May the 25th be with you

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On the 25th of this month, the original Star Wars film will be 30 years old to the day. To mark the occasion, all six Star Wars films are going to be shown back to back on Showmovies1. If you’ve never done a big film marathon, then now’s the perfect opportunity.

It was 30 years ago this week that Star Wars first opened at cinemas and it changed the face of film forever.

From the late 60s and into the 70s big films had become serious and grown up – The Godfather, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest etc – and it was Star Wars that reinvented and revitalised the popcorn blockbuster and started the cinematic revolution in special effects. For a budget of $10million George Lucas put together the start of a six-film saga that (merchandising included) would go on to make over $20 billion.

His company Industrial Light And Magic, that created the special effects, would become the go-to guys for Hollywood when matte shots and bluescreen was needed. They still are today. Despite the influence of Star Wars, it’s nothing overly original. If Quentin Tarantino is accused of borrowing from his favourite films then George Lucas is just as guilty, and like Tarantino he looked largely to the East for ideas. Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress and Yojimbo were the two main sources of inspiration – Darth Vader’s outfit; the entire cantina scene; the bickering peasants (which became droids); Luke’s young farmhand in a good versus evil battle, rescuing the princess and so on. Even the name ‘Jedi’ from is taken from ‘Jidai Geki’, which is the name for the period dramas about the samurai.

Of course it wasn’t the only source, as everything from Errol Flynn swashbucklers to Nazi propaganda films (the medal scene at the end is a mirror image of the Nazi rally scene in Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph Of The Will) was distilled into an all-encompassing adventure designed to please everyone, especially children seeking the big blockbuster movies: ‘I saw that kids today don’t have any fantasy life the way we had,’ Lucas said in the book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. ‘They don’t have Westerns, they don’t have pirate movies… the real Errol Flynn, John Wayne kind of adventures. I’ve made what I consider the most conventional kind of movie I can possibly make.’

The sequels (The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi) were also huge hits and as a trilogy it worked, but the back story, that Lucas had conceived at the same time as the original Star Wars, kept nagging at him. He felt there was a still more story to tell (and money to make, I suspect) and the prequels became, arguably, the most anticipated films in the history of cinema.

Sure, The Phantom Menace is a dog of a film and Attack Of The Clones contains a love story that’s acted out so badly it’s like an episode of Days Of Our Lives, with corny lines to match: ‘I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.’ Yikes. But the Star Wars saga, especially for people of a certain age, is one of the greatest stories ever told.

It’s been hugely nerdified over the years, culminating in a 2001 national census in Britain where 390,000 people claimed their religion was Jedi, making it the fourth largest ‘religion’ in the country. But don’t worry, sitting through this doesn’t make you a nerd. Standing in line outside the cinema three weeks before the film opens makes you a nerd, this is taking in an epic saga, from start to finish, the way it was intended.

Six films totaling 802 minutes and a sprawling story that encompasses everything from love, hate and loss, to the obsession for power and a bunch of fury forest creatures armed with sticks that defeat a high-tech army – reminding us that an indigenous population (no matter how ill-armed) would always rather die than surrender to imperialistic occupants.

Surely that’s a better story than, ‘Oh right, it was his snow sled from when he was a kid’?

Plan your breaks: The start times for all six of the Star Wars films that are showing
throughout the day.

The Phantom Menace
Like eating the broccoli off your plate first it’s always good to get the worst part out of the way early knowing that it’s all steak and chips from then on. Yes, it’s a ‘jumped-up firework display of a toy advert’, but you have to watch it or you fail the marathon instantly.

Attack Of The Clones
Far better. The fight scenes are awesome, and Yoda and Dooku lightsaber fight works surprisingly well. And almost no Jar Jar. The downsides are C3PO’s ‘comic’ moments, R2D2 flying (!) and the bizarre discovery that Boba Fett, and his dad, are actually South African.

Revenge Of The Sith
The Clone Wars have been dragging on like an EastEnders omnibus, but this is the best of the prequels. The creation of Darth Vader is what this will be remembered for, but the fight scenes with General Grievous look fantastic and all the storylines and loose ends come together.

A New Hope
It’s 30 years old this Friday and the special effects still stand up today. It’s still classic storytelling at its best and one of the greatest films ever made, and every male who watches this will still want to be Han Solo. Just admit it, you do.

The Empire Strikes Back
From the AT-AT attack on the rebels’ Hoth base, to the Luke and Vader revelation as they fight in the Cloud City, this is the best of the six. In fact, imdb.com readers have voted it not only the best Star Wars film, but also the eighth best film ever.

Return Of The Jedi
There’s more to Jedi than just Ewoks. The parts in Jabba’s palace are great, and the Luke ‘walking the plank’ scene is one of the coolest in all the films. The speeder-bike chase is
still visually thrilling and the final fight between Luke and Vader is well worth staying up for. Watch all six to the end and your training is complete.

For Time Out magazine – for original PDF click here – Star Wars 101_TimeIn(1)

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