Say “Star Wars” and one is immediately transported to a “long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”. There is that dramatic opening, the scroll that tells us the latest status of the war between the evil imperial forces and the brave rebel alliance. And of course there is John Williams' rousing “Star Wars” theme.
It all began in 1977 when George Lucas released “Star Wars”. The film used familiar archetypes to fashion the ultimate space opera. By today's standards, the effects are rather primitive. All that is totally beside the point, as “Star Wars” resonated in some deep, primeval way across the race and gender to become a monster hit.
The film cleverly mixed romance, humour, mythology, breathtaking action, a bildungsroman and super-creative special effects to create the mother of all entertainers. “Star Wars” tells the story of a simple farm boy, Luke Skywalker, who learns he is a Jedi Knight and faces his destiny which includes crossing light sabres with the evil Darth Vader, who was himself a Jedi before being seduced by the dark side of the Force.
“Star Wars” was followed by “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), that rare sequel that tops its predecessor and the rather weak “The Return of the Jedi” (1983).
The movies made stars of all the cast. While Harrison Ford as the charming rogue, Han Solo, was propelled into superstardom, the others — Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and Alec Guiness as the Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, all became household names.
The weird and wonderful creatures including the garrulous C3PO, the efficient R2D2, the wookie Chewbacca and of course the wise Yoda, he of the pointy ears and weird syntax were all seared into collective unconscious.
All was silent on the galaxy for 16 years till in 1999 George Lucas unveiled “The Phantom Menace”, a prequel to the action of “Star Wars”, “Menace” told the story of how ace pilot and Jedi Knight, Anakin Skywalker, turned into the warped and twisted Darth Vader. The movie used cutting-edge technology to create beautiful worlds in water and air but was pulled down by its weighty self consciousness. Though actors such as Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson did what they could with their thinly-written parts, the movie leant heavily on its mythical status in the collective subconscious.
“Phantom Menace” was followed in 2002 by the unfortunately-named “The Attack of the Clones.” The movie was technically awesome and the greatest fun was in seeing Yoda do some super pyrotechnics but the core story, the forbidden love between Queen Padme (Natalie Portman) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) was dry as dust.
“The Revenge of the Sith” in 2005 completed the trilogy where everything is answered — what happened to all the Jedi, the Emperor's hold on Anakin, his transformation to Darth Vader and his capitulation to the seductive power of the dark side.
“Star Wars” junkies have debated forever the truth of the urban legend of whether Lucas conceived of “Star Wars” as the fourth movie in the series and whether the asteroid field in “The Empire Strikes Back” features a potato and a sneaker!
All will be made clear, thanks to Excel home videos and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment who have brought out the six movies on DVD. The movies are available individually for Rs. 499 and the two trilogy packs are priced at Rs. 1,199 each.
The DVDs of “Star Wars”, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of Jedi” feature two discs. One is the original theatrical release while the other is the digitally mastered version. And the original theatrical release of “Star Wars” is not referred to Episode IV. Watching the two DVDs back to back is also fun to see all the additions including the scene where Solo steps on Jabba's tail and the Hutt's pained expression.
The digitally mastered version of “Return of the Jedi” features a cheesy scene where Hayden Christensen beams beatifically alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda.
The DVDs of the prequel trilogy has an extra disc of bonus features including making of features and deleted scenes. It would have been nice if the earlier movies too had making-of features like the box set of the video cassettes did. But one cannot be too greedy. There is the ultimate joy in watching the ewoks say “Weee” and Han Solo make one of his smart-alec comments.
May the force be with you as you embark on the twentieth century's most enduring space opera!