Sunday, 28 June 2015

Journal of Whills: Part 5 - The Influences of George Lucas

Star Wars may seem like an amazing, original, epic piece of storytelling that came out of nowhere, but like many great works, its creator sought influence from a number of sources. Whether he was consciously doing it at the time or just writing with whatever came to his mind, it’s fairly easy to draw some parallels between George Lucas’ favourite films and the creation that became Star Wars as we know it today.
Flash Gordon Series: Famously Lucas sought to buy the rights to the comic serial he devoured as a nerdy teenager as a base from which to build his whole universe. Of course, ironically, it wasn’t until a resurgence is science fiction popularity that was initiated by Star Wars saw the famed all American space hero return in 1980 so Lucas was forced to start from scratch as he began to write. But that didn’t stop him from borrowing elements of it such as the famous opening crawl and the screen wipes as scene transitions. As well as this, the whole concept of a space fantasy, opera kind of thing was to try and establish a modern myth, substituting magic for technology.
2001: A Space Odyssey: That huge sweeping shot in outer space that begins the entire Star wars saga is reminiscent of the large scale, awe inspiring models used in Stanley Kubrick’s own work of science fiction. It was the technical leaps and effects that 2001 demonstrated that made the vision of Lucas possible. Everything from the giant Star Destroyer, the Death Star and the X-Wing attack to the Millennium Falcon just feels real and weighted, as if it really is propelling itself through outer space.
The Hidden Fortress: Lucas had admired the works of Akira Kurosawa for many years and has often proclaimed that his most beloved film from the Japanese director is his 1958 Hidden Fortress. Putting aside the specific similarities, you have the whole Jedi culture soaked in Samurai teachings of patience, discipline and complex swordplay and duels. In particular though, this flick sees two humble peasants entrusted with carrying secret documents that will assist a certain Rebel army, sound familiar.
The Searchers: Lucas had always loved the classic era westerns, it’s safe to say that the Spaghetti style may also have influenced his marauding, criminal, lone gunman world that spawned the likes Han Solo, Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett. But even when it comes to our favourite, supposed incorruptible hero we can see the effect. In John Ford’s western masterpiece our protagonist is set on his journey when he returns to his desert home to find his family murdered.
The Wizard of Oz: Putting aside the world of wonder and whimsy set against a darker background that star wars shares, a good vs evil scenario and your classic band of pals who at one point have to rescue a fair maiden and thwart and an evil-doer, there’s still that basic concept of a young farmhand being whisked away to a world of adventure filled with mechanical men, heartless helpers and their hairy sidekick.
Lawrence of Arabia: Just look at that binary sunset shot, and then look me in the eye and try to tell me that Lucas was never inspired by Lean and his desert epic. Those long, sweeping shots capture the human emotion amongst the epic landscape and setting up an inexperienced youngster to the harsh realities of an actual adventure. Even George’s best pal Steven Spielberg has openly proclaimed this as his favourite film of all time, and one would think that they share similar tastes.
Metropolis: Many small elements of Fritz Lang’s nightmarish vision of the future are incorporated into Star Wars. It would be more noticeable for the city planets included in the prequels and the oppressed people are also visible in Lucas’ debut THX1138. But there are also powerful governments and oppressed workers in star Wars, there’s a prosthetic robotic hand and early C3-P0 concept art will reveal a clear influence from the Maria robot double.
The Dam Busters: The first rough cut of Star wars actually included footage from the Dam Busters in the place of X-Wings and TIE Fighters. But not only were camera angles, dogfight sequences and flight patterns adopted from the 1955 war film, certain lines of dialogue were put straight into the mouths of Rebel Pilots such as ‘Look at the size of that thing’.

So there are a few more of my ramblings on Star Wars, if you want to express some of yours leave a comment below and don’t forget to recommend Film Fanatic on Google using the icon at the top of the page, find me on Twitter with @JoshuaPrice97. Until next time. 

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