4 Influences That Led to the Creation of Star Wars
4 Influences That Led to the Creation of Star Wars
There's a really good chance that like millions of other people, you're completely aware of the fact that December 18th is a very special date. December 18th marks the long awaited release of Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. Star Wars has affected popular culture like no other since the first film was released back in 1977 and continues to have a huge impact on everything from film and videogames to real life technology (such as laser technology, walking robots and even holograms). This new Star Wars film, directed by J.J. Abrams (the man that revived another influential science fiction series - Star Trek), is widely predicted to not just smash box office records, but to completely obliterate them. However, the original Star Wars - while hugely influential on modern culture - wasn't exactly as unique as you may have thought. The following are four huge influences that helped to form George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy:
1. Serial Films
Lucas was a huge fan of the old serial films that ran towards the beginning of the 20th century. If you're unfamiliar with serial films, they are basically short films that were presented before features in the movie theater. These short films would often end in cliffhangers, which would only be resolved in the following week's serial - and the original Star Wars trilogy probably contains one of the best cliffhangers of all time in the form of Darth Vader revealing his true identity to Luke Skywalker. Serial films tended to be in the western and science fiction genre; in fact, Flash Gordon was one of the most popular serial science fiction films and was actually the film that Lucas set out to make before transitioning to his own Star Wars.
2. WWII Films
First of all, it should be obvious that WWII itself hugely influenced the Star Wars universe. The Empire that the rebels are fighting against is of course a sci-fi version of the Nazi party. The stormtroopers are based off of the Nazi stormtroopers. Even the shape of the stormtrooper helmets closely resemble those of the Nazi soldiers. The officers on board the Imperial Fleet are all dressed in uniforms that look suspiciously like Nazi officer uniforms as well.
Once you begin looking at some of the WWII films from the 1950s and 1960s, you'll see even more influences. Take for example the 1955 film, Dam Busters. In its climactic scene, British RAF pilots must simultaneously bomb three German held dams with incredible precision in order for their mission to succeed. The scenes play out very closely to those that Lucas filmed for the climactic X-Wing attack on the first film's Death Star. Then there's the 1961 film, Guns of Navarone, which was about a group of Allied soldiers whose mission was to infiltrate enemy territory in order to destroy two huge guns. If they failed, the Allied forces would be unable to get through in order to save 2,000 marooned British soldiers. Sound familiar? It should - it's basically the plot of the third film in the trilogy, Return of the Jedi, in which rebel fighters must take out an energy field station on the moon of the planet Endor so that the Rebel forces can take out the new Death Star.
3. Akira Kurosawa
Lucas has revealed on many occasions how influential the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa was to his work in general. This shouldn't come as a surprise to begin with considering how Kurosawa is often cited by modern filmmakers as a huge influence and is often considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. But look a little closer at the films of Kurosawa - specifically The Hidden Fortress - and you'll see that Lucas borrowed more than a few elements from Kurosawa's work for his Star Wars films. First of all, just look at how Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi are dressed. Looks a bit Japanese doesn't it? Then there's the whole Jedi mythology and the way they do battle using lightsabers - if you pay attention, you'll realize that the Jedis are basically samurais, which are ancient Japanese warriors that fought using a strict code of honor.
Lucas borrowed a large amount of Japanese culture to create his Star Wars universe, but he also took story elements from Kurosawa's films. The Hidden Fortress begins with two poor farmers turned soldiers wandering around in the desert. These farmers are central to the film's plot, but they also act as the comic relief of the film. Remember how the first Star Wars begins? With two droids, C3PO and R2D2 wandering through a desert. They too are central to the plot, but act more as side characters that provide comic relief. Then there's the fierce warrior who is attempting to rescue the princess, who act as direct influence on Han Solo and Princess Leia.
4. Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell is a famous mythologist who write a book called The Hero With a Thousand Faces. This book introduced the concept of the hero's journey. If you look at the overall arc of Lucas's Star Wars films, you'll see that he took his structure directly from the mythological story structure, known as the hero's journey, outlined by Campbell in his book. The Hero's Journey consists of three acts - departure, initiation and return. Some of the beats that Campbell goes over within these three acts include the call to adventure, the refusal of the call, supernatural aid, the road of trials, atonement with the father, apotheosis, refusal of return, magic flight, master of two worlds and the freedom to live. And the hero of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, hits every one of these beats.
Star Wars deserves its reputation as a cultural phenomenon due to the huge impact it has had on both popular culture and culture in general. However, as you desperately scramble to find tickets for a December 18th opening night showing, be sure to remember the many influences that led to the creation of Star Wars.
About the author: Sonny Choun is part of our Marketing Team here at Pivot Insurance. He enjoys playing outdoor sports, bowling with friends, and spending time with family. His talent and expertise are a reflection of the Pivot culture. He believes life insurance is an essential part of a family's financial security. Sonny can be contacted at 1-800-651-1953 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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