It’s 26th May in Australia, but still the 25th in the USA. It’s a momentous anniversary, the first actual release of that juggernaut, Star Wars. That was the film’s name back then. No ‘episode 4’. No ‘A New Hope’. That would all come later, when George Lucas realised he had a really, truly block-buster on his hands. People queued around the block to see it at the thirty-two movie theaters prepared to take a risk with this science fiction movie produced and directed by a little-known newcomer. There you go. You never can tell.
It’s interesting how closely the date matches the release of the new Star Wars spin-off, Solo: A Star Wars Story. Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo, made his mark in that first movie all those years ago. Forty-one, to be exact. It never ceases to amaze me at the series’ longevity. I can understand the movie catching the imagination of 1977. It was fun, had a smart-mouthed heroine prepared to take charge (still too much of a rarity) and it had lots of TECH. It was understandable tech. Space-capable fighters flying in space as they would in atmosphere. Moving from planet to planet in the same time as it would take to drive across town. Blasters that looked a lot like your average pistol. All the planets seemed to have pretty much the same gravity and all of them had atmosphere humans – and most aliens – could breath. Lots and lots of aliens, most of them humanoid. And wow, gosh space ships! And star destoyers like great big aircraft carriers in space! And fighters and the Millenium Falcon, with dirt on them and scratches and things. As if somebody had actually used them! And fights and explosions and this AMAZING baddy!!!
The science was lousy, but who cared? I certainly didn’t.
I suppose movies, like most things, are a product of their times. The Vietnam War had ended (with the US having to admit defeat) but the Cold War was still on. The Berlin Wall stood proud. Kids did atomic bomb drills (in US schools, anyway). Star Wars was an escape, another world to enjoy when this one didn’t offer much. It’s ancient history that the first movie led to a second, and a third, then a flood of Star Wars books of variable quality. The magic refused to die. So George made his prequels, with Darth Vader as a cute eight-year-old and his future wife as the Queen of Naboo. I never could see what Padme saw in the petulant, teenage Anakin. A lot of other people couldn’t either. The prequels were universally panned.
And still the magic refused to die.
A new generation of kids grew up to hate Darth Vader (or love him if you were a bit weird, like me) and love Han, Leia, and Luke. Disney bought the franchise, causing deep concern amongst fandom. But it was a smart move from the studio, which has been repaid in spades for its apparently large investment. Star Wars toys and merchandise had never vanished from the shelves. Now they returned with a vengeance, along with the long-awaited movies, the animated Star Wars: Rebels in the vanguard. It’s no secret that I thought The Force Awakens was derivative crap. But at least Star Wars was back. Rogue One was very good. The Last Jedi I think drew a thick line in marker pen under the old guard. Let’s hope Star Wars 9 really will be A New Hope. (Haha). We have some new characters to watch – Finn and Po and Rey. We’ll see.
I have hopes for Solo. It’s a return to the roots. The new young actor Alden Ehrenreich, who plays the role of Han Solo, has big shoes to fill. Think Han and you see Harrison Ford, who owned the role in the earlier films. However, from what I’ve seen it’ll be a fun romp taking place before the events in A New Hope (the original one). There’ll be no Force, no Leia – but there’ll be Lando Calrissian (played by Billy-Dee Williams in The Empire Strikes Back). Sure, it’ll be predictable, it won’t offer anything deep and meaningful that’ll leave you cogitating for days.
You know what? In these dark and dangerous times, that’s fine by me.