While it’s become more popular each year to recognize and celebrate “Star Wars Day” on May 4th, for me Star Wars day is actually May 25th – the anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars in 1977. This year, I’ve decided to try something I’ve never really done before.
Quite often, people ask me why I love Star Wars. Usually, my answer lies somewhere between “why not?” and a long, drawn-out answer about how Star Wars was a big part of my childhood. In reality, it’s a pretty complicated answer. So from now until May 25th, each day I’m going to try to post 1 reason (in no particular order) why I like Star Wars. I actually intended to start this yesterday so that I’d end up with 10 reasons, so I’ve failed before I even started. I’m going to cheat and start out with 2 reasons to make up for yesterday.
Reason Why I love Star Wars #1: Star Wars Changed Filmmaking
In the history of film, there are some pivotal moments that forever changed movie making. Of course, the initial invention of moving pictures was the first. The introduction of sound in movies such as 1927’s “The Jazz Singer” was the next step. Of course, color film brought another advancement in filmmaking, and the use of color in movies such as “The Wizard of Oz” was (I’d imagine) very exciting for moviegoers at the time.
Prior to the release of Star Wars in 1977, visual effects shots in science fiction films were static. The camera never moved. Often, the models were cheaply made, and (depending on the budget) you could almost see the wires. even in Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” the shots were static. Models moved in and through the frame.
Star Wars changed that. The team at Industrial Light & Magic raised the bar exponentially. They developed motion-controlled cameras – meaning cameras that moved. Not only did they move, but computers controlled the movements so that the movements could be repeated. This gave the effects team a great deal of freedom – move the camera around the model, and the model appears to fly past the camera. With the ability to repeat the movement, multiple ships could filmed independently, then those individual shots could be composited together to make one final shot of several ships. This was one of several advances in filmmaking that Star Wars brought to the world, and Hollywood wouldn’t be where it is today without them.
But it’s not just the technical details of making Star Wars that changed how movies were made. The film opens without opening credits. This was virtually unheard of in 1977. In fact, the Directors Guild of America wasn’t happy about it. But it was a fresh approach. Audiences usually had to sit through an entire opening credit sequence before the movie actually got going. Think about it while you watch movies now: Many movies now open without opening credits, or the credits are very minimal, superimposed over the film as the story begins to unfold.
Sound design played a major role as well – so much so that it’s a separate entry on my list that I’ll write about later in the week.
Overall, the production of Star Wars brought major changes to how movies are made. In what might be the ultimate illustration of the fact, consider this: Between Industrial light & Magic, Skywalker Sound, Lucasfilm, THX, and Pixar (which started as a division of Lucasfilm) how many modern blockbusters are touched by the hands of people who work for companies that grew out of the production of Star Wars?