When Star Wars was released in May 1977, it would change the landscape of Hollywood cinema forever. Audiences worldwide were wowed by the massive spectacle and romantic undertones of the heroic struggle between good and evil. All of this came during a time when cinema was flooded with realism and pessimism. For audiences in the '70s, #StarWars was a breath of fresh air, but little did anyone realize, including George Lucas himself, that it would create the foundation for nearly all future Hollywood films. In May of this year, the first installment of George Lucas's original trilogy will be turning 40. Here are five ways Star Wars transformed the Hollywood blockbuster.
1. Genre Mixing
One element of storytelling that has become a staple in Hollywood blockbusters today is genre mixing. Star Wars did this with great success and was able to bring massive action, excitement and romance into a genre many would assume to be sci-fi. While Star Wars may appear to be a sci-fi film (at least visually), its thematic elements are a far cry from films like Planet of the Apes or 2001 A Space Odyssey.
With Star Wars, #GeorgeLucas took the language of fantasy and myth — along with sci-fi visual storytelling — to create what seemed to be a new genre that some refer to now as the "space opera." One genre just wasn't enough to encompass George Lucas's epic story.
2. Groundbreaking Special Effects
This has now become implied territory for Hollywood blockbusters. Fans expect to see the best possible visuals from films like the Avengers, Transformers or Harry Potter. Up to the time of its release, no one had experienced the visuals that propelled Star Wars to win the Academy Award for visual effects in 1977 — effects that still hold up well by today's standards. The franchise continues to push the envelope of visual effects with films like Rogue One and The Force Awakens. Grand Moff Tarkin anyone?
Check out the video below to find out exactly how the VFX gurus at Lucasfilm were able to bring Moff Tarkin to life. There's plenty more Star Wars content over at Movie Pilot Video.
3. The Film Trilogy Solidified
When George Lucas approached Director Irvin Kershner to direct The Empire Strikes Back, he was taken aback because he, like many others, thought Star Wars was made to be a single film. Little did he realize that Star Wars not only had a sequel, but was, in fact, part of a three-film saga. Since the trilogy's conclusion with Return of the Jedi in 1981, dozens of film franchises have used the trilogy format to tell their stories. Among some of the more notable Hollywood franchises since Star Wars are: Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and Lord of the Rings.
4. Galactic Merchandising
This single aspect of the Star Wars craze in the '70s turned George Lucas into a multi-millionaire overnight and would ultimately lead to the $4.3 billion dollar net worth of the franchise when it sold to Disney in 2012. Memories of playing with Star Wars action figures and vehicles in the backyard or playground still tickles the funny bones of 40 -ear-old nerds today. Stories of unwrapping Star Wars toys for birthdays or holidays have become the stuff of legend. Original Star Wars action figures from the '70s in mint condition can sell for well over a thousand dollars today. For now, many of us may just have to settle for re-issues.
What are your favorite Star Wars moments?