40 years on and Star Wars continues to spark our imaginations

For 40 years, Star Wars has dominated the science fiction zeitgeist. No other series has endured so well; even after the middling prequels, The Force Awakens managed to win over critics and fans alike, taking over $2 billion at the box office. Today — with The Last Jedi coming — the space opera continues to make headlines, a recent Vanity Fair cover feature leading to umpteen stories appearing online.

Star Wars remains something special and unique. Even if you’ve never seen one of the films, you likely know about The Force, Jedi, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia. Every modern space-set adventure released within the last 40 years — Guardians of the Galaxy, John Carter, Avatar — owes an enormous debt to Star Wars.

What other series has accomplished the same? There are few. Perhaps the best comparison is The Lord of the Rings, which continues to influence fantasy; one of the biggest TV series in the world right now — Game of Thrones — is basically a knowing tribute to Tolkien’s epic. 

So, what makes Star Wars so beloved? Where Alien, Star Trek and Terminator have fizzled somewhat in recent years, George Lucas’s brainchild continues to dominate cinema screens. There are only two franchises that can compete presently, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts, neither having the same lengthy history.

The key lies in Star Wars, now subtitled A New Hope. The film was a whirlwind adventure unlike anything else before, featuring colourful aliens — Jabba the Hut, Greedo, Jawas — and a simple story concept; a young orphan must venture on a great quest to defeat evil, the plot closely following Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. 

Luke, our protagonist, is as naive as we are, unaware of the world around him. We learn about The Force and the history of the Jedi as he does. When a beautiful Princess and devilishly handsome rogue…

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