Star Wars

When Star Wars was released in 1977, it changed cinema. The franchise was alive with mythical forces, strange aliens and exciting action sequences, and it captured the imagination of millions of fans. Never before had a series of films produced such devotion and loyalty — and when it returned for a prequel trilogy in 1999, a whole new generation fell in love. Now it is time for Episodes VII-IX, and a new round of prequels including this year’s Rogue One. Why has this intergalactic tale resonated with so many people? Episode VII actress Lupita Nyong’o has a theory: ‘Under all the makeup,’ she explains, ‘it’s just human relationships and wants and desires.’


Star Wars has been described as the ultimate ‘monomyth’: the universal story of a hero who leaves the everyday world, finds supernatural wonder, wins a decisive victory and returns home a changed man. Why is mythology so important?


‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…’ Star Wars relies far more on the ‘fiction’ side of sci-fi than a commitment to accurate science. But it captures the spirit of space exploration, and the dream of finding intelligent life and civilisations much like our own.


The Star Wars universe is rife with violence and tension: Sith against Jedi, Empire against Republic. There are rebel forces and clone armies, lightsabers and X-wing fighter jets. It is a world at war.


Star Wars is also the tale of a powerful, tortured family. In Episode I, nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker leaves his mother to travel on an adventure. By Episode VI, he has become Darth Vader, a terrifying villain in a fierce battle with his own children, Luke and Leia — heroes of the rebels. Yet family ties are strong.


What is more powerful: a giant ‘Death Star’ with the power to destroy entire planets, or an ancient mystical force that can move objects, choke enemies, and guarantee that a shot fired from a fighter jet will hit its target? The fight between advanced technology and the supernatural defines much of the Star Wars saga.