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Movies Changed Forever 40 Years Ago Today When STAR WARS Was Released

That headline is no exaggeration. I know some (not all) of our younger writers like to speak in absolute terms about things they experienced in their 18-24 years as the “best ever” and “biggest ever” when what they really mean is “in my brief lifetime”. But best believe when this old fuck tells you that George Lucas’s groundbreaking sci-fi spectacle completely reset the course of movie history when it debuted 40 years ago today—May 25th, 1977. Simply, he re-wrote the book on what kind of images you can to put to film.

Before that date, filmgoers simply had never seen anything quite like STAR WARS before (no disrespect to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY but Stanley Kubrick’s tale simply didn’t encompass the many worlds, creatures, and spaceship battles that STAR WARS did). I was 5 the first time I saw it at the Broadway Theatre in Everett and though I don’t remember much from this particular epoch of my life (save for my first grade teacher’s 36DDs), that long time ago galaxy that was far, far away struck me like the proverbial thunderbolt.

So many visual and audio cues take me back to that old movie house across the Mystic and the endless VCR viewings of my childhood. The iconic opening crawl. A guttural growl from a beloved wookie. The slackjaw-inducing lightsaber battles. A badass princess who kicked ass alongside the fellas. They’re endless, they’re timeless, and they’re iconic pieces of what became a legit global phenomenon.

When STAR WARS debuted, the only expectations were the tempered kind and only a smattering of theaters had a print. There had been much scuttlebutt about this strange space film that Lucas was following his 1973 hit AMERICAN GRAFFITI with but nobody had an inkling of what was coming.

Thanks to his amazing special effects and design teams, Lucas created worlds and characters that never existed before and they became as familiar and comfortable as your favorite La-Z-Boy recliner over the ensuing decades. Though it seems mundane by today’s standards, seeing the jump to lightspeed/hyperspace for the first time was mind-blowing. The Mos Eisley cantina scene was dizzying for both its wacky music and collection of misfits that look as though they exited somebody’s bad acid trip. And those tie-fighter dogfights? Amazing stuff for 1977 that was done all by hand.

With his prepping-for-an-NBA-playoff-game attire and deep, intimidating voice provided by the inimitable James Earl Jones, Darth Vader enters the movie early and while he may leave the screen, the impression that the supervillian leaves doesn’t go anywhere. People in the theater knew immediately that his chokin’ ass was going to be a bad guy for the ages and that Blofeld couldn’t hold a candle to him.

Every kid wanted to be the rebellious bad-ass Han Solo (even though he was apparently a bit of a deadbeat who would seemingly never grow up), though they’d settle for the softer Luke because who the hell doesn’t want to own a lightsaber and kiss Princess Leia (prior to it being incestuous)? And though STAR WARS was more popular with boys than girls when it was originally released, the feisty, take-no-shit Leia was a natural role model for young girls to gravitate to.

Lucas signed a mix of dignified, veteran English actors and young American up-and-comers to tell the story of stolen plans, an imprisoned princess, and the quest to reunite the two so the Rebellion could go fuck shit up. And the world drank it in like a tasty blue milkshake. His brilliant merchandising deal made him a gazillionaire 20 times over and also revolutionized the toy market with what would become to be known as “action figures” (call them “dolls” and you’re getting put into more pieces than Alderaan). Oh, and then there were those sequels.

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Honestly, I could write 5000 words about this shit because there are just so many things to hone in on. But just know this: STAR WARS changed the movie game like nothing before it and nothing since has approached what it accomplished.

(“Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise” is the ‘Sonny misses punching Carlo by a foot’ of STAR WARS.)

@RearAdBsBlog