The Past, Present, and Future of Star Wars
Star Wars might just be the most iconic franchise in film and entertainment history. The series has spanned several generations, with the most recent trilogy finishing up with The Rise of Skywalker hitting theaters just a few weeks ago. The first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, was initially released in 1977. The Star Wars universe has been expanded through movies, live-action and animated TV shows, comics, toys, video games, theme parks, and more. The classic heroes, villains, ships, fights, and locations in Star Wars have touched countless lives over the forty-three years since A New Hope’s release. But why? What makes Star Wars so special? And now that the “final” movie has been released, where will the franchise go from here?
To try and understand the full impact Star Wars has had on the world, one must first reflect on the past. “Groundbreaking” is much too small a word when trying to describe how revolutionary A New Hope really was, directed by George Lucas. Back then just being called Star Wars, many cite this movie as the first ever blockbuster, a movie with a big budget and famous celebrities that typically comes out in the summer, and is met with great commercial success. In reality, Star Wars didn’t have that big of a budget, and its most famous star at the time was probably Sir Alec Guinness, but it was certainly met with unprecedented success, popularity, and of course it made a lot of money. No one expected Star Wars to do as well as it did. It was incredibly, indescribably successful, and was promptly followed up with The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and Return of the Jedi in 1983, completing the trilogy. Both of these films were extremely successful at the box office and well-received by fans as well. “Star Wars has definitely had an impact on other movies, I think it inspired a lot of big franchises to make more than or or two movies… Also Star Wars was a bit of a spark of inspiration to use special effects in movies as much as we see them now,” says Parker Olsen (11), a long-time Star Wars fan. This trilogy of films altered the cultural landscape forever, changing both the lives of fans, and moviemaking in general.
After the completion of what is now referred to as the “Original Trilogy,” and nearly two decades of lucrative comics, toys, video games, and other merchandising, the second Star Wars trilogy of movies was released. “The Prequels,” as the collection of movies is called, expanded on the story of what took place before A New Hope, and how certain characters got to the points they are at to begin that movie. While not nearly as well received by critics and fans as the original trilogy, the prequels had their own share of box office and commercial success. Additionally, these movies were released in the late ‘90s to early 2000s, the perfect time for experimental CGI - Computer Generated Images - and other digital effects in films. As a result of this, while making the films George Lucas took lots of risks and pioneered the landscape of digital effects for movies yet to come. While these effects may not hold up today, it is unquestionable that without them, the standard of digital visual effects in the movie industry today would not be nearly to the point at which it is. The movies were also almost immediately followed up by the TV show The Clone Wars, which aired on Cartoon Network in the late 2000s. The show grew to be a fan favorite, many teenagers today regard it with a lot of nostalgia. “As a kid, I loved to watch the movies just because it was such a cool world. Growing up with the Clone Wars TV show was great, because I thought the clones were the coolest thing,” Olsen recalls fondly. This show is widely regarded as being one of the best things to come out of the prequel trilogy.
While the prequels may not have been well-received, the Star Wars franchise was far from over.
About ten more years of successful comics, toys, and a TV show later, Lucasfilm - the company that controls all things Star Wars, aptly named after George Lucas - was bought by Disney for $4.05 billion in 2012. In just eight short years since this purchase, Disney has released three TV shows, five movies, a new theme park, and, of course, countless toys, comics, and the like. The incredible amount of Star Wars related media Disney has produced in just under a decade has been met with some mixed reviews, but overall is regarded as pretty good. The series continues to produce iconic settings, characters, effects, and, most importantly, stories. The “Sequel Trilogy” of Star Wars movies released through Disney - The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker - have been immensely successful financially, and introduced Star Wars to a new generation of fans.
So where does the Star Wars franchise go from here? It’s probably too early to say anything for sure right now. “What we’ve focused on these last five or six years is finishing that family saga around the Skywalkers. Now is the time to start thinking about how to segue into something new and different,” stated Kathleen Kennedy, the current president of Lucasfilm. Supposed rumors have been circling of a new trilogy helmed by Marvel’s Kevin Feige, with the first movie released in 2022, to be set in an era of time completely independent from that of the Skywalkers. New series on the Disney+ streaming service have also been hinted at, to be focused on the stories of more minor characters, further expanding the world of Star Wars. Little is known about the details of any of these upcoming projects, and it seems like fans will be left to speculate for months or even years to come, as the storytellers and higher-ups at Lucasfilm take a step back to examine where they want the future of the franchise to go. No matter the future of the franchise, Star Wars’ insane impact on our cultural landscape as well as the world of moviemaking is undeniable.