The two existing Star Wars trilogies are interesting objects to compare against each other. George Lucas directed the first Star Wars in 1977 and didnâ€™t direct another installment until 1999â€™s Star Wars Episode I. The rest of Star Warsâ€™ visual iconography came from Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand, though the latter might have been strong armed into certain directorial decisions by an ever-present Lucas. The response of George Lucas once he was in the hot seat for three more installments in his globally popular franchise was to treat Star Wars a little like poetry.
The prequels, the second trilogy of Star Wars movies that ran from 1999â€™s The Phantom Menace to 2005â€™s Revenge of the Sith, seemed like a sure thing, marketing wise. Lucas planned to make the story about a young Anakin Skywalker and his fall to the Dark Side and transformation into Darth Vader. The entire Star Wars â€œsagaâ€ would become about the tragedy of Darth Vader, told in episodes, like the epic poems of history that Lucas had used to come up with the plot of the first Star Wars.
As he can be heard saying in the behind the scenes features for The Phantom Menace, the Star Wars series of six films all â€œrhymeâ€ like poetry, where you can see the repeating patterns of something throughout time. Although plot wise this doesnâ€™t really hold up outside of vague echoes of similar situations (Skywalker males getting their hands cut off) and repeated lines across generations, visually the trilogies do become echoes of one another.
Videographer WhoIsPablo took the time to line up some of these visual echoes across both trilogies and stack them on top of each other so they become super obvious:
George Lucas almost certainly made particular shots echo each other between the two trilogies and some might have been happy accidents. The level of willful complexity of the interweaving of the two trilogies is something that is still under frequent debate even as we enter the new Dinsey-owned Star Wars line of movies that will blow past the idea of trilogies.
The website StarWarsRingTheory.com hosts an essay that posits Lucas structured the prequel trilogy as a reverse visual echo of the original series. That would take a gargantuan amount of planning over almost a decade of prequel production, but enough of the prequel trilogy manages to look like the original trilogy that itâ€™s hard to disprove.
Of course, come December 18th of this year, The Force Awakens will introduce a new status quo in the fictional galaxy far, far away. It is too early to tell with the scant amount of official information if The Force Awakens will continue to have visual poetry moments that weave it into the two previous trilogies, but it seems very possible. Just the idea that in the original trilogy we spend time on Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor, and in the previews for The Force Awakens we spend time on a desert, snow, and jungle planet from the looks of it. We donâ€™t know if JJ Abramsâ€™ movie includes a plan to take down a devastating galactic weapon, be it a base the size of a moon or a massive (though ineffective) droid army, but it seems likely.
Ultimately, the Star Wars trilogies were based on the monomyth or the â€œheroâ€™s journey,â€ a basic plot that most of European cultureâ€™s oldest tales have similarities to. Because they use a similar structure in their plots, theyâ€™ll always feel the same. After seeing the entirety of the prequel trilogy play out, itâ€™s obvious that the second trilogy wanted to have visual cues to the the first. The question remains how much future Star Wars movies are indebted to the original trilogy visually or if they are free to make their own post-George-Lucas visual style.