STAR WARS: THE LEGACY REVEALED
A 2007 documentary by Kevin Burns
Shown on 7th November 2010 on the UK’s HISTORY CHANNEL
Review by Scott Weller
Joseph Campbell’s words that he couldn’t have had a better student than George Lucas certainly rang true this weekend with the first UK screening of the HISTORY channel/Prometheus Entertainment/Lucasfilm co-production STAR WARS: THE LEGACY REVEALED, a wonderfully nostalgic and informative hour and a half that examined the story and mythology of both the STAR WARS universe and its characters and the modern and past myths of our own history that inspired Lucas’s creation of the six film saga which has captivated and enthralled viewers of all ages for nearly thirty five years, and with no signs of diminishing any time soon. Actor and film legend in his own right, Harrison Ford was one of the first stars of the Classic Trilogy to notice how, in creating his unique update of FLASH GORDON and BUCK ROGERS- something in homage to the past yet being new and aspirational for youngsters to enjoy- Lucas had tapped into a primordial element that lay basic within out hearts and minds, within all our DNA, with regards to our continuing desires to known and tell stories, where good faces off against evil and braves many mighty obstacles to defeat it, resulting in STAR WARS: a new universe imagined and realized that would strike a perfect resonant chord with audiences and providing, following the death of the last great piece of American history - the western pioneers - a new and vibrant modern myth, incorporating the known and the not so well known of past, but all instinctively appealing to our consciousness, and featuring not only the aforementioned greatest elements of the birth of American civilization, but equally the legends of the Samurai of ancient Japan, the gods, goddesses and monsters of Greek mythology, and the mysticism, faith and Religious convictions of Christianity (and other religious beliefs) into the conceptualisation of The Force- cleverly created by Lucas as an energy field surrounding all living things which exists in a way that, quite ingeniously, can be all things to all people and interpreted positively by all religions worldwide without causing any upset or divisive criticisms.
The one and a half programme, surely the greatest tribute to the young Lucas’s studies of History and Anthropology at the University of Southern California in the fifties, would be divided into nine intriguing segments primarily analysing our myths and legends as they have been interpreted and compiled within whets now been regarded as the definitive cohesive work on the subject, from the world known and respected works of the acclaimed late teacher, Joseph Campbell: THE HERO’S JOURNEY, which can be perceived as having one central hero whose destiny can run along two paths, one into light (the path travelled by Luke Skywalker), or the other into dark (Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader), of which our hero is helped along their life journey of personal fulfilment and ultimate destiny, for good or for bad, by many companions of all shapes and sizes (who also have their own personal journeys to discover), some of whom can provide comic relief (with Jar Jar Binks existence in the STAR WARS universe being given a credible explanation!). Whilst, on the negative side of the journey, the roots of chaos and evil can be traced back to the descent of heroes into darkness from Greek tragedy, as well as more recent real-life history with World War II and the rise to power of Hitler, the Nazis and fascism.
As Campbell’s linear, fascinating life story progression unfolds, we ultimately see how the journey of the hero has uniquely shaped itself into the roots of myth and legends, often being re-vitalized by the course of history but still staying resonantly true to its original roots, and being especially well used in relation to the story birth and evolving genesis of the STAR WARS saga, as the programme expertly illustrates by some brilliantly edited together clips from all six STAR WARS films (nice to see a documentary finally able to use scenes from EPISODE III, which really gives a unique sense of completeness to it all) backed up with fine, symbiotic-like commentary, observations, and good humour from a wide range of scientists, historians, writers/journalists, politicians and influential filmmakers of our time, all of them not only fans of history, legends, heroes and villains of old, but all modern STAR WARS fans, too, and uniquely aware of its deserved place in our hearts and minds as the next evolutionary stage of modern myth making and THE HERO’S JOURNEY.
From the same innovative production team behind the also excellent EMPIRE OF DREAMS DVD documentary from 2004, THE LEGACY REVEALED screening was very enjoyable, and at times proved to be a very enlightening tribute to the writers, poets and artists of the old times who gave us these tales of heroism, evil and historic wonder that continue to inspire us, as well as a fine showcase for the invention, imagination and educational spirit of both George Lucas and Joseph Campbell. Despite the lack of any contributions from Lucas himself, or many of the behind the scenes people who worked on the films whose thoughts on both the subjects of STAR WARS and mythology in general would have added an extra layer of interest, the programme ultimately provided fans of all ages with another fine addition to the high quality ranks of officially created STAR WARS documentaries.
AFICIONADO RATING: An enlightening 8 out of 10
Above image: excellent promotional material for the 2007 US screening of THE LEGACY REVEALED, showing the evolution of the fearsome Imperial Stormtrooper.