When we think of theme in relation to Star Wars, the first thing to pop into our heads is usually John Williams’ inimitable score, so it is easy to forget about Star Wars’ other theme: its main idea. While Lucas made no attempt to hide it, it is easily overlooked amidst the characters, imagery and story that have made Star Wars so memorable.
So what is the theme of Star Wars?
While it is obviously about good vs. evil, Star Wars boasts another, more interesting theme that Lucas explored previously in THX 1138: the individual vs. the system or, to put it simply, small vs. big.
A one-man fighter and its pair of proton torpedoes (with the help of the force) are enough to take down a battle station hailed as “the ultimate power in the universe.”
One man, armed with a lightsaber, grappling hook and thermal detonator is enough to take down an Imperial Walker that is impervious to regular firepower.
A group of tiny, tribal furballs is able to overcome an “entire legion” of the Emperor’s highly trained, highly mechanized “best troops” (much to the chagrin of many a Star Wars fan).
This theme is not isolated; nor is it incidental.
Lucas had a rough go of getting Star Wars off the ground, battling three different studios and flying by the seat of his pants, funding much of it up front with his spoils from American Graffiti to ensure the film would get to production.
Lucas was fighting a battle for creative control of Star Wars, and he was facing pressure from every side. For all the complaints and criticism Lucas has sustained since Return of the Jedi, the fact is: George Lucas made Star Wars possible. Period.
He was the one man fighter, the crazy farmer with the lightsaber, the furry Ewok with a pea shooter that took on the big studio system and won.