This post was originally published on May 4, 2017. In light of the recent release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it has been updated with views from the latest movie.
Today marks the annual Star Wars celebration, May the Fourth! In honor of such yearly momentous occasion, I think it would be cool to look at why Star Wars has been one of the most remembered stories of all time.
Finding Our Place in the Universe
In 2016, I wrote another an ebook chapter about the method of storytelling Star Wars uses. It’s the concept of mythos. These are stories that are told which explain to the hearer their place in the universe. Stories that help us understand our purpose in the universe and what values to hold. They follow a character as he makes his way on a journey of self-discovery. That’s what Star Wars is. What we have is a story about a young boy trying to find out where he belongs and what his destiny is. Mythos also involves other generations to help the adventurer find his way. Again, Star Wars is in the same thread.
A Multi-Generational Story
Star Wars is a multi-generational story. In the prequel trilogy, it’s the story of Anakin Skywalker and his rise to Darth Vader. The original movies are the story of Luke Skywalker, the son of Anakin Skywalker. Luke seeks to become a Jedi, like his father before him. In following that course, he discovers the story of his family. How his father is a Sith lord, he has a twin sister and even a little bit about his mother. I think this is why the story appeals so much to people. It’s not just another movie sequel, but it’s about a family that’s trying to figure it out.
The Importance of Choices and Family
Choices both good and bad are made and you see the very real consequences of those actions. You see how the decisions of the father affect the children and how the decisions of the children redeem the father. Even the choices between siblings provide a moving dynamic. But Star Wars isn’t just confined to the decisions of family members. Certainly, it’s the biggest part. Another part of the family space opera are the characters that act as surrogate parents. Obi-Wan Kenobi being the prime example. Since Anakin doesn’t have a father, Obi-Wan becomes takes him under his wing and trains him up as a Jedi. Until Anakin gets married to Padmé, Obi-Wan is the only family he’s got. Obi-Wan continues to fill that role for Luke Skywalker as well. He also helps Luke to fulfill his potential as a Jedi.
Between the Skywalker family and the friends made along the way, we can see ourselves in Star Wars. No, we may not use lightsabers or fly the Millenium Falcon, but the story of self-discovery, finding out where you come from, and who you want to be is a plight every person can relate to.
A Multi-Generational Movie
Because Star Wars is a multi-generational story, I think reintroducing it to the next generation is why it continues to be one of the most popular stories of all time. My parents, aunts, and uncles all saw the original series. They were the Luke Skywalker generation. While I did see the original three when I was young, I grew up with the prequel trilogy. That was my official introduction to Star Wars. Now I knew the back story and could watch the movies my parents watched. My younger siblings are growing up with the last trilogy.
In some ways, the stories told in the each set of the trilogies reflect the culture they were made in. When the original trilogy came out, it was 1979. My parents were young and trying to figure out who they were and what they wanted to do in life. Just like Luke Skywalker.
When the second series came out, it was new, flashy, and bold. While there still was some trying to figure out who you were and your place in the universe, the focus was on a new age and going to enjoy it. This is best reflected in Anakin’s confidence and sometimes recklessness as a Jedi. This is what I grew up with. It was the turn of the century, the world was changing. It was new and bold.
The last trilogy hearkens back to the original trilogy and finding your place in the universe. This is reflected in both Rey and Ben Solo (Kylo Ren) At the same time though, everyone is having to deal with the legacy that has been left behind by their forebears. Whether for good or evil. This is especially prevalent in the latest movie, the Last Jedi. Rey is trying to realize her potential with the Force while Ben continues to grapple with his desires to be like Darth Vader and pulls toward the Light Side. In the mean time, Luke has to confront the decisions he made when attempting to start a new Jedi temple. A situation which he thought he’s already buried in the past. It’s a story about letting go of what you thought was your role in the universe and embracing a much wider and stronger role in the galaxy. This makes for a complex story that involves characters from another generation. This is what my younger siblings are growing up with. They’ve come into the world at a time when there is a lot going on. They’re having to deal with the legacy of their forebears.
A Story That Transcends Time
Star Wars hearkens back to the Greek concept of stories that help you find your way in the world, called mythos. This story is a powerful form of that storytelling because it involves a multi-generational story. We have the father’s story, the son’s story, and finally, and the story of a young girl who takes up the legacy of both. While this may be a soap opera, it certainly has appealed to many generations. This is because we are able to see elements of our own family story reflected in the stories being told at each level. Although Star Wars may have taken place a long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away, its story will be echoing in our galaxy for the foreseeable future.