Status: 04.05.2021 4:04 a.m.
Because of a misunderstood quote, fans are celebrating “Star Wars” day today. Science fiction expert Hubert Zitt explains in tagesschau.de interviewhow the saga became a money printing machine and which future visions of films are a reality today.
tagesschau.de: Tell us: Why are fans celebrating the Star Wars films on May 4th?
Hubert Zitt: This comes from the famous sentence in the English original: “May the force be with you.” In the German version, “force” has been translated as power, ie “May power be with you.” In English, “May the force …” and “May, the fourth” (May 4th) differ only slightly, and so this day became “Star Wars” day.
tagesschau.de: When did you first notice this ambiguous pronunciation?
Zitt: I remember a 2005 press conference with George Lucas, the inventor of Star Wars. The interview was broadcast on N24. He was asked if he could say the famous phrase from “Star Wars” again. He then said: “May the force be with you”. The simultaneous interpreter translated this in all seriousness: “We’ll be with you on May 4th.” That was a memorable story for me and certainly one of the reasons why the day has also become so popular in Germany.
Hubert Zitt holds a doctorate in electrical engineering and is a lecturer at the University of Kaiserslautern on the Zweibrücken campus. The science fiction expert gives lectures on science fiction and looks at the genre from a scientific point of view.
tagesschau.de: Who said this central sentence when and why to whom?
Zitt: You hear the phrase quite often in the “Star Wars” films, and it is said by different characters. Most of the time it is the last words when you say goodbye, and you wish the other success in this way. You can see it as a kind of counterpart to “Live long and prosper”, with which Mr. Spock always says goodbye from “Star Trek”.
tagesschau.de: Producer George Lucas sold his Lucasfilm company and the rights to the Star Wars films to Disney in 2012. Why did he do it and what is he doing today?
Zitt: I only know what you can read about it on the Internet. At this time (2012) work began on the sequel trilogues (episodes seven to nine), which lasted until 2019. George Lucas was 68 years old at the time and just wanted to spend more time with his family, especially since he has just become a father again. He is still a consultant for “Star Wars” and also has a little influence on new “Star Wars” productions. He is also busy building his “Lucas Museum of Narrative Art” in Los Angeles, which is due to open in 2023.
“Films have to be produced very differently today”
tagesschau.de: After the sale to Disney, three more “Star Wars” films have come out. Many die-hard “Star Wars” fans were disappointed.
Zitt: But that wasn’t just because George Lucas was no longer responsible. Films that are supposed to be successful these days have to be produced very differently. You saw that on “Star Trek” too. Today, films are judged by action scenes and good sound effects. It used to be more about the story and deep dialog. Take the role of Rey in the new films: Rey, after just realizing that the power is in her, immediately fights against one of the greatest baddies and can assert herself well. Die-hard fans don’t like that because it’s no longer narrated as consistently. With George Lucas, Luke Skywalker first had to familiarize himself with the Force and learn to use it.
tagesschau.de: Has the “Star Wars” brand only been a commercial machine since Disney, or was it even before that?
Zitt: That was the case before. This merchandising was there from the beginning in the 1970s. The first “Stars Wars” films were the first films ever to be marketed on this scale. Most of the income even came from merchandise, such as toys. Nowadays, many children know the characters in the films without ever having seen a film. The merchandising worked.
More than a film from the start
tagesschau.de: How did the “Star Wars” films become a saga?
Zitt: There was a narrative from the start – not just the story, but real characters were created. There is a universe of its own, so to speak, not just a film. With “Star Wars”, George Lucas created his own world in the form of a fairy tale. That’s what the first sentence in the first film from 1977 already says: “Once upon a time, there was a galaxy far, far away.” This sentence made it clear from the start: This is a modern fairy tale. This is how it is represented. It’s not about what role people have, it’s about a story of its own and it just became a “saga”. Incidentally, the second film from 1980 already had “Episode 5” in the opening credits. So it was clear from the start that at some point there could be films that would play before and after in terms of time and content.
tagesschau.de: In your capacity as a lecturer in electrical engineering, you hold lectures on science fiction and technical feasibility. Is there any technology that was shown in the “Star Wars” films and is really a reality today?
Zitt: Yes, for example holograms and these “holo displays” shown in “Star Wars”. We are working on this, on the three-dimensional projection of people communicating with each other. Video telephony is already standard today. Otherwise, George Lucas did not attach great importance to technical correctness. That was more the case with “Star Trek”. Lucas studied philosophy and anthropology and therefore focused on these areas.
Star Wars fans raise their lightsabers together. For physical reasons, there will probably never be “real” laser swords.
tagesschau.de: Does that mean that we won’t be able to wave lightsabers like the Jedi Knights in the foreseeable future?
Zitt: With a laser beam or a “plasma blade” I can cut things, but I can’t fight. How should a laser beam stop after one meter? Even if one imagines the blade to be made of plasma, one could not wage a “sword fight” with it. Why should you build something like this, unless you are a “Star Wars” fan and hobbyist. Then you can call anything lightsaber that looks so similar, lights up and maybe also makes the characteristic noises.
The interview was conducted by Ute Spangenberger,