Star Wars nothing but Star Wars...
When I started writing this blog post it was meant to be a celebration of the movie series that means so much to so many people. Now I feel it's an eulogy for maybe the biggest star that shines in the Star Wars universe: Princess Leia and the actress that created her feisty wit and princess prowess: Carrie Fisher.
I am sure I am not the only guy out there who's first crush was Leia in A New Hope. But although she was very pretty she never felt like eye candy and a damsel in distress. Being it choking out Jabba or trash talking Vader, she was badass and could handle her business!
I feel sad that Carrie Fisher had such a rocky life, being haunted by the one role that defined her acting career. Seeing her back in The Force Awakens was great and *SPOILER* even her CGI likeness in Rogue One made me misty eyed and brought me right back to my childhood.
Leia set the bar when it comes to female leads and I am more than happy to see this tradition continued with great kickass female heroes like Rey and Jyn.
It's weird to feel this way about the passing of somebody you never knew who played a fictional character in a fictional movie. I felt the same when MCA from the Beastie Boys lost his battle with cancer: You suddenly realize how much this person (that you never met) contributed to your life's journey. And as much as I listened to the Beastie Boys my whole life did Star Wars provide the movies and collectibles from my early childhood all the way to now! So let's dry those tears and celebrate Carrie Fisher's life and the biggest franchise in this damn solar system...
It's actually hilarious to see just how many of my friends gift Star Wars toys their kids this Christmas, as if trying to make up for the shortcomings of their parents back in the days. The Force is still strong in this one!
So what is it that makes these flicks so iconic and different? Let me mention the things that I feel made Star Wars catch lightning in a bottle...
A lived in universe
Until Star Wars came along life in space has been either about glittery camp aliens, squeaky clean star ship interiors or freshly pressed space suits. Star Wars felt more like a filthy Spaghetti Western made by Sergio Leone than a clean cut John Wayne Hollywood production. The colour palette was muted, life on dusty desert planets was as dusty as it could be and star ships looked beaten up and bolted together.
When I saw this promo shot of Ewan McGregor in a film from 2015 I instantly thought: Now THAT'S the Ben Kenobi I wanted to see in the prequels!
So less this... and more THAT!
JJ Abrahams putting the dust and dirt back into The Force Awakens with puppets, built sets and interiors really brought back that sweet Star Wars feeling to me.
Talking about how the flicks look... EPIC!
Whilst most other Sci Fi movies tried to either impress with outrageous and over the top designs, Star Wars kept it precise: Very much like Braun or Apple, the design teams crafted space ships, weapons and armour that was sleek and minimalist yet instantly iconic.
From the impressive Imperial fleet, the Rebel X Wings, the Stormtrooper Helmets to Boba Fetts Slave One: Each piece of the Star Wars universe felt meticulously crafted regarding shape, colour scheme and amount of weathering.
A huge part in all this played concept artist Ralph McQuarrie who designed many of the original characters and created stunning artwork that I would hang on my wall in a second.
Another designer with a powerful impact was Joe Johnston, who later became a movie director in his own right, crafting movies like The Rocketeer, Jumanji and Captain America: The First Avenger. Back in the days at Lucasfilm he worked alongside McQuarrie and designed most of the amazing star ships and vehicles.
A honorable mention must go out to Doug Chiang who replaced Ralph McQuarrie as concept designer on the prequels. And as much as I don't like the films themselves, I must give credit for the lush designs of the pod racers, naboo fighters and Queen Amidala's all chromed out pimp ship! Plus his work as Creative Director on Rogue One was great!
Unlike Star Trek, somehow Star Wars attracted the cooler nerds: Being it Japanese Streetwear don NIGO, MoWax head honcho James Lavelle or any Graphic Designer in the 90ties who incorporated Star Wars visuals into their designs to make things look cooler... it wasn't only the IT Crowd that got super obsessed about the battle amongst the stars! ( Yes I know Pharrell and the Beasties prefer Star Trek ... shush! )
The most iconic characters in the universe!
Han Solo, Luke, Princess Leia, Chewie, Yoda, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, R2D2... the list of iconic characters, droids and aliens is endless. As much as I like Star Trek too, their alien back catalogue doesn't even come close to all the crazy critters that inhabit the Star Wars galaxy...
Most of these character designs can again be credited to the design genius of Ralph McQuarrie. Good to know he got his moment to shine as well playing General McQuarrie in The Empire Strikes Back. You can find his toy in the Star Wars section in aisle 4, thank you...
Another fan favorite was created by Joe Johnston: Boba Fett, the flyest Bounty Hunter of them all. That Mandalorian armour still looks so damn BADASS!
We all know he escaped the Sarlacc pit so let's hope they get the Boba Fett standalone movie right! I wonder how much they have to bend the story after that clone origin debacle in the the prequels... oh well.
Until then my favourite toy artist The Sucklord has to keep Boba P.I.M.P.
Practical effects baby!
Mixing practical effects and real locations gave the saga a weird sense of realism even when it was set in a galaxy far, far away.
Abandoning this approach really betrayed the prequels in my opinion, as the CGI and clean look just didn't feel Star Wars to me.
The Force Awakens had some very obvious puppetry going on and somehow that made it feel more tangible. BB-8 was properly build and that they even did Rey's weird green muffin bread as a practical effect really showed the commitment to the cause!
Ta TA, ta ta ta TAAA TAAAA!
Just like in the James Bond franchise, the music and it's classic themes helped elevate Star Wars to another level of greatness. The Main Theme. the Imperial March, that Cantina Band Spacejazz... Star Wars just wouldn't be the same without it! Fist bump to John Williams for lacing some dope stringz, yo.
Of cause there have been some awesome musical spin offs as well. Collect `em all!
Whilst we are on the topic of Star Wars soundtracks... how great is this etched holographic vinyl release of The Force Awakens?
G'damn light sabers!
Even before Kylo Ren pimped up his tool of the trade with an added hilt lightsabers were the coolest shit ever! The glow, the hissing sound and the ability to cut through metal doors like a hot knife through butter... no other space weapon comes close!
My favorite lightsaber fight actually happens in the prequels: When that second blade came out... oh my! I really wish they wouldn't have killed off Maul in The Phantom Menace so quickly. Such a waste of good Sith...
Buy buy buy!!!
As every bit of the SW universe was already designed to a T it was easy to translate the starships and characters into a range of toys who looked awesome as well. Somehow Kenner managed to create some great packaging on top of it which would soon become iconic in its own right. Now spice things up with multiple variants of the same figure and you whip collectors into a frenzy!
Much of the Star Wars merch obsession of millenials can be traced back to either having sold off their collections for peanuts on the local flea market or silly parents decluttering the attic at the end of the 80ties. OH THE PAIN!
How cool are these vintage Clarks x Boba Fett sneakers?!
These lost treasures were never forgotten, and with Lucasfilm pumping out more films there is no shortage of SW obsessives trying to re-buy their childhood and heal the mental scarring of their youth.
Again to be fair to the prequels, I still have fond memories of this Naboo royal starship blockade cruiser playset which was gifted to me from my uncle in America back in 1999. Oh the fun when the package arrived , beeping like crazy as some of the postal workers managed to trigger all the sound fx buttons at the same time...
Last but not least: Crazy shit that stays with you
There is something said for grossing out your audience: They will never forget it! Being it Jabbas slimy perv tongue or that carnivorous Rancor beast in that pit munching on exotic dancers... there always were these awesome gross out moments during the original trilogy that added a little bit more spice to the proceedings!
Jabba wants kissy kissy!
Ewww floss your teeth bro!
After a run in with this fellow Han had to stuff Luke into the carcass of his trusty Tauntaun, warming him with it's intestines... GROSS! And inspiration for the best sleeping bag ever...
So these are my thoughts on the topic. And with a new movie getting released every year now it never has been a better time to be a Star Wars geek! Or run for the hills in horror...
I personally will always love Star Wars, even when I start looking like this old geezer below with all that grey in the beard!
It's a shame General Leia will not be part of the journey going forward. Carrie Fisher, you will be missed! And in the words of Space IP Man Donnie Yen:
I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me...