Considering I wasn’t even in double digits when the Star Wars re-releases came out*, it’s sometimes hard for me to wrap my head around the monumental cultural impact of the original trilogy. What I can’t deny though, is how all these decades later they still inspire fans to such an extent that they will base their lives around it, spend tons of money on it, and teach their kids to do the same. Today brought some serious evidence of this in a couple of forms.

First up is the release of a new Star Wars fan-documentary by an apparently well-regarded YouTube fan documentarian. Following up his unofficial docs for Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, he’s completed his own trilogy of independently constructed documentaries by tackling the creation of A New Hope. Jambe Davdar is the editor’s name, and his latest doc is available on YouTube in 14 parts, with each piece already racking up a minimum of 700 views in less than a week.

Star Wars Begins is an unofficial commentary to Star Wars, offering an insight into the development and creation of film. The documentary combines video from the movie itself with seen and unseen behind the scenes footage, rare audio from the cast and crew, alternate angles, bloopers, reconstructed scenes, text facts and more to give an in-depth look at the process which brought the film to the big screen.

It seems to me this fellow has cut together commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and alternate cuts from the DVDs along with whatever rare material he can get his hands on into his own narratively satisfying doc. I can’t imagine this guy is busting into the Lucas archives and actually getting never-before-seen material, but he’s perhaps done an excellent job of arranging what is out there, and digging up the harder to find stuff.  My impression is of someone taking all of the hours of special features for the OT and shaking out all the best pieces and assembling them into a single, sweeping two-hours. Maybe I’m wrong and he’s got sources of some unknown kind, but I’ve only gotten through the first piece so far and it’s clear he’s worked hard to create an entertaining and densely informative piece. Here’s the first part, with the full playlist available right here.

But, if the monumental efforts of a lone internet Star Wars geek isn’t enough to convince you of the franchises massive power, how about this THR release stating that Star Wars toys brought in over half-a-billion dollars in revenue. Let me reiterate a few things in that sentence: Star Wars TOYS made over-a-half-a-BILLION dollars in 2010 alone. Citing the Clone Wars series that is keeping the franchise in people’s minds, along with the generation cultural cache of the name,  Lucasfilm says this is the most money the toys have made in a year that didn’t include a film release.

Certainly we all know that Star Wars is still huge and makes Lucas tons of dough from merchandising, but I wouldn’t have guessed half-a-billion from toys alone in a single year. When Lucas is criticized for cramming the film full of easily merchandised characters and designs, I always figure that was as much a result of his dumb sensibilities as any actual cynical greed, but when the addition of one more critter or background alien literally represents millions and millions of dollars in revenue a year… Well, those numbers speak volumes.

Mr. Plinkett’s final prequel trilogy review inspired a lot of people to call for “an end to the conversation,” but with number like this, I don’t think this shit will ever settle or that people will ever move on. Cult leaders have tried for hundreds of years to replicate the success of the major churches, creating their own new mythologies complete with devil figures and themselves as messiahs. Not only did Lucas figure out that you can create a similarly effective mythology, but you can cast yourself as the devil and still win.

*Which means “you’re old,” not “I’m dumb.”

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