Nobody can deny that the Star Wars movie franchise changed how movies were made forever. The vision that George Lucas had (I think it’s long since gone) raised the bar for movies everywhere but especially for anyone trying to or even thinking about making science fiction movies. Prior to Star Wars – A New Hope science fiction movies were often B-grade material at best and the special effects used were anything but believable.
Oddly enough the other big blockbuster that year was a nuclear apocalypse movie called Damnation Alley which was pretty seminal for its time. But when you compared the special effects, script and just the overall movie to the original Star Wars it’s hard to understand or believe where 20th Century Fox spent $17 million dollars – Star Wars looks like it cost about $170 million in comparison. There were various reasons for Damnation Alley looking so bad in comparison and most of the damage was done post-production – ain’t that always the way?
But back to Star Wars before I totally wander off the subject. There have been very few movies in the history of cinema that have had such a profound and long lasting effect on the entertainment industry. Even look at the merchandising that followed the release of the movies – it took this part of movie promotion and company profits to a whole new level.
And one of the biggest merchandising hits were the lightsabers that hit the market to fill the demand from kids everywhere for their own replica lightsaber. The initial efforts were pretty poor but after a lot of testing and tweaking Master Replicas finally got it right when they perfected the Force FX lightsaber and the cheap knock-offs died a rapid death.
But what made the lightsaber such a popular toy? There were so many other Star Wars toys to choose from after all. What made the different I think was the fact that the lightsaber evoked memories in us of the Arthurian legends and the sword Excalibur. Lucas even capitalized on this by making the Jedi an order of knights. The lightsaber took the sword to a whole new level and gave it a whole new lease of life in the movies.
The coolness factor of the lightsaber and what set it apart from any other sci-fi weapon we’d seen before was that by using the Force the lightsaber became an extension of you – you and the weapon become as one; which of course has leanings towards the legends surrounding Samurai warriors. It took skill to use a lightsaber and in a way you almost had to be born to wield one with any kind of advanced level of skill.
There’s been no weapon since, in any sci-fi movie that I can think of, that has come close to the lightsaber in terms of producing sheer awe in an audience.