Farewell to Ralph McQuarrie, the man behind such timeless and culture-shifting Star Wars characters as Darth Vader, R2-D2, and C-3PO. He was 82 when he died in his home on Saturday the 3rd of March 2012. McQuarrie joined George Lucas in 1974 to help conceptualise what were to become the defining images of the blockbuster franchise. Included in McQuarrie’s creations were the iconic Stormtroopers who would go on to consistently backdrop the bad guys in the original trilogy (Episodes IV through VI).
He describes one of his favourite characters, the droid R2-D2 as having “a lot of personality for a small metal robot”, a nod to the genius of the overall production team of Star Wars for developing such a beloved character out of what was essentially a faceless machine that lacked any sort of human-like features that could be used to provide emotional hooks to the audience.
Star Wars and the films that followed it were all groundbreaking masterpieces that went on to make a deep impression in modern culture. The original trilogy made up for the relatively less-extensive special effects allowed by 1970’s technology with brilliant story telling and witty banter delivered by a charming and engaging cast. Even then, the brilliant space drama was rendered in a manner that technically still stands head and shoulders above modern-day produced-by-committee sci-fi hits. Indeed, whereas one can fatally O.D. on 21st Century special effects extravaganzas like Tranformers and Captain America, fans have seen the Star Wars movies multiple times, still get drawn into its world, and liberally quote from these films.
Allusions to the Star Wars universe and its pop philosophy flows out of modern-day philosophers as naturally as we use Shakespearean phrases like “good riddance”, “all of a sudden”, and “high time” among others. Thanks to Star Wars, we now convince people to see things our way by using the Jedi Mind Trick on them. We rope them into our camp by emphasizing to them how little they really know of the power of the Dark Side. We also sarcastically assure know-it-alls how glad we are that they are around to tell us “these” things. Modern-day evil-embodied Darth Vader also gave new meaning to the phrase “apology accepted” and we learned from Han Solo that doing the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs earned one bragging rights across the galaxy (unfortunately for Solo, we recently found out that Chuck Norris also makes a similar claim to that honour).
Thanks to people like Ralph McQuarrie, the world is a better place.
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