it through another 9-5 day.

    The Stars Wars storyline brings so many interesting characters to life, and so many exotic settings to reality. It isn’t science fiction so it doesn’t cater to a particular demographic. In science fiction stories, the technology is the single driving force behind the tale, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey with HAL. In Star Wars, the technology is simply a backdrop, the ultimate story is of purpose, of character, and deep psychological patterns that span across a galactic landscape. The tale Darth Vader’s destiny to ultimately become the force for good and the Empire’s downfall is succinctly a story of meaning. To see what he became under the Empire’s control and finally have the ability to do something about it is a powerful message to so many people.

    In my opinion, that is what makes Star Wars so popular, especially since you can be a fan of Star Wars without being classified as a nerd or dork or whatever (see D&D or Cosplay stereotypes – though of course there are your Star Wars church members), so all walks of life can still enjoy the fantasy tale and be taken on a nice ride of visual effects and story.

  9. Star Wars speaks to the very heart of our imaginations. Their is a combination of fantastical mythology that is truly wonderous and solid science that provides structure. The chaos of dramatic elements harmonize with the seemingly solid facts of space science setting the scene like Rapheals ” School of Athens”.Stars Wars is an Allegory of the battle between good an evil in our own world and in our minds. It touches the deepest elements of imagination within us all. Star Wars is a universal tale understood in all languages and cultures.

  10. Jonathon Phillips

    I think at the root of it all, we love Star Wars because of the story. We want to see a plot unfold and watch as a kid comes from nothing and becomes something so grand that he can’t even grasp his own influence. We want him to look back on his journey and see that if he had done what he wanted to in the beginning, he wouldn’t even be around to take part in everything unfolding around him. We want the good guys to care about more than just his backyard. We want the bad guy to destroy everything that is beautiful and in the end we want him to be redeemed or killed in grand fashion.
    And while we love seeing ANY story that fits those requirements, this one has something extra. A sense of wonder, perhaps. It touches people in different ways and on different levels.
    I’m sure everyone has complaints about the prequels, but watching Obi Wan, tears in his eyes, tell Anakin that he loved him and tell the boy he was like a brother to him was absolutely heartbreaking. No matter what happened in the past, Obi knew Anakin had to die. The emotional scenes that peak perfectly with the progression of the story are uncanny and wonderful. Each film left my mouth hanging open at least once.
    Heartstrings and wonder, man. Everyone who actually watches will feel the magic.

  11. Fantasy in space! Good vs evil in cool jacket. Timeless story retold in an epic way. Yoda! Vader! Death Star! Star Destroyer. Etc.!

  12. Some interesting responses here. I hope more keep coming.

  13. It’s good versus evil. Everyone loves the “fairytale” side of things. Where the good guy always wins. People love when there are second chances and of course, love. 🙂

  14. I would say it has alot to do with even how Night of the Living Dead is still such a popular movie, Star Wars had hit a niche at the time of release that was sorely lacking, and as was posted before, caught the imaginations of all those who watched it.

    The classic tale of good vs evil, an adventure through the unknown, and coming from someone who fell in love with the original movies all that time ago, the characters were believable, and who wouldn’t want to wield a lightsaber!

  15. Star Wars may be set long ago in a galaxy far, far away, but in many ways its magic in that it is a futuristic re-imagining of classical mythological concepts. No matter what background you come from, there is at least one character in the ensemble cast that you can identify with as an entry point into the Star Wars universe. Combined with some amazing visuals, sound effects, and some of the best music ever composed for film and you have the recipe for a very special piece of cinema.

    The real secret however is the fans. If not for those original fans in 1977 who went to see the movie multiple times, spread the word to their friends and then passed their love of this film to the next generation. The brilliance of George Lucas and Lucasfilm in re-packaging Star Wars for each successive generation, keeping the franchise relevant when others have faded into obscurity.

    Star Wars isn’t about one film, it is about a mythical world constructed by George Lucas and his storytelling progeny. Oh yeah, and some really kriffing cool toys!

  16. 1977 – America was still down from fighting a long war in Asia for no result, inflation was up, the economy was bad. (Any of this sound familiar?) Star Wars came out, and it was pure escapism. Hiding away in a dark, cool movie theater for a couple of hours and forgetting about everything else. Just the world unfolding on the screen before you. And people liked what they saw. It wasn’t a sterile, squeaky clean futuristic universe (Star Trek), It was dirty and rumpled and lived in. Star Wars touched on so many other genres and types of films that everyone could relate to it. Han Solo would be at home in Dodge City. Luke could have starred in any WWII film where the wide-eyed farm kid makes good and does something heroic. Vader could have been an evil king or land owner in any medieval or feudal setting. R2 & 3PO are Laurel and Hardy- or your grandparents who’ve been married forever and argue like it. It was mythical, and mystical. You rooted for the scrappy underdog good guys to win, and you knew they would, but how razor thin was the difference between winning and being wiped out at Yavin IV? It drew you in and made you care, and that’s just good story telling, no matter how you cut it with a lightsaber.

  17. Part fable, part fairy tale, part comic book, all epic storytelling.Good versus evil where love (Luke for his father, Han and Leia) conquers all and redemption is possible. I’ve got enormous respect for the production value from the films (and now the cartoon) too. They’ve always strived to bring something new and better to the fans.

  18. Star Wars is one of those rare films which both children and adults can like. I’ve been a fan ever since I can remember and as I’m 30, that means I practically grew up with it. I did lose interest in Star Wars for a while, but when I discovered that further novels had been written in 1995, it renewed my interest in Star Wars and I started reading those while looking forward to the new prequels. Even now, more than ten years after the Phantom Menace was released, the local kids can be seen playing outside with lightsabres pretending to be Jedi!

    I think that part of Star Wars’s success is also the EU and RPG games (those like DnD, not computer ones) because it means that each fan can add something to the Star Wars universe, which is something that can’t be done with a lot of other Science Fiction shows and films.

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