Star Wars at 30

by Rachel Soyk

Thirty years ago, in a galaxy not so far away...

In preparation for writing this article, I decided that it was my duty to watch A New Hope again. After all, it's research - right? A New Hope is my favorite movie in the Star Wars saga, and watching it again reminded me of why. Full of quippy one-liners, heroic sacrifices, and exotic locales, not to mention a superb soundtrack, it's no wonder that this movie has captured the imaginations of generations ever since its release on May 25, 1977. Besides beginning a series of six movies, what started with A New Hope has spawned hundreds of books and comic books; thousands of websites, fanfiction, and forums; and enough memorabilia to fill a galaxy. Star Wars has even influenced our culture, with references popping up in everything from Back to the Future to Weird Al songs to Sesame Street.

How did a sci-fi movie have this much impact? Even those who have never seen the movies recognize the name of Darth Vader. What makes a story so powerful that it sticks in viewers' minds long after the credits roll? What causes people to return to a tale over and over? It's certainly more than engaging characters and flashy special effects!

J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, talked about something he termed a "eucatastrophe." A "eucatastrophe" is basically a happy ending. Now, you might ask why this is such a big deal. After all, a lot of stories with happy endings don't gain a near-cult following. The difference here is that a "eucatastrophe" is not merely a happy ending. It goes beyond that to deal with evil and defeat. A New Hope takes into account the rather large possibility for failure, but the Rebellion does not despair. They believe that the Empire will be destroyed. In fact, they believe so strongly that this evil must be destroyed that they risk all for it. This happy ending goes beyond just being happy - it's the triumph of good over evil, a triumph that was only won by sacrifice.

This embodies something that Tolkien wrote in his essay On Fairy-stories: "The peculiar quality of the 'joy' in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth." A New Hope teaches us something about the way our world works. It shows us virtues such as hope, courage, and self-sacrifice. It teaches us, through Ben Kenobi, that there are things greater than ourselves, that some things are worth dying for. It shows us, in Han Solo, that friends are worth far more than money. Through Luke Skywalker, we see that suffering and loss do not have to lead to despair, but can actually be used for good.

The prominence of these virtues, especially that of sacrifice, are what make Star Wars something people return to over and over. We see many sacrifice their lives for others - Ben, Biggs, and countless other pilots. By seeing this, we are reminded of The Sacrifice that Christ made for us and for our salvation. We are reminded that it is only through sacrifice and the crucifying of selfish desires that good can come. We are reminded that we cannot achieve this over evil by our own reason, strength or skills. Luke required the Force to make the perfect shot. We have something far stronger and more sure than the Force. We have a loving Savior who guides us, restores us when we fail, and gives us strength that can come from no other source.

Created: June 4th, 2007