Five key moments that show how George Lucas and Star Wars changed storytelling in film

It’s fair to say that certain goings-on a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away have had a noticeable knock-on effect in your local multiplex. Here are some of the ways in which Star Wars changed storytelling in film.

One of George Lucas’s big ideas was that his heroes weren’t just doing their duty, they were fulfilling their DESTINY. That was slowly revealed to be the case with Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy, and explicit from the start with Anakin in the prequels.

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And the concept of Chosen Ones caught on. Like Anakin, they could be saviour-figures in line with a prophesy, like Neo in The Matrix – Neo is even an anagram of One – or Harry Potter, preordained as the boy with the power to defeat Lord Voldemort, or even Po in Kung Fu Panda. These heroes can be royal, like Simba in The Lion King, or simply have special dead parents, like Eggsie in Kingsman, Peter in Pan, or Dave in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who was a descendant of Merlin.

The concept was brilliantly spoofed in The Lego Movie, in which the prophesy proves to be completely made up, and Emmet becomes a hero in part by realising he’s no more or less special than anyone else.

Of course the Chosen One needs HELP, which will ideally be provided by a wise mentor who knows the score and has much wisdom to impart, but for various reasons – age, lack of prophesy, etc – can’t themselves become the hero. 

In the original trilogy, that was Obi-Wan Kenobi and later Yoda, while in the prequels it was Qui-Gon Jinn, who was literally very much the mentor’s mentor. But you may also know them as Dumbledore (Harry Potter), Morpheus (The Matrix), Mufasa (The Lion King), Spock Prime (Star Trek reboot), Oogway (Kung Fu Panda) or Harry Hart (Kingsman). They don’t even need fantastical powers, as Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid) could tell you.

Every Chosen One needs their villain, but Star Wars made things PERSONAL. It isn’t enough for Darth Vader to rule the galaxy: he wants to do it in concert with his son, who happens to be fighting for the opposite team.

See also Harry Potter again: Voldemort isn’t just the Dark Lord, he’s a Dark Lord who kills Harry’s parents. Or The Lion King, where it’s Simba’s uncle Scar who overthrows Mufasa and takes over the Pridelands. The identity of the father of Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, is a closely guarded secret to be revealed in the forthcoming sequel. Even James Bond is getting in on the act: in Spectre, the villain [bleeped out] turns out to be [bleeped out]. Who would have thought it?

One of Star Wars’ greatest assets is a world you just wanted to lose yourself in: it was dangerous, but FUN-DANGEROUS, and never more so than in the Mos Eisley spaceport, that wretched hive of scum and villainy.  (The prequels had the less-memorable Coruscant underworld.)

Futuristic dens of iniquity have been around for longer than Star Wars: the Yoshiwara brothel in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis may be the dirty old grandfather of them all. Still, after Mos Eisley came Rouge City in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the multicultural clamour of Blade Runner’s 2019 Los Angeles, and Knowhere in Guardians of the Galaxy. 

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Guillermo del Toro loves places like this: the Troll Market in Hellboy II: The Golden Army and the Bone Slums in Pacific Rim are two perfect examples. Plus of course there’s Harry Potter again, whose young hero is intoxicated by the sights, sounds and smells of Diagon Alley.

But perhaps if Star Wars taught Hollywood anything, it’s that audiences who like what they see will keep coming back for more. Providing you can find neat cliffhangers, a single overarching story could be strung out for a trilogy or longer: Harry Potter (yes, him again), The Matrix (yes, that again), Back to the Future, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Indiana Jones, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mad Max, The Hunger Games, The Bourne series, Jurassic Park, Alien, Terminator…