Long ago in a galaxy far away, a man went deep into his imagination and returned with a powerful force. It should be no guessing game that the man being referred to here is George Lucas and the force he gave to the world was none other than the Star Wars franchise. These films have indeed become iconic in almost every way. Whether it is recreating lightsaber fighting scenes or using phrases such as “evil empire” or “May the force be with you”, it is unquestionable that these films have profoundly impacted our culture. Released in the late 1970s, the Star Wars films swept the world and like the energizer bunny, their influence kept going and going and going.
Due to the success of the original 1977 Star Wars film, the science fiction genre was at the forefront of entertainment in the late 1970s and 1980s. Science fiction all of a sudden became more appealing and a blockbuster genre that audiences craved. In many ways, Star Wars set the standard by which every other science fiction film was compared to. From visual effects to sound to plot to characters, other films had a lot to measure up to. Star Wars influence infiltrated culture quickly, as it was parodied, shortly after its release in short videos and films such as Spaceballs.
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Aside from merely the science fiction genre, Star Wars had an effect on revolutionizing the Hollywood film industry as a whole. With Star Wars came a shift in film making from deep, thought provoking films with dramatic conflict to action packed, special effects motion pictures that were spectacle oriented, thus paving the way for the Hollywood blockbuster movie. Previous to Star Wars, little advancement had been made in special effects since the 1950s. The creation of George Lucas’s film opened the doors of exploration for special effects and started the journey toward computer images and other technology. As a result, increased investment and new companies were created to further move special effects forward. Star Wars was also responsible for the genre pastiche, which combines several genres into one film. In the case of Star Wars, the blend of genres was science fiction, western, war, and epic. In addition, Star Wars also became the example for the trilogy and the merchandising of film inspired items.
Not only has Star Wars had an impact on film, elements of the beloved trilogy have also surfaced in several other places. For instance, the Smithsonian’s Natural Art and Space Museum paid homage to the films with the exhibition Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, featuring production models, props, costumes, and characters from the original films. In October 2007, NASA launched a space shuttle orbit carrying an original lightsaber from Return of the Jedi. In terms of music, John Williams’ classic score is often heard as a fanfare at sporting events and ceremonies. Even politics has drawn from the Star Wars films. In CNN’s 2008 Election Night coverage, the holographic video effect associated with the films was used as a technological tool to make it look like people in different locations were talking face to face.
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There is truly no limit to the various ways Star Wars has seeped into our culture. In addition to the previously mentioned things, Star Wars has inspired many comic books, web series, television characters, and movies and shows dedicated to its legends. It also manifests itself with terminology and iconic scenes in commercials, political campaign posters, and fashion among others.
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