How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise
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In How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, veteran journalist Chris Taylor traces the series from the difficult birth of the original film through its sequels, the franchise’s death and rebirth, the prequels, and the preparations for a new trilogy. Providing portraits of the friends, writers, artists, producers, and marketers who labored behind the scenes to turn Lucas’s idea into a legend, Taylor also jousts with modern-day Jedi, tinkers with droid builders, and gets inside Boba Fett’s helmet, all to find out how Star Wars has attracted and inspired so many fans for so long.
Since the first film’s release in 1977, Taylor shows, Star Wars has conquered our culture with a sense of lightness and exuberance, while remaining serious enough to influence politics in far-flung countries and spread a spirituality that appeals to religious groups and atheists alike. Controversial digital upgrades and poorly received prequels have actually made the franchise stronger than ever. Now, with a savvy new set of bosses holding the reins and Episode VII on the horizon, it looks like Star Wars is just getting started.
An energetic, fast-moving account of this creative and commercial phenomenon, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe explains how a young filmmaker’s fragile dream beat out a surprising number of rivals to gain a diehard, multigenerational fan base—and why it will be galvanizing our imaginations and minting money for generations to come.
“garbage.” Yet to Lucas, visual effects existed in an opaque box. ILM staffers remember John Knoll, cocreator of Photoshop and the movie’s visual effects supervisor, being frustrated about the limited number of times he could intercede with the Creator on digital matters, after which Knoll felt he would have to shut up for a few days. After the hoopla of Phantom Menace, the Attack of the Clones release on May 16, 2002, was a relatively subdued affair, at least in the United States. It opened on
feared: Dale Pollock, Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, updated ed. (New York: Da Capo, 1999), 224. 57 “Knowing that the film was made: Pollock, Skywalking, 288–289. 58 “The more detail I went into”: Laurent Bouzereau, “Star Wars”: The Annotated Scripts (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997), 35. 59 “When I was 12: Jennifer E. Porter, “‘I Am a Jedi’: Star Wars Fandom, Religious Belief, and the 2001 Census,” chapter 6 in Finding the Force of the “Star Wars” Franchise:
just come from Lucas’s years of obsessive TV watching. Rather, it came from that sense of flow and motion, excitement and danger one can only get from behind the wheel of a speeding vehicle. In Star Wars, Lucas would say that he wanted “space ships that people got into and drove around like cars.” This was his version of a magic carpet to Mars. When Lucas was sixteen, his ever-benevolent father bought him his first car, a tiny Italian supermini called a Bianchina. George Sr. probably figured the
world-class hikes, the benign gaze of Mount Tamalpais over the whole place—this was so attractive that a developer backed by Gulf Oil was planning to build an entire city in the headlands, called Marincello. “It is probably the most beautiful location in the United States for a new community,” said the developer. The locals hated the idea. By the time the Lucases arrived, Marincello was mired in lawsuits and red tape. It would never be built. In stark contrast to LA, Marin was perfect for a
friendly planet they were aiming for in the first place. There’s a parade. The bureaucrats see the princess “revealed as her true goddess-like self” and then go and get drunk. “The End?” Lucas wrote, leaving the door open to sequels and echoing Look at Life. We’re as far from Hidden Fortress here as we are from the finished Star Wars. Lucas offered many nods to other Kurosawa movies: General Skywalker encountering the boys in the temple echoes a scene in Yojimbo; the cantina scene is inspired by