Star Wars and Popular Culture

One of the worlds biggest movie sensations hit the British cinema in 1977 – Star Wars. The film was written and directed by George Lucas and was the first instalment of the original Star Wars trilogy. Star Wars contained over 900 actors including Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher and followed the Rebel Alliance’s attempt to destroy the Death Star.

The British audience were much anticipating the release of the groundbreaking sci-fi adventure film in the UK following its success in the USA after its release earlier in the year (March). The film premiered on 27th December 1977 and immediately took Britain by storm, it even beat Jaws in its box office profits, taking in £117,690 in the first week compared to Jaws £90,655 in 1976. Originally the film was only showing in two cinemas, Leister Square and the Dominion in Tottenham Court Road, however Star Wars was soon showing in 12 other major English cities and Scotland come January. Touts even successfully managed to sell the £2.20 tickets for £30 highlighting the craze of the film.

The British public immersed themselves into the world of Star Wars; demand for merchandise was high with the products ranging from Star Wars sweets to watches. TV shows, magazines and newspapers (such as the BBC and the Daily Telegraph) also aligned themselves to the new phenomena and regularly commented positively on the film. Reviewers of the film agreed that Star Wars marked the beginning of the transition to big blockbuster movies and that the simple narrative of the story made it so appealing to the masses and people of all ages. Additionally, Seth Green (a critic) stated ‘I don’t think people realise how significant Star Wars is as a cultural touchstone’, further signifying the cultural significance of the movie.

Also, on the 16th December 1977 the The Daily Telegraphs science correspondent, Adrian Berry (4th Viscount Camrose and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society) claimed that ‘until recently, space melodrama films have tended to be made with neither imagination nor money. With the brilliant exception of the Clarke-Kubrick 2001: A Space Odyssey, they have been badly-written B-feature affairs from producers with little knowledge of astronomy or technology. Star Wars is far removed from these shoddy productions. It is the best such film since 2001, and in certain respects it is one of the most exciting ever made. The story is unpretentious and pleasantly devoid of any “message”’. However not everyone agreed, Derek Malcolm from the Guardian stated ‘it isn’t the best film of the year, it isn’t the science fiction ever to be translated to the screen’. Nonetheless the film was a huge success in the UK, with most critics praising the movie.

The release of Star Wars in 1977 saw the beginning of a popular culture sensation in Britain and across the world. With the release of another six Star Wars films over the next four decades, and the hype not seeming to die out, it is evident that Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon which will continue to fascinate fans for years to come.

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