On May 25, 1977, 20th Century Fox released to its American audience one of the best loved science-fiction movies of all times – Star Wars. The space odyssey spurred an entire series of films, television shows, games, and got generations hooked to Star Wars. The 1977 epic space film was written and directed by George Lucas. Though the first film to be released in the Star Wars saga, it is the fourth in the series’ internal chronology and subsequently, on re-release, was named Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Star Wars was revolutionary in its use of special effects and in the groundbreaking directorial and editorial techniques applied. The telling of an unconventional fantasy story in a hitherto unexplored medium made Star Wars one of the most successful and favored films in the world.
George Lucas had originally prepared a short 14-page story treatment for this space opera. Most of the major studios turned it down because science fiction and fantasy were genres they believed would not sell. Alan Ladd Jr., the new head of 20th Century Fox, was the one willing to give Lucas a try, having been considerably impressed with Lucas’s second film, American Graffiti. 20th Century Fox agreed to a budget of about $9.5 million and the film took over 4 years to be completed. Star Wars was released in only 42 theaters but it garnered a much larger viewership than its target audience of science-fiction fans mostly due to its striking publicity campaign. By the end of week 1, Star Wars had already made $3 million. Star Wars became the nominal highest-grossing film, having earned $460 million in the United States and $314 million overseas. It retained the rank till 1982, when it was surpassed by E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. According to the 2012 inflation adjusted records, Star Wars is the second highest grossing film in the U.S. and Canada and is the third highest-grossing film across the globe. Apart from its commercial success, Star Wars became a favorite of the critics and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. The nominations included Best Picture and the film won in six categories including a Special Achievement Award in Sound Editing.
Star Wars was set in a faraway galaxy from a long ago time when a group of freedom fighters, the Rebel Alliance, plan to annihilate a powerful destructive weapon called the Death Star, created by an evil Galactic Empire. Farm boy Luke Skywalker stumbles upon droids and secret plans from the Empire and is solicited by Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi to accompany him on a rescue mission to find and deliver Princess Leia from the clutches of the Empire.
Mark Hamill played Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford played the Han Solo while the captivating Princess Leia was played by Carrie Fisher. The voice of the space station commander, Darth Vader, was provided by James Earl Jones. The alien creatures, the space station, and the special effects came from of Lucas’ company, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). Much of the movie was shot in distant and difficult locations such as Tunisia and Death Valley, California.
Lucas followed up with two sequels – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). The trilogy sparked off a huge market for Star Wars clothes and accessories, toys, videos and other merchandise. Starting in the late 1990s, Lucas released a new series of Star Wars movies. These were set in a time before the original trilogy making this Star Wars the fourth episode of the series. These three films – Stars Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) – were all huge-box office hits. Lucas also re-released the original Star Wars on many occasions. Some of these releases such as the 1997 Special Edition, the 2004 DVD release, and the 2011 Blu-ray release, feature significant changes including computer-generated effects, modified dialogues, and added scenes.
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