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When Star Wars Ruled the World (2004)

TV Movie  -   -  Documentary  -  18 September 2004 (USA)
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Social psychology 101
3 May 2013 | by (The San Francisco Bay Area) – See all my reviews

The first Star Wars film had outstanding high production values. State of the art special effects, a top classical film composer to score the film, and capable actors who could act the parts, verse an all star cast that might detract from the film itself. My big question at the time I saw Star Wars was how come other sci-fi films weren't like this? Why were all those other sci-fi flicks from the 50s and 60s mostly B-grade projects with spaceships hanging from wires?

Well, the big secret behind the American film industry is that it's a social psychological tool, but in a good way. The films you see are there to help improve society, and you get to see some very fantastic films of which Star Wars is one of the most incredible. And so it was that Star Wars hit America during a dreary time in our nation's societal history, and it proved to be an uplift for people's spirits, young and old alike. Vietnam had ended, which was a war with a lot of criminal activity and just plain savagery, the president in the 1960s had been assassinated and paranoia regarding it were rampant; we were squaring off with the Soviets around the world, and race riots and demonstrations were cropping in heated portions of America. Compared to the pastoral yet industrious America of previous generations, where people were polite and did their job, you'd think the nation was coming apart.

It wasn't, but there was concern that the United States might find itself in another social crisis from which it couldn't return. Star Wars was a fantasy that took you away from Vietnam, Kennedy's assassination, memories of the Cuban missile crisis, the race riots in the south and in LA, and the other social upheavals that manifested here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Star Wars said that there's the thing called the fairy tale, and for those of you who are tired of princes, dragons, and the derring do to the benefit of nobility, here's a tale that doesn't look back but looks beyond.

The spaceships, the music, the characters, the setting (not just being in "outer space" but with good people fighting an evil social machine that was the Evil Galactic Empire), and, like I mentioned, the high production values; i.e. well shot, well staged, well acted, and just put together with a lot of care. How could anyone not like Star Wars! And that's what this documentary shows.

We hear a lot about all the positives and human stories in regards to the Star Wars phenomena. We see and hear Harrison Ford talk about his experiences with the character of Han Solo, and what he observed in the public eye. We see and hear Mark Hamil and Carrie Fisher talk about their perspectives while both on the set and in public, and they all do it with a smile and lots of energy as they recall the good experience that was being part of Star Wars.

Carrie Fisher herself says it succinctly; "they picked a princess, a pirate and a farm-boy" (or words to that effect), and we the audience just instinctively tuned into that; rescuing princesses is part of the human drama. Pirates? Who hasn't thought of being a pirate, or seen a pirate film with tall ships slugging it out on the high seas before the dashing Errol Flynn swings over with cutlass in hand to take the princess for himself! Or the kid who grew up down on the farm and is introduced to the world via his taking up the mantle of, not ironically enough, rescuing a princess. This is the stuff of legends, folks.

The down shot of the documentary is that it's more of a "reality" vignette of anecdotes, as opposed to a semi-serious look at the Star Wars phenomenon when it first exploded into American culture. That being said it is a nice piece of retrospective, though I have to admit, as much of a "fan" as I was of the films, I'm hard pressed to nod in agreement with people who dressed up like the characters and lived out their fantasies so publicly. I'm sorry, but that's just nuts (though in a good way, I guess).

Star Wars was designed to be a social experience for the American public, and it achieved that. In this doc you see all the good things that flowed out of film's cultural impact. I can't say that I really found it too informative, but the piece certainly does give you the emotional gist of what it was like to be on both sides of the movie screen; cast to fan. I enjoyed watching it.

If you come across it online somewhere, see it once.


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