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Posts Tagged ‘The Phantom Menace’

Star Wars Turns 35: How TIME Covered the Film Phenomenon

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on May 28, 2012

On May 25, 1977, Star Wars hit movie screens. TIME takes a fond look back at George Lucas’ little science-fantasy project.
Star Wars (1977)

Kids, you might not believe this, but… a long time ago (35 years), in a galaxy not far away (in fact, right on Planet Earth), almost nobody knew what Star Wars was. And few of the Hollywood insiders who had heard of this science-fantasy project thought it would soar. Hatched by George Lucas after a life’s immersion in comic books, cheesy movies serials and Greek epics, Star Wars had no stars, no sex and, the cognoscenti thought, no chance of becoming a hit; two studios turned the project down before Alan Ladd, Jr., of 20th Century-Fox said yes.

Outside the movie business, though, Lucas’s vision had one big early supporter: TIME magazine. In an article intended for the cover of the May 30, 1977, issue, TIME writer Gerald Clarke proclaimed Star Wars “a grand and glorious film that may well be the smash hit of 1977, and certainly is the best movie of the year so far. … The result is a remarkable confection: a subliminal history of the movies, wrapped in a riveting tale of suspense and adventure, ornamented with some of the most ingenious special effects ever contrived for film.”

(READ: Why TIME Named Star Wars 1977′s Movie of the Year)

Though the story was bumped inside the magazine at the last moment, in favor of analysis of Menachem Begin’s ascension as Israeli Prime Minister, it marked the beginning of a productive relationship between TIME and Lucas. Each of the five ensuing Star Wars chapters graced themagazine’s coverThe Empire Strikes Back in the May 19, 1980, issue (with Darth Vader as the cover boy), Return of the Jedi for May 23, 1983 (Lucas) and, when the prequel series was launched, The Phantom Menace for April 30, 1999 (featuring Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson and Jake Lloyd as the child Anakin Skywalker), Attack of the Clones for April 29, 2002 (Yoda) and Revenge of the Sith, May 9, 2005 (Darth Vader again). The 1997 re-release of the first three films, with computer-generated “improvements,” spurred yet another cover, on February 10. Each of these stories made news — with on-location reporting, early hints of the plot wrinkles and fresh insights from Jedi George — and ranked among the magazine’s best-selling issues, even as the original Star Wars quickly became the top-grossing movie of its age. In real dollars earned at the box office, it trails only Gone With the Wind as the biggest hit in film history. Read the rest of this entry »

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