Star Wars: A cultural saga and commercial behemoth

The release of the latest instalment in the Skywalker saga in the eternally expanding Star Wars universe seems like an appropriate time to pose a wistful little thought experiment: What if Star Wars - the original 1977 film - had performed at the box office about as everyone expected, in the range of a 1970s Disney film, earning, say, US$16 million?

Let's imagine that some film historian circa 2019 were to rediscover this forgotten gem, an oddity of 1970s cinema buried among all the Watergate-paranoia thrillers, demonic horror films and disaster blockbusters. Can we, with 40 years' retrospect, evaluate it as a film instead of a phenomenon?

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2019, with the headline 'Star Wars: A cultural saga and commercial behemoth'. Print Edition | Subscribe