What is a Star Wars story?
It’s a harder question than you’d think.
Take Star Trek as a contrast. Trek spells out its approach in its opening monologue: “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Immediately, you know that Trek will tell tales of exploration and discovery via a ship in space, full of adventure, mystery, and high risk.
Star Wars has no such statement defining its purpose.
When I look at Star Wars movies, I see one pattern over and over: a young person who may be a misfit or loner (Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker, Rey, Jyn Erso) comes to contend with and oppose entities bigger and more powerful than himself or herself (the Galactic Empire, the Jedi Council, the First Order, the Force, the Sith). In the process, our hero travels to strange places, finds allies, and has dangerous adventures.
From that standpoint, the swashbuckling The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Prisoner of Zenda have elements of a Star Wars story. So do the modern novels For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Kite Runner. And, of course, the movie serial Flash Gordon and Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, which George Lucas has acknowledged as inspirations for the original 1977 Star Wars. For that matter, the picaresque Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has elements of a Star Wars story: a young man and his best friend on the run from an evil institution — slavery, in Huck’s case.
I’d love to see Star Wars stories as ambitious and brilliant as Huckleberry Finn, wouldn’t you?