You have to believe Sir Alec Guinness must have really needed the money to take the part of Obi-Wan in Star Wars. Even though George Lucas had done American Graffiti, a space opera about some silly sounding Force had to have been a real leap for all involved. Yet, in the end, it worked.
Star Wars worked because it was earnest, authentic and had a damn good story. I was fortunate enough to hear screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) speak on story structure at the Austin Film Festival last October. He compared the structure of Star Wars to the Graduate and his own Little Miss Sunshine. You would think those three movies would have nothing in common, but in fact they share what’s common in most good films: a solid traditional three act structure with involving character arcs with both strong physical and psychological goals.
Unfortunately, Lucas forgot what he knew about structure and character with the last (or the first) three Star Wars films. They were all bloated, bland and boring. I cared about Luke’s journey. Anakin, not so much. And the worst part? No Han Solo. This sort of stuff really needs a an audience surrogate who says, “Are you fucking kidding me?” Jar-jar Binks was more, “Meesa not fucking kidding you.”
Anyway, those first two (or middle two) still hold up. It’s still the summer of ’77, I’m still 17, sitting in the third row of a theater in Columbus, Georgia watching Luke Luke and Artoo and the Force in the X-wing fire the shot that destroys the Death Star.
Time travel exists. All you need is a good movie.