George Lucas’ Star Wars is one of the most celebrated film franchises of all time. The beloved Space Opera has dominated the big screen for more than 40 years and has branched out into different mediums.
From TV shows to comics and video games, it’s safe to say that Star Wars is a highly profitable brand that started with an idea from a young filmmaker.
But what turns ideas like Star Wars into timeless classics? Other timeless classics, of course! And Lucas’ primary inspiration is a Japanese cinema icon
In an interview with Criterion, Lucas discusses his experience of watching Akira Kurosawa’s movies while attending film school and praises his visual style, stating that Seven Samurai was his favourite.
To many filmmakers and critics across the globe, Seven Samurai is seen as Kurosawa’s Magnum Opus and for that reason, I remotely streamed the flick online with my friends.
Split into two parts, the story starts with a group of bandits planning to raid a small farming village after the harvest season.
A farmer overhears this plan and seeks advice from a village elder, who suggests they hire hungry Samurai to protect them against the bandits.
So the first half of the movie follows these poor farmers trying find as many Samurai as possible to defend their homes from being pillaged.
They manage to find an experienced Ronin called Kambei (played by Takashi Shimura) who assembles a group of seven Samurai over the course of Act One based on a few simple tests of character.
Act two involves the Samurai strategically fortifying the village and preparing its occupants to fight against the hoard of bandits.
This may seem like the standard ‘team-up’ trope that we see in movies today, but keep in mind that it was in fact one of the first movies to do so.
Knowing this, it was quite interesting to see where such a popular trope originated from and how it inspired its successors worldwide.
Though the main conflict centres around defending the village, my friends and I enjoyed the characterisation of the seventh Samurai – Kikuchiyo – played by Legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune.
Kikuchiyo is an off the wall and often times reckless Ronin who serves as the picture’s comedic relief.
It isn’t until the latter stages of the second act that we get to see his inner conflict, which not only supports his character development but strengthens the bond between his comrades.
Kurosawa’s attention to detail in the set design as well as beautiful camerawork is a staple of artistry that was really ahead of its time.
I often found myself shocked to think that this movie was made in the 50s as it completely dissociated from other material produced in the same era.
Truly, Seven Samurai is a timeless classic that fuelled the vehicle for modern cinema.
If you want to see where it started, I recommend you watch this movie.
Source of Image: TOHO Pictures