The Past and Present in Star Wars

Art in its various manifestations has a great impact on people who are able to reflect in art their visions of the world. The art of motion pictures emerged in the twentieth century. It appeals to people on different levels and is capable of articulating ideas through a visual narration. The current paper concentrates on films as valid historical documents that reflect reality and culture-specific concepts. The paper evaluates the historical significance of the film Star Wars.


The Plot of the Film

The movie Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was produced and distributed in 1977. It is a part of a franchise that consists of six classical parts, or chapters of a story plus a sequel made in the year 2016. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope depicts events that happen in a fictional galaxy. There is a variety of species that populate the universe. People and other races live on different planets and are citizens of a single government.

One of the most significant elements of the film is the concept of the Force. The Force is an energy that connects all the living creatures in the world. There are some who have the skill and ability to use the Force. That allows them to affect the environment in such forms as mind control, clairvoyance, telekinesis, etc. The use of the Force is a trait of the Jedi and the Sith. At the beginning of the film, the director introduces one of the main antagonists, Darth Vader who is known to be on the dark side of the Force. There is also a light side of the Force for those who use the power to balance nature and guard peace. The two opposite sides of the Force create a conflict that is emphasized by a political situation in the galaxy.

The Rebel Alliance tries to destroy the tyranny established by the Emperor Palpatine who is the evil master of the galaxy. The film also shows that robotic droids and space travel are common. The plot develops when a member of the Rebel Alliance, Princess Leia, sends the means of destruction of the ominous weapon that the Emperor has, the Death Star, to one of the Jedi in attempt to get help. After this, a simple boy, Luke Skywalker, discovers his destiny and powers of a Jedi when he meets new friends. Thus, the Star Wars begin.

The Production of the Film

The film Star Wars is a cinematographic masterpiece of George Lucas. It is hard to say when the idea of the film first appeared. Lucas devoted many years of his life to the creation of this story. It should be emphasized that the film is unique and there was nothing like Star Wars before. The series emerged as a new notion in cinematography and was rejected by many companies who were not able to appreciate the genius of Lucas. Thus, some film production studious (for instance, American Graffiti) regarded the film as “a little strange” and said it lacked consequential themes. Most of the rejections were based on misunderstandings of the concept of science fiction. People assumed that such themes had no future and audience would not be interested in them. Still, Star Wars proved to be a cinematographic product that reflected the realities of the American way of life, culture, and politics in such a subtle way that people were mesmerized by it.

The critics appreciated the movie and Star Wars received positive feedbacks. This effect was a response to Lucas’s attempt to use the most prominent elements of the films that he had seen and implement them in his creation. It may be said that the production of Star Wars is a journey that included the influential ideas that the American society was introduced to in the previous decades. The statement may be supported by the fact that the ultimate weapon, the Death Star, was designed after seeing the film The Dam Busters that depicts the assault scene. In this episode, the Royal Air Force attacked the Germany Ruhr region with bombs. Furthermore, some parts of the dialogue from The Dam Busters were repeated in Lucas’s film. Apart from this connection, Star Wars and its culmination scene were inspired by the film 633 Squadron and many others.

The Hollywood industry in 1977 did not have resources to produce a film of such magnitude as Star Wars. Lucas had difficulties finding a proper company that would help with visual effects. As it was mentioned above, science fiction was not a very popular theme and film directors did not have a strong basis for editing effects. As a result, Lucas had to form his own company, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), which would specialize in visual effects. It was a big step for the American cinematography that changed the ways movies were produced.

The Reflection of American Realities in Star Wars

The production of the film is founded on the most significant elements of the American culture that found their particularization in the movies of the past. Star Wars is indeed a historical document that illustrates people’s expectations and acceptance of bright future perspectives. Lucas produced a movie that helps people pay special attention to the present and made the American audience a future-oriented public.

Lucas wanted to introduce worlds that would visually differ and seem foreign to the audience. In order for the film to be accepted, it was important to give people an element of emotional familiarity. He found such elements in popular culture. Here, music is a serious matter. It should also be taken into consideration that the main theme was created as a piece inspired by a film Kings Row. The movie Bicycle Thieves had also a great impact on Lucas and was used to write a music theme for Tattooine (one of the main planets). These films are elements of popular culture that reflect people’s perception of life. The film under consideration also reframes the past and creates a spectacular future where the social order and political situation resemble a period in the history of the United States.

Star Wars is a film that tells a story of people in a galaxy far-far away. This “galaxy far-far away” is a precedent-setting phrase that is well-remembered by audiences. It creates an effect of something foreign. However, it is, metaphorically speaking, only a curtain that audience is able to lift in order to see further. Star Wars addresses questions of American interests, conditions, and concerns and depicts the important issues of the era in which the film was produced.

The main idea is based on the notion according to which a film is a language that reflects the world by creating new ones. Scholars agree that the films “contain the values, fears, myths, assumptions, and point of views of the culture in which they are produced”. In this context, Star Wars helped develop several cultural and political themes.

  1. The film reflects social issues. Sociologists that surveyed the social attitude toward people of different races and their labor note that in the early 1970s (when the film production started) except for the Vietnam War the most explosive issue was the demand for black equability. The importance of this situation is also reflected in Star Wars. Lucas depicts a world of multi-cultural and racial diversity. He also shows using the main characters that people of different origins can successfully live together and cooperate. According to historians, “a renewed interest in America’s cultural diversity became the means through which to complicate any lingering complacency about the reality of the civic ideal in the United States”. Lucas emphasizes this concept when the main character meets his new friend who not just belong to different races but are not all human beings.
  2. Star Wars covers the subject of the Cold War. It is stated by some analytics that “the story of Star Wars premiered amidst a backdrop of political issues stemming from the Cold War”. This idea may be illustrated by the example of satellite states used in the film that reflects a tactic of the Cold War. It should be noted that prior to the movie production, “the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, the startled United States went into high gear to catch up in this new Cold War space competition”. In addition to this, Kennedii proposed that “the nation commit itself to landing a man on the Moon”. Lucas redirected this approached and crossed the limits of the war. He put his characters on different moons and planets and launched thousands of satellites in the film. This is how Star Wars used the space ambitions of the American society of the 1970s.
  3. Lucas made a film that explores the issue of the war that the American society has witnessed. His antagonists resemble the tyranny of Hitler and Stalin, as well as other rulers like Napoleon and Mussolini. Star Wars as a historical document treats the questions of the Vietnam War and the effects of the World War II in a subtle manner. For examples, it may be assumed that the Storm Troopers illustrate the psychologically-crippled soldiers of war who follow the orders to kill and destroy like the Nazis.
  4. Drawing on data from more than decade, Lucas managed to reflect the increased values of the family institution in the United States. Family values are the core of the film and the main theme that develops in all the movies of the Star Wars saga. In addition to this, Lucas illustrates how politics affects families. Scientists argue that “the political role of family structure has increased over time in part because class and family type have come into closer alignment”. Lucas proves this and illustrates the importance of the film’s conclusion on the examples of the relationship between a father and a son in Star Wars. The film shows that family members play a significant role in political structures and have to make choices that sometimes contradict personal interest for the sake of a government and vice versa.


The paper discusses the film Star Wars as historically and culturally important document. The film was produced in the twentieth century and illuminates the era in which it was created (1970s). The movie Star Wars reflects the political issues related to wars (the Cold War, the war in Vietnam), the questions connected to the role of families, as well as some racial issues. The space saga is a product of cinematography that is still an important element of the American culture and history. Lucas is an example of a director who is able to capture the images and concepts that show the essence of a whole nation in a film.

Feb 9, 2020 in Research
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