Star Wars Influences

Many different influences have been suggested for the Star Wars films by fans, critics, and George Lucas himself. For example, Lucas acknowledges that the plot and characters in the 1958 Japanese film The Hidden Fortress, directed by Akira Kurosawa, were amajor inspiration. Lucas has said in an interview, which is included on the DVD edition of The Hidden Fortress, that the movie influenced him to tell the story of Star Wars from the viewpoint of the humble droids, rather than a major player. It also played a role in the conception of Darth Vader, whose trademark black helmet intentionally resembles a kabuto. More particularly, the arch-villain in Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai wears a black samurai helmet to which Vader's helmet bears a remarkable resemblance. The Jedi, nearly extinct futuristic knights of the former Republic also have a high influence from the Samurai as spiritual warriors and duelists with a strong sense of honor and devotion to their duty. Their traditional clothing even resembles kimonos.

Prior to writing the script for Star Wars, George Lucas originally wanted to make a film of Flash Gordon. The rights for Flash Gordon, however, were held by Dino De Laurentiis, and Lucas decided to work on his own science fiction project instead.

Another influence in Lucas's creation of Star Wars were the writings of Joseph Campbell. Campbell's work explored the common meanings, structures, and purposes of the world's mythologies. Lucas has stated that his intention was to create in Star Wars a modern mythology based on Campbell's work. The original Star Wars film, episode IV, for example, closely followed the archetypal "hero's journey", as described in Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This influence was discussed by Bill Moyers and Campbell in the PBS mini-series, The Power of Myth and by Lucas and Moyers in the 1999 program, Mythology of Star Wars with George Lucas & Bill Moyers. In addition, the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution sponsored an exhibit during the late 1990s called Star Wars: The Magic of Myth which discussed the ways in which Campbell's work shaped the Star Wars films [1]. A companion guide of the same name was published in 1997.

It is also thought that the setting for the Star Wars universe came from Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, published in the early 1950s. This saga also involves a galaxy teeming with inhabited worlds held together by a collapsing galactic empire using hyperdrives (for long-distance transportation). It also features the planet Trantor, which is entirely covered by the galaxy's capital, similar to Coruscant, and the protagonist of Foundation and Empire is Lathan Devers, a character resembling Han Solo. Even lightsabers have precursors in the The Foundation Trilogy as force field penknives. Also the planet Korrell is thought to be the basis of the planet Corellia.

It is also often argued that Star Wars was greatly influenced by Frank Herbert's classic science fiction book Dune. Many elements of Star Wars are also evident in Dune. There are so many similarities, in fact, some Dune devotees consider Star Wars little more than a campy film adaptation of Herbert's work. While this is likely an exaggeration, many of the similarities are striking. For example, both Dune and Star Wars are set on desert planets. Both stories feature a mystical knighthood of sorts — the Jedi in Star Wars and the Fremen of Dune. In both stories the hero is a messiah-like character, uses mystical powers, exhibits mind control (Jedi mind trick/the Voice), and duels opponents with sword-like weapons. Finally, both stories describe a corrupt empire and the hero's efforts to overcome it.

Some comic book fans have also drawn parallels between Star Wars and Jack Kirby’s epic Fourth World series, published by DC Comics. The cosmos-spanning series of titles was never completed, as DC canceled it, citing low sales. At the heart of the series was the battle between Orion of the New Gods and his villainous father, Darkseid (pronounced “dark side.”) Orion called upon the mystical force known as "the source" to aid him in this struggle. The Death Star is somewhat reminiscent of Apokolips, Darkseid’s home planet. It is also worth noting that Darth Vader shares some visual similarities with Kirby’s armored über-villain Dr. Doom, co-created with editor/scripter Stan Lee at Marvel Comics.

The Star Wars saga has also been influenced by historical events, as George Lucas claims to have drawn on World War II and the Vietnam War for inspiration. Lucas also based the space battles in A New Hope on World War I-era aerial dog fights.

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