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How has Star Wars Lasted So Long?

Jackie Drake, Editor and Staff Writer

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Since 2015, a new Star Wars film has been released every December right after Marian students finish up their finals, and this year will not break the trend. The Last Jedi will premiere by Friday, December 15 in theaters everywhere, and it will make episode 8 of the franchise (not including Rogue One, which follows the same storyline but is not considered its own episode). May of this year saw the 40-year anniversary of the first installment’s release. Today, the internet is sure to have another field day over the new installment. I got the opinions of some Marian community members to see if that same excitement happens at our university, or if the hype is more selective than widespread after all these years of the light and dark sides of the Force.

I spoke with Dr. Leichter, professor of Philosophy, who had a lot to say about the tenacity of the franchise. When asked what about it particularly appealed to him, he answered, “I’ve long said that there are two things that would improve any movie: either space battles or dragons (but not both). Star Wars has lots of good space battles. More seriously, though, it taps into our imagination—that the universe is both bigger and more interesting than we normally experience.”

I asked Adam Sydow ’20, a Nursing major and self-proclaimed Star Wars fan, the same question: what about Star Wars ever appealed to him? His response: “It was something that each of my friends growing up had in common, whether it was the video games or the movies.” Though the first movie came out in 1977, that was part of the original trilogy of episodes 4, 5, and 6; episodes 1, 2, and 3 came out between 1999 and 2005. That brought up some millennials with a similar interest in Star Wars as their parents. As Sydow commented, “With the gap in time between the old and the new trilogy, it kept people interested while also introducing it to a new generation.”

Dr. Leichter had more to say on the lasting quality of the franchise: “It’s certainly lasted a long time, probably for two reasons: one anthropological and the other more economic.” The first of these reasons included his earlier response that it taps into the imagination, accompanied by the fact it follows the classic Hero’s Journey narrative as outlined by Joseph Campbell and followed by George Lucas. “The story taps into some fundamental narrative tropes that have been told and retold for millennia,” Dr. Leichter explained, “And so there’s both a familiarity to it and an originality in it.”

As for his second reason, he plainly put, “It makes money. There was a period in the late 1980s through 1990s when it sort of fell off the radar and was not everywhere like it is today. Currently, I’d argue that for many people I know, there’s just a lot of Star Wars fatigue with movies coming out yearly and that tend to focus on the Skywalker clan.” There were gaps in the trilogies, so gaps in interest would certainly make sense as well as the new generation factor. And even when the episodes conclude (which may happen after number 9 is rumored to release in 2019), Disney supposedly has more plans for spinoffs to prolong the series even more. Sorry, those of you already tired of it all. Not only will Star Wars likely survive on DVD, Blue Ray, and in memes, but it will continue to show up on the big screen for years to come.

Still, Dr. Leichter had a positive remark on the recurring quality of the trilogies: “I saw the original as a kid with my brothers in the theaters; twenty years later, we saw the next trilogy with our partners and watched them with our younger cousins who were 5 or 6 at the time. Now, we’re seeing it with our own kids (nieces, nephews, etc.), so there’s that sharing of generational experiences and wonder.”

Among all this Star Wars discussion are those who do not care for the series so well. Student Ryan Biffert commented, “I personally thought the franchise was too sci-fi for my liking. I did not have many friends that were into the Star Wars movies, so I was definitely not pressured into watching any of them. I know a lot of people are surprised that I have not seen any of the movies.”

Others among Marian’s staff also claim they have not seen any of the movies, or similarly, they have “fallen off the bandwagon” as Lynda Schultz of the Registrar’s Office stated of herself for not having seen the recent films. Despite the constant movie releases and multi-generational fan base, the Star Wars franchise, like any other, is not for everyone’s liking.

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How has Star Wars Lasted So Long?