Empire at 40, Revenge at 15; Star Wars still has the magic and always will.

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The 19th and 20th May saw milestone anniversaries for Revenge of the Sith (15) and The Empire Strikes Back (40) respectively, and with that brought celebrations of the beloved galaxy far far away. Both films stand as major instalments in the franchise as well as being valued within Star Wars fandom. While the sequel trilogy might have concluded, these two birthdays mark the perfect time to reflect on their lasting effect and the bright future that the franchise still has.

The Empire Strikes Back, as I’m sure you’ve heard before, changed what a sequel is. It’s the point where the roots of Star Wars really began to spread. George Lucas’ galaxy grew, finding increased depth and an even more beloved place in the hearts of engrossed cinema-goers. It introduced several of the core story elements that Star Wars revolves around today. Vader being Luke’s father is a given, but it also introduced us to Yoda as well as showing the first real involvement of The Emperor, who wouldn’t actually be named Palpatine until the prequels. It explores the force, while also allowing it to keep it’s magical mystery that would capture the imaginations of several generations of fans. The lightsaber duel remains one of the franchises’ best (and there’s been some pretty sensational ones). Still considered by a great number of fans to be the greatest instalment of the saga, Empire’s legacy is as relevant as ever. It allowed for the completion of the original trilogy and as a result the rest of the franchise, which branches out into more than films. Books, comics and other expansions of the lore also became immensely popular following the conclusion of the original trilogy three years later.

Nearly twenty years after the release of Empire, George Lucas embarked on Star Wars’ return to the cinema screen with his prequel trilogy, beginning with 1999’s The Phantom Menace. While it’s fair to say the prequels, especially the first two instalments, didn’t attract the greatest of responses from long term fans, they’ve come to be remembered fondly. As time has passed, a good number look at them with a degree of nostalgia, particularly those that grew up with the prequels. This is best reflected in the support for the trilogy’s concluding chapter, Revenge of the Sith. Perhaps the best of the three, it has accumulated a considerable cult following, and represents how another generation became encapsulated. Revenge of the Sith helps to redeem the prequel era but is popular for reasons other than the film itself. It also helped generate a good deal of Star Wars memes. Every Star Wars fan knows the significance of the simple expression “Hello there”. 

While Star Wars fans can look to the past with great fondness, there are many reasons to look to what the future holds with just as much affection. Despite its recent conclusion during the May 4th celebrations, animated series The Clone Wars’s finale has treated fans to Star Wars content of legendary quality. While Revenge of the Sith helps to redeem the prequels, a great deal of the heavy lifting is also done by this particular show. It’s anthology like format details the battles, heroes and villains of the Clone Wars with great effect. It’s original characters like Ahsoka and Rex stand as some of Star Wars’ greatest achievements, and what the show does with Darth Maul (yes, he actually survives being cut in half in The Phantom Menace) is nothing short of remarkable. While the show might have concluded, it shows that the future’s potential is still sky-high. The Mandalorian debuted on Disney+ late last year to much acclaim and positivity, with the second season set for release this year and a third confirmed to be on the way. Anticipation for the continuation of the show has further been bolstered by rumours that popular Clone Wars and Rebels characters Ahsoka, Rex, Sabine and Bo-Katan will make their live-action debuts in the show, as well as news that Boba Fett will be returning. There is a great swell of support behind the show’s creator Jon Favreau, as well as Clone Wars and Rebels creator Dave Filoni who works with him on it. Rumours about what other shows are lined up for Disney+ are numerous.  Star Wars’ past continues to be rightfully celebrated, while its future remains bright.

Image Credit: IMDb