By Anindita Mukhopadhyay
‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, episode VIII of the film series, released on December 15 this year. Nostalgic fans worldwide have flocked to the cinemas to catch the latest addition to the sequel trilogy of the Star Wars franchise. Despite some backlash from fans, the film which received glowing reviews from critics has amassed more than 500 million USD within its first week of release. The theme of the film is about being tested, about having everything you value thrown into question and figuring out the right thing to do. This resonates with not just the ardent fans of the franchise, but every single viewer. The Last Jedi is a magnificent next step in the Star Wars universe.
The Star Wars phenomenon
The franchise began with the release of the film Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) in 1977, which surprised audiences with an immersive universe and special effects that they had never seen before. It was followed by the sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983); these three films constitute the original Star Wars trilogy. This was followed by a prequel trilogy, spin-offs, and a sequel trilogy beginning with The Force Awakens, in 2015.
These 40 years of the franchise has seen it grow into a cultural phenomenon. Star Wars became a pop culture icon because it allowed us to feel like we could be in that galaxy far, far away. The film resonated with its audience with its combination of the classic hero’s journey storyline, the merging of science fiction and fantasy, and the blend of action and humour that appealed to the sense of fun and wonder in every child. The films were inspired by its successful forerunners, as Gunn said, “We all rely on the tropes that we inherit from our genre predecessors–the concepts, the ideas and hope to shape them into something new and different.”
The thrill of outer space
Unlike the occasional dreariness of all other cinema, space films always tend to promise something completely novel, in a whole new perspective. As Douglas Adams wrote in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,’ “Space is big. Really big.” Space allows for—among other wonders, ‘Star Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry’s ‘Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations’—a ready surplus of places for movie plots.
Georges-Jean Méliès’ 1902 film ‘A Trip to the Moon’ was probably one of the first science fiction films ever made. Inspired by Jules Verne’s book, it was our first brush with outer space, a world beyond our own. This was followed by films like ‘The Forbidden Planet’ in 1956 and Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968). The latter released in the year humans orbited the moon and went on to become one of the most beloved space movies of all time. Then came ‘Star Wars’, that introduced us to the galaxy far, far away.
Now, after more than a century, the genre has achieved a cult-like following, especially with recent movies like ‘Interstellar’, ‘Gravity’, and ‘The Martian’, all of which focussed on the singular experiences of an astronaut pushed further beyond their comfort zones. Another blockbuster, James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ has turned out to be one of the highest grossing films ever made, second only to ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’. This underscores the significance of filmmaking and cinema technology, which is a major reason for the overwhelming success of outer space movies.
Upcoming space experiences
The next few years in science-fiction films is set to be ever brighter with major sequels pushing for release. The Avatar sequels and the conclusion to the Star Wars sequel trilogy–Episode IX in 2019, are merely the tip of the iceberg. The future of deep space films promises to raise the bar for filmmaking technology as well as the entire movie-going experience with immersive virtual reality on the cards.
Star Wars changed the world. Well, at least the world of popular culture. It was the first epic science fiction space adventure to be told on a grand scale. Let’s hope the next instalment of the galaxy far, far away lives up to its legacy.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
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