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Star Wars: Why George Lucas Started With Episode 4

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The massive success of Star Wars has developed into eleven movies and counting, but George Lucas made the strange choice to begin with Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. Lucas had a bold and complicated idea to take science fiction movies in a new direction, but the long story he had prepared needed a place to start. He chose to begin in the middle of his planned saga, even though Lucas himself thought the first Star Wars movie would be a failure - so much so that he was hiding out from his probably failed movie in Hawaii when he learned it was a hit. After that, he had a chance to continue with both sequels and prequels. Now the Star Wars universe is so full that Disney abandoned Star Wars episode numbers entirely, but it all started with the movie that should have been the fourth installment of the series.

Lucas had written a single epic story that encompassed the entire original trilogy, but that script was too burdensome to turn into a single movie. Instead, he split his script into three parts. The first act became A New Hope, the second The Empire Strikes Back, and the third Return of the Jedi. This explains why the original trilogy’s installments flow into each other so naturally; they were originally a single story. Lucas had also planned an entire backstory for that script that later became the prequel series, and Lucas continued plotting ideas for a Star Wars sequel trilogy different from the one Disney eventually made. However, before he could get into the rest of the story, he had to pick the best beginning for audiences.

He decided that, from a storytelling and technical approach, the first act of his epic was the one to introduce to the world. He always planned for more movies to go before A New Hope in the timeline, but it had the best story to hook audiences into a galaxy far, far away. It took many drafts to refine this section of the original script into a cohesive story in its own right, changing parts of his first act to fit in better with its standalone role and cut out unnecessary information. Even main characters like Han Solo got a major rewrite. He still didn’t have his ideas for the remaining movies fully fleshed out, but he included enough worldbuilding and references to the history outside of this story to make it clear A New Hope was part of a much longer saga.

Starting with Episode IV meant throwing audiences into the world of Star Wars with little context. Even the first movie references events like the Clone Wars that would not come into play until the prequels were made, so the prequel movies became necessary after Star Wars gained its massive popularity. When the first movie was in production, Lucas thought A New Hope would be the sixth movie in the story, originally planning to make a prelude, spend three movies on the Clone Wars, and conclude with events leading into the original trilogy. The prequels were later condensed down to a trilogy, but arguably suffered as a result. Fans now often consider the prequel trilogy a largely unwieldy story that made creative missteps, but George Lucas defends some of his prequel decisions. However, not even the much-maligned prequels could stop Star Wars in its tracks forever.

Since the time George Lucas was trying to cut his story down to a single starting point, Star Wars has become an ever-expanding franchise, growing far beyond the movies Lucas planned. With the hit series The Mandalorian showing no signs of slowing down and several more movies and TV series in the works, the franchise is reaching another peak of popularity. Though Lucas’s vision has been through ups and downs, beginning with A New Hope worked, and fans have never stopped loving the world of Star Wars that he created.

Rogue Squadron (2023)
Release Date: Dec 22, 2023
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