As much as I love Star Wars, it’s sometimes hard for someone my age to truly comprehend how much the 1977 film revolutionized movies. After all, I was barely two years old when Star Wars hit theaters 30 years ago this weekend.
I am, then, a lifelong member of the Star Wars generation. I lived through the quake and aftershocks of Star Wars, but did not witness the prior movie landscape firsthand.
Though Star Wars certainly blows me away to this day, my perspective is a bit skewed in that many of the movies I grew up watching were influenced by Star Wars in some way. For me, Star Wars did not set a new high water mark for movies. Instead, it was the measuring stick.
I envy those who had seen enough of that prior landscape to know they were witnessing history the first time they watched Star Wars. From the quiet, fairy tale intro of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .” to the main theme that blows you back in your seat as the title and crawl set the stage, and, finally, to the small Rebel ship over Tatooine pursued by an enormous Imperial star destroyer that soon dominates the entire screen, the first moments of the film perfectly set up the entire Star Wars experience.
Thirty years later, there are now six Star Wars movies, but I still say the opening of the 1977 film is by far the best. The only one that even tries to come close, as far as visual impact, is 2005’s Revenge of the Sith with its spectacular battle over Coruscant.
On simple terms, what makes Star Wars so extraordinary is that all of its separate elements form a greater whole. Take away the John Williams music and replace it with, say, Jerry Goldsmith, and the movie flops. What’s Star Wars without the brilliance of John Williams?
Recast the film a bit, replace Carrie Fisher with Jodie Foster, or Mark Hamill with William Katt, or Harrison Ford with Kurt Russell, and Star Wars flops. What’s Star Wars without the chemistry of Fisher, Hamill, and Ford?
Take away all of the spectacular effects and replace them with average studio work, and Star Wars flops. What is Star Wars without that opening scene, without the Millennium Falcon racing through hyperspace, without the tiny X-Wings and Y-Wings assaulting the planet-sized Death Star?
Take away one of these or other key elements and Star Wars is just one of hundreds of long-forgotten science fiction & fantasy films.
Instead, George Lucas brought it all together, part innovative genius and part luck. After that summer in 1977, movies were never the same. For that, our galaxy is forever in his debt.