MAY 25, 1977 Gary Arnold called it.
In 1977, when “Star Wars” opened at the Uptown movie theater in Cleveland Park, the Washington Post film critic predicted George Lucas’s “space swashbuckler” had “a real shot at approaching the phenomenal popularity of ‘Jaws,’ and ... the runner-up position among modern hits before the year is out.”
Arnold underestimated the enduring appeal of Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, not to mention the intensity of fan devotion that to this day fuels clubs of grown men and women who build “life-size” R2-D2 models, countless gigabytes of fan fiction and billions of dollars in toy sales.
For those keeping score, the “Jaws” franchise petered out at four films, while the “Star Wars” franchise is at eight and counting. The latest installment, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” slated to arrive in theaters this weekend, takes place after the events of “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” but before those in the original film, “Episode IV: A New Hope.”
With “Star Wars,” Arnold wrote, Lucas (who sold the franchise in 2012) “has achieved a witty and exhilarating synthesis of themes and cliches from the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers comics and serials ... the western, the pirate melodrama, the aerial combat melodrama and the samurai epic. ... He is in superlative command of his own movie-nurtured fantasy life.”