by Public Service Associate Luke
May the Fourth be with you. Star Wars Day is upon us! This is the day when fans join together to celebrate the greatest science fiction universe in media (Trekkies may take their leave now). Back in 1977, no one expected an unknown creative with an idea for space cowboys and laser-swords to take over the hearts and minds of millions of people. George Lucas drew on his love for westerns, samurai tales, and mythical archetypes to create a universe that is so famous, it is hard to find someone who has not seen the movies or at least heard the quotable lines. Being named Luke, almost every interaction I had as a child included “I am your father.” Star Wars is one of the best worlds to explore and disappear into, and it has some fantastic books and shows based on the galaxy far far away.
Of course to start, I will always recommend the best Star Wars movie: The Empire Strikes Back. The sequel to A New Hope, this movie finds the Rebels soon after their victory over the Death Star, and Luke is training to become a Jedi knight. Containing some of the most memorable scenes in the entire saga, including the best lightsaber duel, Empire Strikes Back is extremely watchable and is one of the best sequels in film history.
Where would Star Wars be without its trademark score, written and conducted by the master of nostalgic music: John Williams. Star Wars is one of his best works, and many of the songs and sounds of the Star Wars universe were created by Williams. Darth Vader is accompanied by the pounding “Imperial March,” the opening scrawls of each movie flash on screen to the famous “Main Theme,” and we feel the romance between two lovable characters with “Han and Leia.” Check out John Williams Conducts John Williams: The Star Wars Trilogy to hear the iconic movie music.
Heir to the Empire is the beginning of the Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn, and is one of the best stories told in the extended Star Wars universe. Following the events of Return of the Jedi, this novel and its sequels follow the newly formed Republic as they struggle to find allies, strengthen their political position, and battle with new enemies, some of whom have the power to challenge even Luke Skywalker.
Earlier in the Star Wars history is the Era of the Old Republic, a time in the universe when Jedi ruled with peace and wisdom. Charging in to disrupt this tranquility is Darth Bane, whose rise to power is chronicled in the Darth Bane trilogy, which begins with Path of Destruction. Darth Bane is the powerful Sith Lord who essentially sets the world of Jedi vs Sith in motion, and creates the principles that Darth Vader and his master Sidious will obey in the films. A part of the universe that is not featured in any film or television, the Darth Bane trilogy is an amazing read for those who want to dig deeper into the lore of Star Wars.
Some of the best Star Wars material came in the form of the animated TV series produced by Disney. The Clone Wars follows Anakin, Obi-Wan, and their fellow Jedi during the Clone Wars between movies Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Star Wars Rebels tells the story of a small group of fugitives from the Empire in the days following Order 66 and the beginning of the Empire. Both are terrific shows, and provide insight into some familiar characters and give us great new ones.
Star Wars would not exist without the media that inspired it. George Lucas was heavily influenced by samurai films, especially two of Akira Kurosawa’s best. Seven Samurai is one of the greatest films ever made, and samurai culture is baked into the Jedi warrior-monk way of life. The Hidden Fortress tells the story of a warrior who must escort a princess through enemy territory, accompanied by two bumbling servants (sound familiar?). Lucas also read Hero with a Thousand Faces, a seminal work on mythological archetypes and the hero’s journey, to create his tragic and heroic characters.
To read more about the man behind Star Wars, George Lucas: A Life provides excellent information on both Lucas’s creative mind and the work that went into creating his science-fiction masterpiece. Secrets of the Force is the best oral history of the behind-the-scenes making of the Skywalker saga, and contains uncensored interviews with producers, set designers, writers, and others who worked on the movies. To learn more about how Star Wars has affected culture, its lasting influence on film, and the various ways it has been celebrated and challenged, check out Myth, Media, and Culture in Star Wars.
Star Wars Day is not a national holiday (yet), but it is still a fun day to recognize the juggernaut that is Star Wars. Multiple generations have been able to see the movie magic, and there is still so much more to explore. Feel free to stop by and check out any of the titles listed above, or any of the numerous works that I did not mention! As always, may the Force be with you.