by Prasad Ganti
The seventh “Star Wars” movie was released in December of 2015. After almost a decade after Disney bought the franchise from George Lucas, there were uncertainties over how much would it stick to the original cult classic. Would it excite the fans as much as the original two trilogies did earlier? The fans came back in droves. The excitement reverberated in the box office coffers. By all measures, it was an amazing success.
I am a Star Wars fan. It inspires me like no other series. Rich in imagination are those fabulous worlds beyond our planet Earth: desert planets, icy planets, planets with strange creatures, strange dwelling structures, strange vehicles in stranger surroundings, different kinds of spacecraft zipping across the galaxy and so on.
Probably the human mind tires of the familiar sights we see in our daily lives – roads, cars, malls, airports etc. Anything newer looking is a welcome sight. Sometimes we develop contempt for the familiar. The same sights may look awesome to someone from an earlier age or from another planet which does not have advanced technology. We long for new and different places; planning a new vacation as soon as we come back from the current one. The Pyramids of Egypt and the beaches of Caribbean are enchanting for the same reason.
Usually it is difficult to sustain the creativity beyond one movie. That is why part 2 and part 3 are usually not all that interesting. Not so with Star Wars. Each of the seven movies has been freshly creative, not just an extension of the first successful one. Different concepts with an underlying common thread has been the hallmark of this franchise.
An empire stretching across the galaxy also stretches our imagination. The speed of light becomes the limiting factor for radio waves or spacecraft across such huge distances. It takes 20 minutes for radio signal to reach neighboring Mars. The Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts which left the Earth in the 1970s have barely reached the edge of the solar system. A hyper-drive for the spacecraft, and a hyper-wave relay for superluminal communication are the inventions in science fiction to overcome these limitations. We may not have these technologies for centuries to come.
It is not just the technology developments, but also the development of the mind. The Jedi are mentally as strong as their sabre fighting capabilities. There are many parallels between the Star Wars and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Like Star Wars, Foundation consists of two trilogies, the second foundation focusing on the mental powers. Stretching across the galaxy, Star Wars was conceived by George Lucas with no mention of the Foundation.
Although a lot of things in Star Wars are different than the world we live in, one thing is the same: the baser instincts of human beings to fight with each other, to be territorial and to invent deadlier and deadlier arms to destroy on a vast scale. May be it is the Darwinian survival of the fittest instinct.
As Albert Einstein said after the dropping of the atom bomb, “Everything has changed except human thinking”. Good versus evil is at the core of the plots. Not only in Star Wars, but across wider variety of genres. “May the force be with you.” is the mantra of Star Wars, an equivalent of the present day “God bless you”. Evil seems to be winning most of the time until much later. The good then makes a comeback. Can the plots be equally creative and innovative, as the technologies and the other worlds are? Regardless, inspiring millions of people and firing their imaginations enough to cough up billions of dollars is no mean achievement.