Before there were jokes about Princess Leia becoming one of the Disney princesses, before there were prequels with flashy CGI and lackluster scripts, before there was a giant merchandising arm of advertising putting the characters on and in every conceivable thing from bedsheets to lunchboxes to video games to chess sets to Christmas specials, before there was a trilogy that was the high point to science-fiction special effects for decades to come, before there was a sequel with the biggest reveal in cinematic history, a long time ago there was a film that took the feeling of a campy sci-fi serial, laid it over a classic fantasy narrative, and polished it to look as good as it possibly could. And from Star Wars – not A New Hope and not Episode IV, but just Star Wars – grew a colossus, a franchise so deeply a part of our culture that people can have not just grown up in a world where it has always existed but can then have had children who have experienced that world the same way. Star Wars is in many ways a modern version of shared mythology, a touchstone so universally relatable that it transcends mere film and becomes a part of cultural history. And even with all of the decades of additional baggage, sequels and prequels and expanded universe canon and special editions, when actually watching the film itself it’s still possible to divorce all the outside noise from the fun adventure on the screen and have a great time with star-fighter pilots and laser-sword fights.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) gets the chance to escape his boring farming life when a chance acquisition of two droids, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) lead him to former Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness); with the help of cocky smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), they set out to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), prominent figure in the Rebel Alliance, held captive on the imposing Death Star by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and his dark Jedi enforcer, Darth Vader (David Prowse, James Earl Jones). The description alone should be enough to give the handful of people unaware of the Star Wars universe a sense of what it’s like – high fantasy clothed in a science-fiction setting, complete with wizards and princesses and dragons. It’s hokey and silly to write it down but seeing it in action makes it all make sense; the visual appeal of something like the towering form of Darth Vader, a dogfight between the Millennium Falcon and a TIE Fighter, or a lightsaber duel cannot be accurately described in words. It is for reasons like this that everyone should see Star Wars; there are parts of our culture that are closed off to you until you do.