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April 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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A Galaxy Not So Far Away: Writers and Artists on 25 Years of Star Wars by Glenn Kenny (ed.)
Allison & Busby PPBK: ISBN0749006609 PubDate: April 7, 2003
Review by Iain Emsley

224 pages List price £9.99
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In a cinema, not so long ago, the lights dimmed, the screen flickered to life and the music swelled as a giant starship loomed over the insignificant speck that it was chasing. A religion was born in that desperate last stand and hurried message left on the small droid. Star Wars has long captured the imagination of the generation who saw it. (I, unfortunately, was in the Middle East at the time, eventually catching up with it one Christmas on BBC1.)

George Lucas was propelled to Godhood, a state from which he has only come down from recently. It came to pass that there were two sequels and then the prequels arrived on our screens to a fanfare never experienced before. Star Wars is one of the most influential and culturally adapted films to have graced the screens, challenged only now by Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Yet even this enterprise takes place using advances developed by Lucasfilm and ILM.

Apart from one academic book (which deals with Star Wars fandom[1]), it is strange that nobody has charted the effect that the original films played in popular culture and imagination. Glenn Kenny has assembled an intriguing set of responses largely to the classic trilogy (although there are some reflections on Phantom Menace) that provoke the reader to thought and even to re-viewing the tired video tapes. Unsurprisingly, the main character focuses are on Boba Fett, Darth Vader and the dubious characterisation of Lando Calrissian (whose position is made somewhat made more difficult) but the essays deal with the mystery that has captured the fans’ imaginations over the years. Jonathan Lethem even admits to having seen the film twenty-one times in 1977 as a young child whilst his mother was dying of cancer, such was the power of "The Force".

Joe Queenan and Kevin Smith reflect on what Star Wars has meant to their lives and how it has changed for them over the years, largely from adoration to quiet respect, a cultural icon to riff off but no longer mercilessly follow. The same change in perspective is written about in Webster Younce’s article on the famously atrocious Star Wars Holiday Special (George Lucas recalled it after one airing!) and how he has come to terms with not worrying about the Star Wars canon and just enjoys the spectacle.

The most interesting article in this collection is Aimee Agresti’s collection of quotations drawn from a variety of media and sources, demonstrating how insidious the film has been in infiltrating popular culture (even Enron used names drawn from the trilogy (much to Lucasfilm’s chagrin) for some of their companies).

Provocative and interesting, this collection of popular criticism is to be applauded for its eclecticism and honesty. It makes the reader consider how the film has entranced a generation of film goers.

[1] Using the Force: Creativity, Community and Star Wars Fans, Will Brooker (Continuum, 2002)

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