Posted in Film and Literature Analyses, The Story of Star Wars as taken from the Journal of the Whills

The Story of Star Wars as taken from the Journal of the Whills Part II

By: Bryan Ricardo Marini Quintana

Behind The Scenes Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope,
George Lucas and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker)

The Filmmaker

Growing up with a passion for adventure stories, George Lucas was keen on pursuing a career in Art School; without approval from his parents the young man opted to enroll into Social Sciences at Modesto Junior College. During his time there, George Lucas studied anthropology, acquiring a fascination over societies and their cultures. Afterward, by 1966 The Filmmaker graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the film department at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, accomplishing his dream. To gain an insight into these formative years, there was an in-depth interview by Paulette Beet with George Lucas on July 24, 2013, found in the National Endowment for the Arts, serving as an entryway into the creative mind of The Filmmaker:

“NEA: How did you evolve from being a kid who liked to draw things to being a filmmaker?

LUCAS: Well, I started out wanting to be an illustrator, and then I was interested in photography and things like that, but mostly I liked building cars, and I spent a lot of time building things, you know woodworking and things like that when I was little. In high school I was working, basically, building racing cars and things and got in a bad accident and almost got killed, and decided I would reorient my life. And so I went to college and mainly studied social sciences, primarily anthropology. I was there for two years at a junior college, and then I wanted to go on to go to Art Center in Los Angeles to be an illustrator. My father absolutely disapproved and said, “You can do it, but I’m not going to pay for it.” So I decided I’d go to San Francisco State and study anthropology and possibly become an anthropologist, whatever that meant.”

Poster for the film THX 1138

In his early years as an inexperienced and experimental filmmaker, George Lucas used his skills as an amateur storyteller and a pupil of anthropology to tell a compelling narrative set against the backdrop of a dystopian future, in the film THX 1138 (1971). With his first feature film, George Lucas adapted his student project into a full-length film, presenting a society that’s become dehumanized due to being enslaved by machinery. The ambition of the project alongside its powerful story and setting, studying human beings from a societal and cultural standpoint in an uncertain future, seemed to have been difficult for critics and audiences to digest. Even though THX 1138 wasn’t a success, it was a testament to what George Lucas could accomplish with his skills as a filmmaker, storyteller and pupil of anthropology.

Poster for the film American Graffiti

In his second film, American Graffiti (1973), George Lucas changed the story to be set in the 1960s, reminiscing on the shenanigans of teenage life in California. Nevertheless, The Filmmaker managed to conduct a study of society and culture, but with a rosy tint on the screen that gained the film praise from critics and audiences alike, making it a success. Therefore, George Lucas used his skills as a storyteller to entertain the audience with an easily digestible film, whilst he conducted an anthropological study on the lives of teenagers in their days of rock’n’roll and cruising. In the same in-depth interview by Paulette Beet with George Lucas on July 24, 2013, found in the National Endowment for the Arts, they discussed the influence of anthropology in the stories told by The Filmmaker:

“NEA: I’m interested that you started out by studying anthropology. Do you think that has informed your work as a filmmaker?

LUCAS: Yes, pretty much everything I do is anthropologically based. All the stories, or a lot of the things I’ve learned and studied in anthropology I’ve continued on with because I’m very curious about why humanity is the way it is and why societies are built around the ideas that they’re built around and all that sort of thing.”

Throwing aside the dystopian society and cruising culture, George Lucas gazed at the boundless unknown of space, as the brightness of the stars glimmered back and sparked an idea. Within the confines of his imagination, The Filmmaker began to craft a story that contained not only an anthropological study of the human condition, but also integrated the driving force of The Space Opera, myth. These stories gave meaning to civilizations, allowing them to form an identity through cultures that harbored narratives of heroes venturing to the unknown in search of Destiny. Through the work of Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, George Lucas adapted these old stories into a series of films that became The Modern Myth, Star Wars.

Posters for Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi

The story is divided into two parts, The Original Trilogy with Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope (1977), Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Episode VI Return Of The Jedi (1983), followed by The Prequel Trilogy with Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II Attack Of The Clones (2002) and Episode III Revenge Of The Sith (2005). At the backdrop of the Saga is the anthropological study of the societies and cultures inhabiting the galaxy. On one side, there’s the struggle between The Galactic Empire, which seeks to dominate through tyranny, versus The Rebel Alliance, which fights for liberty by sparking defiance against oppression. Meanwhile, there’s the conflict between The Galactic Republic, which seeks to uphold peace and democracy, versus The Separatists Alliance, which fights to overthrow the government to impose a regime and monopoly with their corporations. Beyond these factions, there is however a deeper element of mysticism and magic that’s embodied in the conflict of a millennium between good and evil. These are the mythical forces of the Jedi and Sith, embroiled with their religious creeds that make them mortal enemies who dabble in wielding mastery over the Light or Dark Side of the Force. This eternal duel of noble knights and power-hungry sorcerers reaches its climactic end in the story of The Skywalker Family, as father and son leave the familiar behind to face challenges in the unknown, undertaking The Mythical Hero’s Journey. Furthermore, in the same in-depth interview by Paulette Beet with George Lucas on July 24, 2013, found in the National Endowment for the Arts, they discussed the inspiration behind the story of Star Wars:

“NEA: I think it’s fair to say that the Star Wars Trilogy, the original, is one of the most iconic suites of films in cinema. I’m curious as to the inspiration behind it.

LUCAS: What happened is I did a film, American Graffiti, which was a kind of anthropological work on a phenomenon unique to the United States which is cruising. And so I did that and it had such a profound effect on the audience I got all kinds of people saying, “You changed my life,” and all that sort of thing. I said, “Well this is a good thing, and maybe I’ll do another film now for younger people, for twelve-year-olds.” I wanted to make it a modern myth, and take old myths, take the psychological motifs from old mythology, and see if they were still functioning in today’s world. So I constructed a movie around that, which was to use a contemporary form, which was in this case kind of a space opera, and you know, construct the story out of these old mythological motifs. So, that’s really how the whole thing started.”

Posters for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith

Through The Hero’s Journey of father and son, old mythologies were adapted into a story about The Skywalker Family. Venturing to the unknown of space, George Lucas told a story of The Family Tragedy, as he used old mythologies that manifested across civilizations, to pass on a generational tale of heroes who received a call to adventure, faced challenges in their path and fulfilled Destiny. In 1977, Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope was released in theaters and The Modern Myth was born, as the film achieved resounding success, forming the foundation of The Original Trilogy. By 1999, Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace was released in theaters and The Space Opera was completed, as the film continued the generational story, forming the foundation of The Prequel Trilogy. Hence, Star Wars became engrained into American Pop-Culture through the story of The Skywalker Family that turned into The Modern Myth, being passed on from generation to generation. In another interview by Bill Moyers on June 18, 1999, The Mythology of ‘Star Wars’ with George Lucas, they discussed the story and influence behind the myth:

“BILL MOYERS: I wanted to know why he thought the “Star Wars” saga had grasped such a hold on our collective imaginations. Over the course of an afternoon, we talked about myths and movies, fathers and sons, fantasy and imagination.

Joseph Campbell said that all the great myths, the primitive myths, the great stories, have to be regenerated if they’re going to have any impact, and that you have done that with “Star Wars.” Are you conscious of doing that? Are you saying, ‘I am trying to cre — recreate the myths of old? Or are you saying, ‘I just want to make a good action movie?’

GEORGE LUCAS: Well, when I did “Star Wars” I consciously set about to recreate myths and the — and the classic mythological motifs. And I wanted to use those motifs to deal with issues that existed today.”

Behind The Scenes Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace,
George Lucas and Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker)