In our Blue Filter series, we are inviting our writers to reflect on the films that they have connected with through challenging or upsetting times, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and before. In the latest entry of the series, Kieran Burt discusses how Star Wars helps him to remain positive and encourages him to more fully explore the fandoms that he is passionate about, becoming part of a community in the process.
You would be hard-pressed to find anybody who hasn’t at least heard of Star Wars, a film franchise that has hit legendary status and is celebrated the word over. This means fans like myself have had much to enjoy, even during the pandemic.
When I first watched the films, I was in awe. Although I watched them in the wrong order (starting with Return of the Jedi instead of the original 1977 Star Wars), I was hooked. There are so many aspects of the film that I latched onto, such as John Williams’ beautiful score, the action, and the effects. Most importantly however, I was drawn in by the sheer lore of the world. Star Wars has a universe and background that is constantly being expanded, bringing fans back for more and more every time.
Star Wars has driven the film industry to new heights, inviting avid viewers along for the ride. George Lucas started his own visual effects company in 1975, called Industrial Light and Magic, to pioneer new techniques for his upcoming film. These innovations include the outstanding camerawork when filming the Death Star Trench run in A New Hope and filming the Speeder Bike chase in Return of the Jedi. Star Wars also heralded the rise of computer generated imagery (CGI), a technical marvel that feels inseparable from cinema today. Watching Star Wars isn’t just about the stories. You feel like a part of the very history of film.
Looking at the films themselves, it is obvious to see their cultural impact. When A New Hope was released 44 years ago, it not only spawned sequels and prequels, but comics, TV shows, books, and video games. This resulted in the modern fan culture today, adding even more to new chapters in Star Wars’ history.
Looking at the original trilogy, the films are brilliant. The opening scene of A New Hope immediately shows the sinister nature of the Empire, and a final battle with high stakes. The Empire Strikes Back brings our heroes to their lowest point, but ends on some hope. Return of the Jedi captures the same tension as A New Hope, but spreads it across three conflicts in a masterful fashion. They haven’t been made into memes as much as the prequels, so they have had little humour injected into them. This doesn’t make rewatches as fun, but they will always bring back the same sense of awe and wonder, and this has made the pandemic more bearable. The films invite the viewer to think of a wider galaxy beyond our own planet, which has been needed to get away from the news.
The prequels are more mixed. Being younger, I didn’t appreciate the controversy surrounding them, nor did I properly appreciate the politics and small moments. The dialogue is admittedly spotty. However, the many fan made memes improve the films markedly. Iconic lines such as “hello there” and “I have the high ground” are among those that are now instantly memorable because of the strong fan community. This means that whenever I watch them again, these lines of dialogue and other well-known moments always bring a smile. During the pandemic, this renewed enjoyment and feeling part of a fan-driven community have helped me to retain a positive outlook on life. Fan-made content such as fan films and music remixes generate a sense of community within the fanbase.
Star Wars has a rich and expansive universe beyond the films. Lines have been expanded into full events, such as detailing the Clone Wars, and other events the films only hint it. This in turn adds more to the films, adding key context and tragedy. Disney have also expanded the film universe, with poor results. The sequels have poor direction and plot, and have simply split the franchise, destroying the sense of community that the prior films had established. Right after the released of the sequels, Star Wars became toxic, with fans pitting themselves against one another, with vitriolic Twitter and Reddit fights, harming the sense of community. This has been somewhat repaired with shows like The Mandalorian and The Clone Wars. Key figures such as Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau have been instrumental to healing the divide.
Star Wars has driven me to become more immersed in the fandoms I enjoy, and look beyond the mainstream elements of them. It has helped me weather the storm brought about by the pandemic. There are always elements that give me a smile and laugh, regardless of whether it is the films, a prequel meme or a piece of fan work. Star Wars may be set in a galaxy far far away, but it is very close to the hearts of its many fans, including me.
Words by Kieran Burt
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