The next long-awaited instalment of the Star Wars franchise is out in the UK today, produced by J.J. Abrams under Walt Disney Pictures. Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens will be set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi (Episode VI), and features a variety of returning characters; Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Chewbacca – each played by the original actors. The teaser trailer boasts a new set of lead characters, Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and the lightsaber-wielding Kylo Ren who feature alongside a cute little ball-droid named BB-8.
The original Star Wars trilogy created a blast in the genre of science-fiction, securing fanatical success that is still alive. The franchise combines science-fiction and fantasy into a futuristic, space-hero adventure that has had a massive impact on popular culture.
Episode IV – A New Hope
The birth of the hugely successful cult movie series began with A New Hope, which introduced us to the range of iconic and unforgettable characters that propelled Star Wars to become so acclaimed. The Imperial Stormtroopers are a unique set of villains, their characters reduced to dehumanised suits, and although Darth Vader starts out in this way, we increasingly see his human nature as the films progress. Our main protagonist trio, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo form a bond in the first movie after Luke and Han rescue her from the Death Star, aided by Jedi Knight Obi Wan-Kenobi.
Star Wars introduced a new level to the science-fiction genre, and used ground-breaking special effects, being the first movie to incorporate large-scale application of motion control photography, so it’s unsurprising that it became the third-highest-grossing film in the world and one of the most important sci-fi films ever made.
Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back is the most renowned film in the Star Wars franchise, elaborating on the relationship between Vader and Luke with the plot twist of Vader’s revelation that he is Luke’s father.
This instalment brings in a new – and possibly the most well-known – character, Yoda, who gives Luke Jedi training. Small, green, and furry, and with a trademark way of speaking in odd object-subject-verb sentences, Yoda is easily one of the most prominent characters in the franchise.
The Empire Strikes Back also introduces a romantic element between Leia and Han. Leia and Han’s relationship is interesting and unconventional, centralising around Han’s famous response “I know” when Leia tells him she loves him, before Han is frozen in carbonite. With the risk that Han may not even survive or see her again, his response is surprising and portrays him more of an ‘anti-hero’ where he lacks the morality that Leia and Luke both have.
The cliff-hanger ending, where Han is sent away to Jabba the Hutt due to the betrayal by Han’s friend Lando, maintains the tension of the movie, with multiple loose ends left unresolved in preparation for the third segment of the trilogy.
Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Return of the Jedi focuses largely on the relationship between Luke and Vader, essentially creating a story of father and son within the backdrop of a war between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. The movie ends with the pinnacle battle between Luke, Vader, and Palpatine, allowing Vader to reveal a shred of moral compass as he takes a fatal blow and kills his leader to save his son’s life. This instalment shows the antagonist as a somewhat good character corrupted by power, and as Vader’s mask is taken off, and he dies in Luke’s arms, we see Anakin without the burden of the Dark Side. In this sense Star Wars is so successful as, especially after watching the prequel trilogy, the audience is able to pity the villain.
Despite the demise of his father, Luke still has family in the form of his twin sister, Leia. On Endor, after the Death Star explodes, Leia reveals to Han that Luke is her brother and this allows their relationship to finally progress, giving an ultimately happier ending to the story. The Force Awakens will surely pick up on Han and Leia’s relationship.
It’s easy to say that the first Star Wars trilogy is one of the best movie series ever made. The unprecedented space battle adventure, romance among aliens, and family arc created a captivating plot that was fantastically executed. Despite the fact that this trilogy was created before our generation was born, the majority of us have been aware of its cult influence since we were young. The instantly recognisable theme song, logo, and characters, alongside the profound and exciting plot, makes Star Wars an unrivalled franchise.