Star Wars is ingrained in our culture across generations. There are now eight core films, two satellite films and a series of spin-offs including Lego cartoons.
You won’t find many people who haven’t seen the Star Wars movies and who don’t regard them fondly. For this reason, May the 4th has become an unofficial day to celebrate all things Star Wars.
The date of Star Wars Day reflects a play on words, e.g. May the Fourth be with you / May the Force be with you. Tens of thousands of people around the world celebrate Star Wars Day every year. This year it falls on a Saturday. If you want to join the celebrations, make a plan to come to our Star Wars Trivia night on May 4th.
Before you do, boost your knowledge of the sci-fi phenomenon.
Why Star Wars is so popular
A long time ago (1977), in a galaxy not so far away (ours), a little science fiction film, produced on the cheap by a passionate team burst onto screens worldwide.
There was little confidence that Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope would strike a chord with the masses. However the story of an intergalactic ‘farm boy’ turned hero struck a chord that has never faded.
George Lucas, the genius behind Star Wars, had a student film and one feature behind him but knew story telling. His inspiration came from iconic literature professor Joseph Campbell’s work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, and by the films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. With these in mind, Lucas distilled the huge story of an intergalactic war into a tale of growth and redemption.
It was this personal and immersive touch that made audiences immediately fall in love. They couldn’t get enough of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and their colourful friends and enemies.
Of course, it must be noted that the skills and charm of the young cast also played no small part in the success of the franchise. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher took what may have played out as mawkish silliness and brought gravity, humour and charisma to their characters. This forever concreted them in the public consciousness.
It must also be added that one other small detail lead to the ultimate longevity of Star Wars. MERCHANDISE! Star Wars was one of the first feature films to produce a successful toy line. From the very beginning, kids were able to become a part of the Star Wars Universe.
The history of Star Wars Day
It started as an obvious pun, ‘May the Force be with you’ – ‘May the 4th be with you’.
Some accounts will tell you this was first coined in 1979 on the day of Margaret Thatcher’s inauguration. More reliably, we know that Facebook groups with this name started popping up in the late 00s. 2011 saw the first organised celebrations in Toronto, Canada. By 2013 Disney had embraced the date making May 4th officially Star Wars Day!
Star Wars Day is now celebrated across the world in myriad forms. A quick Google search will find some form of celebration in most major cities in the West and the event is growing every year.
A very brief timeline of the Star Wars Universe
For the uninitiated (there might be a few right?) there are now eight core Star Wars films, with a ninth on the way.
To make things a little complicated, the release dates of the films doesn’t match the chronology of the saga. Episodes IV, V and VI are known as the original trilogy, released between 1977 and 1983. The next episodes I, II and III are the prequels, released between 1999 and 2005. Episodes VII and VIII were released in 2015 and 2017, with episode IX coming this December.
Read on but be wary of spoilers if you haven’t watched each flick.
Films I, II & III
Known collectively as the Skywalker saga, the films follow the progress of the Skywalker clan, starting with the juvenile Anakin. Discovered by a sect of mystics known as the Jedi, Anakin is found to have a very strong connection with ‘The Force’, a mystical power that runs through the universe.
Anakin is taken under the wing of the Jedi and mentored by Obi-wan Kenobi. A series of tragedies sees him tempted towards the dark side of the Force. Ultimately, after a duel with Obi-wan, Anakin is left for dead and reborn as the towering and largely robotic Darth Vader.
During this time, political upheavals have seen the universe taken over by an evil power known as The Empire. This is ruled by a practitioner of the Dark Side of The Force, the Emperor. Anakin, now known as Darth Vader, becomes a lackey of the Emperor. He is unaware of the birth of his son, Luke Skywalker.
Films IV, V and VI
As Luke grows up on an outlying planet, equally unaware of his heritage, a rebellion forms against the Empire. High up in this rebellion is the enigmatic and beautiful Princess Leia. Leia attempts to contact Obi-Wan Kenobi through the droids (robots) C3-P0 and R2-D2 and inadvertently draws Luke into the conflict. On their way to rescue Leia, Luke, Obi-Wan and the droids enlist the help of the roguish Han Solo and his giant, furry offsider Chewbacca.
After multiple battles and difficulties, including the abduction of Han and Luke’s training as a Jedi, the heroes defeat the Empire and the galaxy is freed. Along the way, Luke discovers and comes to terms with the fact that Darth Vader is his father and Vader redeems himself by saving Luke from the Emperor. Leia, it turns out, is Luke’s twin sister. Han and Leia declare their love. You may remember their famous lines, “I love you!”… “I know.”
Films VII, VIII & IX
Now all is well across the galaxy… or is it? From the remnants of the Empire, The First Order has risen and is working to bring down the New Republic. A young woman named Rey becomes entangled in the fight as she befriends an ex StormTrooper, Fin, and seeks to find Luke Skywalker. She finds herself facing Kylo Ren, an adherent of Darth Vader who will turn out to be the son of Han and Leia.
By the end of episode VIII, Rey, now trained in the ways of the force by Luke, must battle Kylo Ren who has risen to supreme power among the First Order.
Speculation is rife as to what will happen in film IX, The Rise of Skywalker. We know a year has passed and the battle continues but precious little else has been revealed.
Fan theories abound. Rey’s place and as honourary (or perhaps even biological?) Skywalker are the top points of speculation. The re-emergence of the Emperor has also given rise to the theory that the ultimate Star Wars baddie is back to get revenge. Many are also hoping to see the re-establishment of the Jedi Order as a power in the galaxy. We will all have to wait until December 20th, 2019 to find out for sure!
Star Wars Day: Satellite films and spin offs
It took almost no time at all for the Star Wars franchise to begin to create spin-offs and tie ins. In 1978, even before The Empire Strikes Back, the first Star Wars tie in, a now infamous Christmas Special, aired on American TV. George Lucas, quite rightly, disowned the special and tried to have all copies destroyed, but it is still out there online, ready to be viewed by those brave enough. Be warned, it really is terrible; no one needed to know that Chewbacca had a son called Lumpy.
Despite the disaster of the Christmas Special, spin-offs continued into the 80s. Children of that decade may remember such Saturday morning cartoons as D.R.O.I.D.S. and Ewoks as well as two almost forgotten Ewok films, Caravan of Courage and Battle for Endor.
The late 80s and early 90s saw something of a lull in Star Wars related productions, but with the release of a new trilogy the franchise began to re-awaken in the early 00s. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the first animated snip-off since the 80s appeared in 2003 to great acclaim. Merchandising took off again and the new trilogy set the stage for the third wave we are currently enjoying.
Now we have multiple animated shows for kids, stand alone tie-in films like Rogue One, Solo (about a young Han Solo) and an upcoming live action TV show, The Mandalorian about uber-cool bounty hunter Boba-Fett.
All this is without even mentioning the plethora of books, comics, computer games and role-playing games that have fleshed out that famous galaxy far, far away. Whether you’ve simply enjoyed the core films or dived deep into the expanded universe, Star Wars has never really gone away.
Ideas for celebrating Star Wars Day
Star Wars Day is a new trend so there are no hard and fast traditions to follow. It is a day to enjoy and celebrate the films in any way you see fit. The simplest, of course, is to find some friends and family and enjoy a movie marathon.
Like George Lucas, you can let your imagination run wild. Costume parties are a great choice, maybe with a sci-fi theme rather than strictly Star Wars. Check your local area and you may well find an event or two as well.
You could also enjoy Star Wars Monopoly or one of the amazing Star Wars role playing games available. Set up a lightsaber battle with friends or duel online in one of the many Star Wars video games.
Perhaps dig deeper and enjoy some of the inspirations behind Star Wars. Watch Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, John Wayne in The Searchers, the old Flash Gordon films or any number of other classics that inspired Lucas.
And don’t forget Star Wars Trivia Night at The Westport Club! We’re looking forward to a fun-filled event.
Star Wars fun facts and trivia
To prepare you for trivia night, here are some facts to commit to memory. You never know… they may come in handy!
About an hour and twenty minutes into the first Star Wars, film an iconic and unplanned moment takes place that has gone down in Star Wars lore. Watch closely as a squad of Stormtroopers arrives and you’ll notice the trooper on the right hits his head as he walks through the door. It’s a hilarious moment that somehow made it into the film.
Watch Laura Dern (Admiral Holdo) closely in The Last Jedi and you can see her making ‘pew pew’ sounds. She couldn’t resist!
With a history of over 30 years, Star Wars is rife with funny moments and trivia. For instance, what colour is C3-P0’s left leg? If you answered ‘gold’ you’d be wrong. C3-P0’s left leg is in fact silver, and always has been. Here are some more fun facts and trivia about Star Wars:
- Chewbacca’s home planet is Kashyyyk.
- Yoda was voiced and controlled by Frank Oz, Jim Henson’s right hand man and the man behind Miss Piggy the muppet.
- Twin Peaks Director David Lynch was slated to direct Return of The Jedi.
- In The Phantom Menace, if you look closely, you can spot some aliens very similar to E.T.
- Burt Reynolds could have been Han Solo! The role went to Harrison Ford instead, who at the time did not have a large profile.
- The original ending of Return of the Jedi saw Han dead and Luke joining the Dark Side. Lucas figured this might hurt toy sales so he went for Ewoks and a treetop party instead.
- Mace Windu, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is the only Jedi to wield a purple lightsaber. This was at Jackson’s request.
- The actors playing Jedi in the prequels were allowed to choose their own lightsabers from a selection.
- The adorable porgs in The Last Jedi were inspired by the multitude of puffins at one of the shooting locations.
- Joel Edgerton, Rose Byrne, Jack Thompson and Jay Laga’aia are some of the Australian actors to appear in Star Wars movies
Star Wars Day at The Westport Club
4 May: Star Wars Trivia – Hastings Room
MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU
To celebrate Star Wars Day (aka May the Fourth), we’re holding a Star Wars themed Trivia Night on Saturday 4 May.
If you know your Greedos from your Boba Fetts, can speak Wookiee or know more about droids than iPhones, then this night is for you.
Awaken your inner nerd, bring your mates and join us for a fun night out in a galaxy far, far away!
Entry is free with the chance to compete for some great prizes. Registration is available by calling The Westport Club on 6588 7201 or in-person at the Club’s reception desk.