In a galaxy far far away, the force is awakening in the latest instalment in the Star Wars saga to hit our screens. Star Wars fever however is not in a galaxy far away, but everywhere we turn at the moment! The trailer is out, the posters up, toys on the shelves and at last – the tickets on sale! Such was the desperation of avid fans to ensure they booked a cinema seat for release date that websites were overwhelmed. As in much of the UK, cinema tickets in Yorkshire are pretty much sold out for the first few days.
Episode VII: The Force Awakens is released on December 17th. Set approximately 30 years after the events in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, we welcome some familiar faces back with open arms. Mark Hamill returns as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. Joining these ‘veterans’ are new lead characters Finn, Rey and Poe Dameron. We know little about the story so far, but trailers are promising plenty of Starfighter battles and lightsaber duels. Written by J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, Kasdan also co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, so will Disney do the Star Wars universe justice and give the fans something that they are proud to love? It will be a massive box office hit for sure, but whether the fans and critics alike will love it – we will have to wait and see!
With all the excitement around our region and the rest of the world, we have decided to take fans on a journey at light speed through hyperspace with a look at the incredible story of Star Wars so far. Then we follow on with look at For The Love Of The Force convention organised by avid Star Wars fans, the new Royal Mail Star Wars stamp collection available now, and our regular columnist, auctioneer Gary Don discovering the most collectible Star Wars memorabilia available.
‘The Journey of the Whills’ – Star Wars in its early form
So how did Star Wars come about? In 1971 George Lucas struck a two film deal with Universal Studios. The first was American Graffiti, released in 1973, and the second, a sci-fi tale named ‘The Journey of the Whills’. Basing much of the plot on the 1930’s Flash Gordon serials, this told the story of an apprentice as a ‘Jedi-Bendu’ space commando to the legendary Mace Windy. However, the summary of this second film was rejected for being too difficult to understand. Lucas was frustrated by this and wrote a 13 page treatment called The Star Wars, taking his inspiration from such films as Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. By 1974 he had developed this into a rough draft screenplay with a protagonist named Annikin Starkiller and the more familiar elements of the Sith and the Death Star. Further simplifications followed over the years with the introduction of Luke Starkiller, a young farmer. The Force was introduced as was Ben Kenobi. By 1976 a fourth draft had been written for principal photography and was named ‘Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars’. During production Luke’s name became Skywalker and the title shortened to The Star Wars, then finally simply Star Wars.
Star Wars (Later Episode iv: A New Hope)
In Star Wars, a farm boy, Luke Skywalker’s bleak existence is transformed when he purchases two droids and inadvertently becomes embroiled in the conflict between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. He embarks on a journey across the galaxy and takes his first step to becoming part of the ancient religious knightly order – the Jedi. Led by Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi he saves Princess Leia, joins the Rebellion and destroys the Empire’s battle station the Death Star.
Star Wars was released first in the USA on 25th May 1977. It was a massive hit with many fans watching it over and over again in the cinema. Adjusted for inflation in recent years, Star Wars is the second highest grossing film in the USA and Canada, being pipped to the top spot by Gone with the Wind.
The film was initially intended to be a stand- alone movie and the script was adapted to create a more satisfying end with the destruction of the Death Star thus destroying the Empire too. However, Lucas’ original conception of the film had been as a series of adventures. In the preface of the 1994 reissue of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (a Star Wars novel) he said “It wasn’t long after I began writing Star Wars that I realised the story was more than a single film could hold. As the saga of the Skywalkers and Jedi Knights unfolded, I began to see it as a tale that could take at least 9 films to tell – three trilogies – and I realised, in making my way through the back story and after story, that I was really setting out to write the middle story.”
Star Wars Episode v: The Empire Strikes Back
Set three years after the events in Star Wars, Darth Vader is pursuing the rebels across the galaxy and is trying to find their hidden base which is on the frozen wasteland planet Hoth. After an incredible battle, the rebels are forced to flee their base. Luke is in the midst of learning to use the force, an unseen energy, under Jedi Master Yoda when he discovers that his friends have been captured by Vader. He must decide whether to attempt to save his friends or complete his training to become a full Jedi Knight.
The Empire Strikes Back received mixed reviews initially upon its release on 21st May 1980, but has since become the most critically acclaimed of all the films in the Star Wars saga.
Several actors returned in the Empire Strikes Back to again portray their central characters. When casting for Star Wars, Lucas had made a deliberate effort to cast relatively young, inexperienced actors who could project intelligence and integrity. Playing Luke Skywalker was Mark Hamill, and Princess Leia was portrayed by Carrie Fisher. Both ‘new faces’ until landing these crucial roles. Harrison Ford plays smuggler Han Solo and was initially rejected for the role as he had previously worked with Lucas on American Graffiti – therefore was not a complete ‘unknown’. Going against his own new faces rule though, Lucas did cast an established actor as Obi-Wan Kenobi – Alec Guinness. Gary Kurtz producer of both films said “The Alec Guinness role required a certain stability and gravitas as a character….which meant we needed a very, very strong character actor to play that part.” Also returning was David Prowse as Darth Vader, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Kenny Baker as R2-D2, and 7ft 3ins tall Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca. While David Prowse provided the physical form of Darth Vader, he was voiced by James Earl Jones, as Prowse’s West Country accent was deemed inappropriate for the character! Joining the cast for Empire Strikes Back, amongst others were Jeremy Bulloch as Boba Fett and Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.
Star Wars Episode vi: Return of the Jedi
The Galactic Empire are constructing another Death Star to crush the Rebel Alliance for good. The Rebel Fleet must attack the Death Star to destroy it and kill Emperor Palpatine to bring an end to the Empire’s hold over the galaxy. There is also a plan to rescue Han Solo from the clutches of crime lord Jabba the Hutt. Luke Skywalker battles with Darth Vader who he has learned is his father and struggles to bring him back from the dark side of the Force.
This third instalment in the Star Wars saga was released on 25th May 1983. While generally well received at the time, many critics and fans alike consider it to the weakest film of the original trilogy. A different director and producer were employed to make Return of the Jedi, and the differences in approach are noticeable. Many consider Episode VI to be more childlike and a less dark interpretation of the Star Wars galaxy, with the likes of the Ewoks adding to this train of thought. Of course an 11 year old Warwick Davis played Wicket the Ewok in his first paid role. He remembers “I was paid £60 a day for being able to live out my dream. Looking back, £60 was an absolute fortune, but it wasn’t as important as the thrill of meeting Luke Skywalker.”
The Prequel Trilogy
Sixteen years after Return of the Jedi, George Lucas decided that special effects had advanced sufficiently for him to be able to begin production of the prequel trilogy.
Star Wars Episode i: The Phantom Menace
Episode I follows Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) as they try to help the planet of Naboo which is being invaded by an army of battle droids led by Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray under the orders of the Trade Federation’s secret advisor Darth Sidious/Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). They rescue the 14 year old Queen of Naboo, Queen Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) and subsequently meet nine year old slave boy Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) who has created a protocol droid named C-3PO. Qui-Gon senses the Force is strong within Anakin and is convinced that he is the ‘chosen one’ of the Jedi prophesy who will bring balance to the Force.
The film contains extensive use of CGI, with some characters and settings being completely computerised. The Phantom Menace was released on 19th May 1999 and was directed by Lucas himself. In a U-turn from the original trilogy, Lucas this time used well-known actors to portray the characters. As well as the ones mentioned above, also featured in the movie was Samuel L Jackson who played Mace Windu a Jedi Council member. Returning from the original trilogy were Frank Oz the puppeteer and voice of Yoda, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Kenny Baker as R2-D2. The film was greatly anticipated by eager fans who much loved the original trilogy, but despite all the hype and the box office income, the film received mixed reviews. The main criticism is of some of the characterisation including ones such as Jar Jar Binks who is said to be childish and silly.
Star Wars Episode ii: Attack of the Clones
Set ten years after Episode I, the galaxy is on the brink of civil war. Jedi Apprentice Anakin Skywalker is assigned to protect Senator Padme Amidala the former Queen of Naboo following an assassination attempt on her. His mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates the assassination attempt and all three are drawn into the beginning of a new threat to the galaxy, the Clone Wars. A Separatist movement led by former Jedi Master Count Dooku are creating an army of battle droids. An army of clones are being produced for the Republic with bounty hunter Jango Fett as their genetic blueprint. The two armies meet in battle and Anakin, Padme and Obi-Wan are rescued from a death sentence by Mace Windu, Yoda and a battalion of Jedi and clone troopers. A lightsaber battle ensues between Obi-Wan, Anakin and Count Dooku which results in Anakin losing his right arm. Weaving throughout this story is the growing love between Anakin and Padme who secretly marry at the end of the film.
Released on 16th May 2002, Attack of the Clones received much better reviews from the critics than the first prequel. The actors from Episode I returned, with Christopher Lee playing Count Dooku and Hayden Christensen portraying an older Anakin Skywalker.
Star Wars Episode iii: Revenge of the Sith
Three years after the events in Attack of the Clones, the Jedi Knights are leading a massive clone army against the Separatists. Obi-Wan Kenobi is sent to eliminate General Grievous, leader of the Separatist army. Anakin Skywalker is growing closer to Chancellor Palpatine, unaware as is everybody else that he is a Sith Lord. Anakin eventually yields to the dark side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader. Palpatine issues Order 66 to the clone troopers and they kill their Jedi commanders. Vader goes to kill the younglings in the Jedi Temple, and out of all the Jedi, only Obi-Wan and Yoda survive. Anakin’s turn to the dark side results in him hurting Padme who subsequently dies after giving birth to their twins Luke and Leia. As the Sith begin the construction of the Death Star, Yoda and Obi-Wan hide the twins from the Empire.
Released 15th May 2005 the last episode in the prequel trilogy received more favourable reviews that the other two. The actors from the previous two films returned to their roles in this one. Many locations were used for the filming of all six films, in particular Tunisia. For Episode III scenes were filmed in Thailand and China too.
All six films have been incredibly popular but many ‘die hard’ fans of the Star Wars universe do not love the prequel trilogy and feel let down by it. Almost everyone prefers the original trilogy perhaps with the exception of the younger generation, but of course we all have our own favourites. One thing all Star Wars fans agree on however, is that the re-released ‘special edition’ versions of the original trilogy have been ruined with additional CGI scenes, cut scenes and actor changes to tie in with the prequel trilogy. They have been changed numerous times over the years, resulting in people owning several different versions of the same film, but not the version they want. There has long been a demand from fans for restored original theatrical cuts to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray. So far George Lucas has refused to do this saying he was never 100% happy with the original films and that the added scenes were all part of his vision once the technology was available. In an attempt to appease fans he did release the originals as a bonus on the special edition discs but these were inferior with mono sound and not the restored versions everyone wanted. Since Disney have bought Lucasfilm, fans are hopeful that they are one step closer to them being re-released.
I am sure Star Wars will continue to entertain adults and kids alike for generations to come.

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