Star Wars Trilogy
|Star Wars Trilogy|
The Star Wars trilogy original theatrical logos
|Music by||John Williams|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
The Star Wars Trilogy, often colloquially referred to as the original trilogy or the classic trilogy, is the first set of three films produced in the Star Wars franchise, an American space opera created by George Lucas. It was produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. and distributed by 20th Century Fox, and consisted of the original Star Wars film (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). The films follow the archetypical hero's journey of Luke Skywalker in his quest to become a Jedi and defeat the evil Empire.
The original trilogy was followed by a prequel trilogy between 1999 and 2005, and a sequel trilogy between 2015 and 2019. Collectively, they have been referred to as the "Skywalker saga" to distinguish them from spin-off films set within the same universe.
In 1971, Lucas wanted to film an adaptation of the Flash Gordon serial, but couldn't obtain the rights. He began developing his own story inspired by the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs.[a] Immediately after directing American Graffiti (1973), Lucas wrote a two-page synopsis for his space opera, titled Journal of the Whills. After United Artists, Universal Studios and Disney rejected the film, 20th Century Fox decided to invest in it. Lucas felt his original story was too difficult to understand, so on April 17, 1973, he began writing a 13-page script titled The Star Wars, sharing strong similarities with Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (1958). By 1974, he had expanded the script into the first draft of a screenplay, adding elements such as the Sith and the Death Star. Subsequent drafts evolved into the script of the original film.
Lucas negotiated to retain the sequel rights. Tom Pollock, then Lucas' lawyer writes: "We came to an agreement that George would retain the sequel rights. Not all the [merchandising rights] that came later, mind you; just the sequel rights. And Fox would get a first opportunity and last refusal right to make the movie." Lucas was offered $50,000 to write, another $50,000 to produce, and $50,000 to direct the film; the offer was later increased. American Graffiti cast member Harrison Ford had given up on acting and become a carpenter, until Lucas hired him to play Han Solo.
Star Wars was released on May 25, 1977. Its success led Lucas to make it the basis of an elaborate film serial. With the backstory he created for the sequel, Lucas decided that the series would be a trilogy of trilogies, with the original film retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope for its 1981 rerelease. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was released on May 21, 1980, and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi on May 25, 1983. The sequels were self-financed by Lucasfilm, and generally advertised without the episodic number distinction present in their opening crawls. The plot of the original trilogy centers on the Galactic Civil War of the Rebel Alliance trying to free the galaxy from the clutches of the Empire, as well as on Luke Skywalker's quest to become a Jedi and his confrontation with the evil Darth Vader.
A Rebel spaceship is intercepted by the Empire above the desert planet of Tatooine. Aboard, the deadliest Imperial agent Darth Vader and his stormtroopers capture Princess Leia Organa, a secret member of the rebellion. Before her capture, Leia makes sure the droid R2-D2 will escape with stolen Imperial blueprints and a holographic message for the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, who has been living in exile on Tatooine. Along with C-3PO, R2-D2 falls under the ownership of Luke Skywalker, a farmboy who has been raised by his aunt and uncle. Luke helps the droids locate Obi-Wan, now a solitary old hermit known as Ben Kenobi. He reveals himself as a friend of Luke's absent father, Anakin Skywalker, who was Obi-Wan's Jedi apprentice until being murdered by Vader. He tells Luke he must also become a Jedi. After discovering his family's homestead has been destroyed by the Empire, they hire the smuggler Han Solo, his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca and their space freighter, the Millennium Falcon. They discover that Leia's homeworld of Alderaan has been destroyed, and are soon captured by the planet-destroying Death Star. While Obi-Wan disables its tractor beam, Luke and Han rescue the captive Princess Leia. Finally, they deliver the Death Star plans to the Rebel Alliance with the hope of exploiting a weakness, and launch an attack on the Death Star.
The first rough draft, titled The Star Wars, introduced "the Force" and the young hero Luke Starkiller. Annikin [sic] appeared as Luke's father, a wise Jedi knight. Between drafts, Lucas read Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and was surprised to find that his story "was following classical motifs." The third draft replaced (a deceased) Annikin with Ben Kenobi.[b] Some months later, Lucas had negotiated a contract that gave him rights to two sequels. Lucas hired Alan Dean Foster, who was ghostwriting the novelization of the first film, to write them—with the main creative restriction that they could be filmed on a low budget. By 1976, a fourth draft had been prepared for principal photography. The film was titled The Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars. During production, Lucas changed Luke's name to Skywalker and shortened the title to The Star Wars, and finally just Star Wars. At that point, Lucas was not expecting the film to warrant full-scale sequels. The fourth draft of the script underwent subtle changes to become a self-contained story ending with the destruction of the Empire in the Death Star. The intention was that if the film was successful, Lucas could adapt Foster's novels into low-budget sequels. By that point, Lucas had developed a tentative backstory to aid in developing the saga.
Star Wars exceeded all expectations. The success of the film and its merchandise sales led Lucas to make Star Wars the basis of an elaborate film serial, and use the profits to finance his filmmaking center, Skywalker Ranch. After the release of the first sequel, the original film was subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope in the screenplay released in the 1979 book The Art of Star Wars and for all subsequent rereleases beginning with a theatrical rerelease in 1981.
The Empire Strikes Back
Three years after the destruction of the Death Star, the Empire forces the Rebel Alliance to evacuate its secret base on Hoth. Instructed by Obi-Wan's spirit, Luke travels to the swamp world of Dagobah to find the exiled Jedi Master Yoda. Luke's Jedi training is interrupted by Vader, who lures him into a trap by capturing Han and Leia at Cloud City, governed by Han's old friend Lando. During a fierce duel, Vader reveals a shocking truth about Luke's father.
Owing to financial concerns, Alan Dean Foster's sequel novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye (1978), restricted the story to Luke, Leia, and Darth Vader. But after the success of the original film, Lucas knew a sequel would be granted a reasonable budget, and hired Leigh Brackett to write it from scratch. She finished a draft by early 1978, but died of cancer before Lucas was able discuss changes he wanted made to it. His disappointment with the first draft may have made him consider new directions. Lucas penned the next draft, the first screenplay to feature episodic numbering for a Star Wars story. Lucas found this draft enjoyable to write, as opposed to the yearlong struggle writing the first film, and quickly wrote two more in April 1978. The plot twist of Vader being Luke's father had drastic effects on the series. After writing these drafts, Lucas fleshed out the backstory between Anakin, Obi-Wan, and the Emperor.
With this new backstory in place, Lucas decided that the series would be a trilogy of trilogies, designating the first sequel Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back in the next draft. Lawrence Kasdan, who had just completed writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, was hired to write the next drafts, and given additional input from director Irvin Kershner. Kasdan, Kershner, and producer Gary Kurtz saw the film as a more serious and adult story, and developed the sequel from the light adventure roots of the first film.
Return of the Jedi
Set less than one year after Vader's revelation, Luke joins Leia and Lando in a rescue attempt to save Han from the gangster Jabba the Hutt. Afterward, Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his Jedi training, only to find Yoda on his deathbed. In his last words, Yoda confirms the truth about Luke's father, and that Luke must confront Vader again in order to complete his training. As the rebels lead an attack on the second Death Star, Luke engages Vader in another lightsaber duel as Emperor Palpatine watches; both Sith Lords intend to turn Luke to the dark side and take him as their apprentice.
Kurtz wanted a bittersweet and nuanced ending they had outlined that saw Han dead, the Rebel forces in pieces, Leia struggling as a queen, and Luke walking off alone (like in a Spaghetti Western)—while Lucas wanted a happier ending, partly to encourage toy sales. This led to tension between the two, resulting in Kurtz leaving the production.
|Star Wars||93% (8.7/10 average rating) (116 reviews)||90 (24 reviews)|
|The Empire Strikes Back||95% (8.9/10 average rating) (93 reviews)||82 (25 reviews)|
|Return of the Jedi||81% (7.2/10 average rating) (89 reviews)||58 (24 reviews)|
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