Star Wars: Past and Present

(Image via Wikipedia)

(Image via Wikipedia)

Andrew Golby, Writer

Star Wars is an American epic space opera media franchise created by George Lucas, which began with the eponymous 1977 film and quickly became a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon. The franchise has been expanded into various films and other media, including television series, video games, novels, comic books, theme park attractions, and themed areas, comprising an all-encompassing fictional universe. In 2020, its total value was estimated in the billions and it is currently the fifth-highest-grossing media franchise of all time. The original film, retroactively subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope, was followed by the sequels Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, forming the original Star Wars trilogy. Lucas later returned to filmmaking to direct a prequel trilogy, consisting of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In 2012, Lucas sold his production company to Disney, relinquishing his ownership of the franchise. The subsequently produced sequel trilogy consists of Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, and Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

All nine films of the ‘Skywalker saga’ were nominated for Academy Awards and were commercially successful. Together with the theatrical live-action spin-off films Rogue One and Solo, the combined box office revenue of the films equates to over a billion, and it is currently the second-highest-grossing film franchise of all time.

The Star Wars franchise depicts the adventures of characters “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” in which humans and many species of aliens co-exist with robots, or ‘droids’, who may assist them in their daily routines. Space travel between planets is common due to lightspeed hyperspace technology. Spacecrafts range from small starfighters to huge capital ships such as the Star Destroyers, to space stations such as the moon-sized Death Stars. Telecommunication includes two-way audio and audiovisual screens as well as holographic projections.

A mystical power known as the Force is described in the original film as “an energy field created by all living things …  that binds the galaxy together.” Through training and meditation, those whom “the Force is strong with” are able to perform various superpowers. The Force is wielded by two major knightly orders at conflict with each other: the Jedi, peacekeepers of the Galactic Republic who act on the light side of the Force, and the Sith, who use the dark side by manipulating fear and aggression. While Jedi Knights can be numerous, the Dark Lords of the Sith are intended to be limited to two: a master and their apprentice.

Force-wielders are very limited in numbers in comparison to the average population. The Jedi and Sith prefer the use of a weapon called a lightsaber, a blade of energy that can cut through virtually any surface and deflect energy bolts. The rest of the population, as well as renegades and soldiers, use laser-powered blaster firearms. In the outer reaches of the galaxy, crime syndicates such as the Hutt cartel are dominant. Bounty hunters are often employed by both gangsters and governments. Illicit activities include smuggling and slavery. It includes the prequel trilogy films and the animated The Clone Wars.

Reign of the Empire: The era after the prequel trilogy, exploring the reign of the Empire. It includes the animated The Bad Batch and Solo: A Star Wars Story. It includes the animated Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One, and the original trilogy films. Heroes of the former Rebellion, aided by the New Republic, lead the Resistance against the oppressive regime and its rulers, the mysterious being known as Snoke and his puppet master, the revived Palpatine. It includes the animated Star Wars Resistance and the sequel trilogy films. They were produced non-chronologically, with Episodes IV–VI  being released between 1977 and 1983, Episodes I–III  being released between 1999 and 2005, and Episodes VII–IX, being released between 2015 and 2019. Each trilogy focuses on a generation of the Force-sensitive Skywalker family. The original trilogy depicts the heroic development of Luke Skywalker, the prequels tell the backstory of his father Anakin, while the sequels star Luke’s nephew, Kylo Ren.

An anthology series set between the main episodes entered development in parallel to the production of the sequel trilogy, described by Disney chief financial officer Jay Rasulo as origin stories. The first entry, Rogue One, tells the story of the rebels who steal the Death Star plans just before Episode IV. Solo focuses on Han Solo’s backstory, also featuring original trilogy co-protagonists Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian and involving prequel trilogy villain Darth Maul.

Lucasfilm has a number of Star Wars movies in development, two of which were confirmed during Disney Investor Day 2020. The first will be a film titled Rogue Squadron, which is being directed by Patty Jenkins and is scheduled for release on December 25, 2023. The second is an unspecified film from Taika Waititi, who in May 2020 was announced to be directing a Star Wars film he was co-writing with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Additionally, a trilogy independent from the Skywalker saga is being written by The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson. In September 2019, it was announced that Kathleen Kennedy and Kevin Feige would collaborate to develop a Star Wars film. In February 2020, a film was announced to be in development from director J. D. Dillard and writer Matt Owens.