What Would Our Universe Be Like Without “Star Wars”?

An alternate history imagines the ripple effect if George Lucas never took us to a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars
Darth Vader battles Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi (Alec Guinness) in a lightsaber duel on the Death Star battle station. ? Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. (Courtesy Lucas Film)

Imagine living in an alternate universe where there was no galaxy far, far away. That’s the premise of a fascinating “what if” posted by Polygon writer Kevin Lincoln: a look at what life would be like on Earth if George Lucas had never made Star Wars.

Lincoln postulates that Lucas could have just as easily given up at the script stage of his space opera and instead taken up his friend Francis Ford Coppola’s offer to direct Apocalypse Now. Finishing it a lot sooner than Coppola ultimately did in real life, Lucas finds the timing all wrong and a lukewarm response from an American public still fatigued by the subject of the Vietnam War.

With no Star Wars to suck up all the ticket money in the summer of 1977,  that leads to a better showing for films like William Friedkin’s Sorcerer and Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York.

But the trickle effect continues throughout the decades. “Meanwhile, without the profits from Star Wars, which boosted 20th Century Fox’s stock price from $6 a share to $27 and increased year-over-year revenues nearly 50 percent, the studio can no longer justify staying in the motion-picture business,” writes Lincoln.

And that’s just the beginning: Titanic sinks before it can ever be made, Leonardo DiCaprio is the man behind the Spider-Man mask, and Al Gore defeats George W. Bush in the 2000 election. Talk about speculative science fiction.

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