Star Wars’ 35th Anniversary: The Force Is Strong With This One
Believe it or not, it was exactly 35 years ago when we first met Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia and Darth Vader, and we saw the destruction of the first Death Star. Since then, the small movie directed by George Lucas has expanded to become not only a successful franchise, but a media icon and the ultimate symbol of geekery. No matter their background, most people are familiar with the characters and story and have enjoyed these classic films at one point or another. Such is the passion that Star Wars generates that its universe has been expanded in countless sequels and prequels which span films, comics, books, video games and TV shows. All hail the media Leviathan.
It all started small, way smaller than we could ever think. Lucas even had to cut short the whole story he intended to tell because neither him nor the executives seeing the movie in paper could imagine it getting as big as it is today. Lucas called, what we know today as “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” just Star Wars, and that was going to be the end of it. No sequels, no prequels, no nothing. Luckily for us, the movie became a hit and the rest is history. But just how expansive is this history? Well, to celebrate the franchise, we’ll go over some of the most well known productions it spawned.
Star Wars (1977)
The movie that started it all. In here, we meet all of the main characters of the original franchise, and see how protagonist Luke Skywalker leaves his home planet after the death of his foster family, with the help of the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and mercenary Han Solo. The characters eventually get trapped into a giant space station dedicated to destroying planets called the Death Star where princess Leia is being held captive. They rescue her thanks to Obi-Wan’s sacrifice and then escape only to join forces with the rebel army and strike back in one of the most epic spaceship battle scenes ever.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
This movie, allegedly the best one of the series, picks up shortly after the ending of the previous one, and shows the Empire regrouping and striking hard on the Rebels. Darth Vader and the devious Emperor try to turn Luke Skywalker to their side (the Dark Side!), while they hire a group of mercenaries to get rid of Han Solo and princess Leia. The movie is mostly remembered for it’s dramatic but also over-the-top tone, with its many revelations and plot twists.
Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi (1983)
The final chapter of the original trilogy provides a conclusion where the Rebels attempt to take down the Empire once and for all in an all-or-nothing battle, while Luke Skywalker confronts Darth Vader for the last time. As epic as this conclusion is (and we mean “epic” in the literal sense), there is still room for the usual charm and weird scenes, and what most people seem to remember about this film is Princess Leia wearing a bikini.
Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy (1991 – 1993)
The Thrawn Trilogy (AKA, “the sequels that were never made”) are a series of three books called Heir To The Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command. They were written by Timothy Zahn, and take place a couple years after the events of “Return Of The Jedi”. In these novels, we meet more characters such as Mara Jade, who would eventually become Luke’s wife, and the Grand Admiral Thrawn, who takes over the remaining forces of the Empire after the Emperor and Darth Vader’s demises.
Dark Empire Comics (1991 – 1995)
The Dark Empire comics are a new trilogy (Dark Empire 1, Dark Empire 2, and End Of The Empire), this time in comic book form that continue where the Thrawn Trilogy left off. This time around, the characters find out that Palpatine managed to cheat death thanks to his command of the Force and cloning technology. These comics mark the first appearance of Anakin Solo, Han and Leia’s son, and also feature Luke’s temporary turn to the Dark Side.
X-Wing Video Game Series (1993-1999)
The X-Wing Series was a series of video games where players could recreate some of the spaceship battles that took place in the original movies, along with a new original storyline that tied it all together.
Star Wars: TIE Fighter (1994)
This classic game was an impressive space combat / flight simulator for it’s time, but also an oddity, as it’s one of the few video games where the player is in control of the “Evil Guys”, the Empire. The player could enjoy a completely original story as well as blasting a couple X-wings here and there. Take that, rebels! Pew, pew!
Technically, TIE Fighter is part of the X-wing series, but we consider it to be different enough as to warrant it’s own, unique place in this list.
The New Jedi Order (1999-2003)
The New Jedi Order is series of nineteen (yes, you read that right, nineteen) novels that take place about 25 years after Return of the Jedi. This time around, the story is not about Rebels and Empire, but a new threat from outside the galaxy, the Yuuzhan Vong. Guess the “Far away galaxy” wasn’t far enough after all…
Also, it’s in this series we finally meet Ben Skywalker, Luke and Mara Jade’s son, but at the same time see the death of many, many other characters.
The Second Star Wars Trilogy (1999-2005)
The Star Wars Prequels (Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of The Clones and Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith) narrate the events that led to the situation depicted in the original movies. They are famous for being promising but managing to disappoint both hardcore fans and casual movie goers while still making millions of dollars in revenue by having the Star Wars name attached to them. These movies, on one hand, tell Anakin Skywalker’s personal story as well as all about the slow transformation the Galactic Republic undergoes as it turns from a republic into an empire. George Lucas directed these again, and mentioned this would be the last time he’d get involved with the series, as each trilogy managed to take about 10 years of his life each.
Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic (2003-Today)
Knights Of The Old Republic (KOTOR) is a prequel in the form of comics and video games that narrate events that took place several thousand years before the events of the original movies. In this time, both the Jedi and Sith are numerous and are at war. The story is still being told even today, with fans playing an active role as part of the community in the massive multiplayer online RPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, released in 2011.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008-2010)
The Force Unleashed is a multimedia project developed by many companies, but it’s maybe best known for it’s two videogames, The Force Unleashed 1 and The Force Unleashed 2. In these video games (which were novelized afterwards), the player takes control of a young Sith apprentice codenamed Starkiller who responds directly to Darth Vader, and is tasked with hunting the remaining Jedi after the events of Revenge Of The Sith. Throughout the story, for a change, we see someone starting out on the Dark Side but eventually becoming more Jedi-like. The game provides as well some background on some characters seen in the original trilogy.
We can’t help but wonder now how many of these have our readers read, seen or played. Which one is your favorite? Feel free to use the comments section for this purpose. Also, check out some of our current and ongoing Star Wars stories, such as The Incredible At-At Computer Case Mod and Star Wars Stats: The Force, Measured.