There are few film franchises that can claim to have affected pop culture as profoundly as "Star Wars," the brainchild of George Lucas. A new "Star Wars" trilogy is destined for theaters, but here's a look back at the franchise's big-screen offerings over the years. Click through the gallery. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)Link
"Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" (1977)
On the day "Star Wars" thundered into theaters on May 25, 1977, the film's producer Gary Kurtz appeared on a radio call-in show. Kurtz recalled: "This guy, this caller, was really enthusiastic and talking about the movie in really deep detail. ... I said, 'You know a lot abut the film.' He said, 'Yeah, yeah, I've seen it four times already.' And that was opening day. I knew something was happening." (Lucasfilm)
"Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
The second "Star Wars" film, the most critically revered film in the franchise, was directed by Irvin Kershner. "I really knocked myself out," Kershner said. "I was able to go deeper into the characterization. I was doing the second act of a three-act play, or the second movement of a symphony. That's always the slower movement. I could not have a grand climax, I had to leave things ambiguous. My big climax came at the beginning of the film, with the battle in the snow, then I told the story of the people." (Lucasfilm)
"Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi" (1983)
The original series came to a close with "Return of the Jedi" -- a welcome ending for Lucas, who said at the time, "There hasn't really been one day in the last 10 years that I haven't had to wake up in the morning and say, 'God, I've got to worry about this movie. ... If I had to do it all over again, I'd have to think about it, especially if I knew what I was going to have to give up in order to get it."
"Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" (1999)
Sixteen years after the original trilogy wrapped up, "The Phantom Menace" began a new prequel trilogy based on Darth Vader's origin story. "Phantom Menace," which introduced new characters like Darth Maul (above right) and the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks, marked the first time a fully digital movie was shown to the public. It was the only "Star Wars" film to earn more than $1 billion at the box office. (Lucasfilm)
"Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" (2002)
Anakin Skywalker's transformation from a precocious, pod-racing kid to the ultimate villain Darth Vader continued in "Attack of the Clones," in which Hayden Christensen portrayed the sullen young Jedi, and Natalie Portman played his lady-love, Padme. (Lucasfilm)
"Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2005)
"Revenge of the Sith" opened 28 years after the original "Star Wars" and was the first to receive a PG-13 rating, due to several violent scenes as Anakin turns to the Dark Side. "I had to turn him into a monster," Lucas said at the time. "It's a tough story. You can't make a guy evil without having him do evil things." (Lucasfilm)
"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (2008)
The Star Wars universe found its way to the big screen again in 2008, albeit in animated form. "The Clone Wars" centered on the wartime tales of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi and featured Padme Amidala, Mace Windu, Count Dooku and other characters from the prequel trilogy. The film paved the way for the award-winning cartoon series of the same name. "I am amazed at how it continues," Lucas said at the time. "It’s not something I expected to happen, and not something we spend a lot of time thinking about trying to expand. This was created because I wanted to stimulate kids' imaginations, inspire them to be creative and to think outside the box." (Lucasfilm)
“Star Wars” fans have dubbed May 4 as “‘Star Wars’ Day” (as in “May the fourth be with you…”), and Hero Complex is celebrating with a look to the future of pop culture’s favorite space saga.
Disney announced last month it will release a new “Star Wars” film every year beginning in 2015 with “Episode VII,” the first installment in a planned trilogy. In between those movies, Disney is releasing two standalone “Star Wars” films not part of the overall saga, penned by Simon Kinberg and “The Empire Strikes Back” scribe Lawrence Kasdan.
“I’m trying to start fresh,” Kasdan told Hero Complex in February. “There are certain pleasures that we think the saga can bring to people that they’ve been missing, and we’re hoping to bring them that, and at the same time, have them feel that it’s all new.”
“Star Wars” may be familiar territory for Kasdan, but it’s Kinberg’s first foray into the world of the Wookiees.
Kinberg broke onto the scene with his original screenplay for “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the 2005 action comedy starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. He wrote the scripts for “X-Men: The Last Stand” and Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sherlock Holmes.” More recently, he penned “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and produced Neill Blomkamp’s upcoming “Elysium.”
Hero Complex sat down with Kinberg earlier this year to talk about his “Star Wars” visions and memories.
HC: What’s it like to be bundled in the same category as Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt?
SK: I’m not in the same category as Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt. It’s great to have a chance to work with those guys. Larry is really an idol of mine. He is, as much as anybody, the reason I wanted to get into screenwriting when I was a kid. “Raiders” and “Empire Strikes Back” were the two things that I saw when I was younger that I wanted to one day somehow emulate. So having the opportunity to be around him is as exciting as any aspect of the “Star Wars” process.
HC: Is it intimidating to work with iconic characters in a universe that’s already so fleshed out?
SK: Well, I’ve worked in franchises where they have a long legacy, like the X-Men, or like Sherlock Holmes even, where you have a big fan base, and you have a lot of material to draw from. But I haven’t worked in anything like “Star Wars.” It’s definitely like the cultural referent for our generation. So it’s daunting and exciting.
HC: So how do you approach it? Do you incorporate the extended universe or start fresh or go back to 30 years ago? Where do you start?
SK: We’re really at the early phases of figuring out the details, but the spirit of the original movie is the thing I fell in love with, so it’s the spirit of that that I think will guide us.
HC: Larry Kasdan said that what sets the original movies apart is that they’re more about people than the films that followed. Do you plan to take this new film back in that direction?
SK: Completely. I think what worked so well in all of the “Star Wars” movies is the characters. I think the reason that they’re different than other science fiction or other genre movies is because George [Lucas] created a universe of people that you wanted to go back and see over and over again, and that’s why it’s spanned and spawned so many different mediums, so many different generations, every different language. You want to go back and see those characters, like I did when I was a kid. “Empire Strikes Back” was the first movie I saw in a movie theater more than once. And I went back 10, 15 times in the theater, and I’ve seen it probably over a 100 times since. But I saw it that many times in the theater because I loved those characters. I loved Han, I loved Leia, I loved Luke, I was right at the age when I was old enough to start to understand the nuance of that movie. I think I was too young for “New Hope” when it came out in the theater, although I loved it and it was my favorite film until “Empire.” And then really, that changed my life, that movie.
HC: Which of those memorable characters is your favorite?
SK: There’s so many that I love and for different reasons. I really love Han Solo. He does that thing that Larry does so well. He’s really human and real, but also really fun and banter-y and larger than life. And when I was a kid, I wanted to be Han Solo.
– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark
RECENT AND RELATED