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Why is Star Wars so popular?

Submitted by: Dominic Galeon

For us measly human beings, there’s something special (or not so) about hitting that 40 year mark. Some even say life begins at 40 — whatever that means. For many, it’s just a nice way of getting ready for that midlife crisis. I don’t know if everyone really goes through such a thing. I have ten more years before I find out.

Star Wars is not your ordinary quadragenarian, though. The uberpopular science fiction flick celebrated its 40th birthday exactly last May 25. It was on that same date back in 1977 when the first Star Wars film came out. Then the rest was history.

Star Wars made George Lucas a household name, as well as launched the careers of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and the late Carrie Fisher — and, of course, their fictional alter egos: Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia. Oh and there’s iconic baddie Darth Vader, the masked villain with his notorious respirator-generated breathing and baritone voice.

In the span of 40 years, Star Wars has gone beyond just a cinematic experience. It became possible to go back to that galaxy far, far away through the numerous books (legends and canon – ask your nearest geek friend for what these mean), comic books, TV series, and video games that helped build the Star Wars universe.

Of course, it’s also made its way to pop culture, through character references and cameos in long list of films and TV shows. There’s so many of these that Cinefamily in LA hosted an event last May 25 called Star Wars Nothing But Star Wars, featuring a 70-minute video mash-up of 40 years of Star Wars pop culture influence. Here’s a trailer:

Forty years isn’t a time too long ago, but one can’t help but be amazed at how Star Wars has managed to woo almost three generations. In many families, everyone from the grandpa to the bunso would probably know who Darth Vader is. Few franchises could claim such longstanding fame that cuts across generation lines.

But just what is it that makes this sci-fi action-adventure space story so popular?

Pew pew pew. It could be the appeal of space battles and its matching special effects. When the first Star Wars film came out in 1977, it wowed its audiences with its then high-tech special effects. Star Wars has continued to build on that, matching it with an awesome soundtrack to boot thanks to John Williams.

Lightsabers. There’s just something about lightsabers, right? While the first lightsaber battle ever seen in a Star Wars film seems to slow for the younger generation of fans, the idea of fighting using laser blades still caught the imagination of viewers. Now, there are even groups dedicated to learning how to fight using lightsabers (not real laser blades, of course, although there’s supposedly a working lightsaber already made). Here, one such group is Fightsaber Philippines.

The Force. Everyone knows that the Force binds the entire Star Wars universe together. I’m not talking about midichlorians. I mean the actual balance between Light and Dark, good and evil — although the Sith would argue against this equivocation. Star Wars, for all its fancy space battles and lightsaber fights, is ultimately about the never ending struggle between the forces of good and evil. Best of all, as Rogue One and the animated series Star Wars: Rebels have shown, often times this struggle is seen in how the little people fight against a bully, be it the Empire or the First Order. This struggle certainly remains relevant today.

Or maybe you really just enjoy Star Wars, you know, no questions asked. That’s also a valid reason, and perhaps it’s what keeps most people hooked into it. Enjoying a good film cuts across generations, right?

Life certainly begins again for Star Wars at 40, with a new trilogy and at least a trio of films not directly Star Wars but has something to do with it. The Last Jedi, the second film in the new trilogy, is expected to hit theaters this December.

Some might say that it wasn’t exempt from a mid-life crisis of its own: the not-so-loved prequel trilogy, George Lucas handing the reins to Disney, etc. Through it all, Star Wars survived and it plans to stay relevant in the next three more generations to come.

The Force is, indeed, strong.