Star wars wouldn’t be what he is without Akira Kurosawa. The legendary director was one of the major influences on George Lucas’ vision of a galaxy far distant, and to this day his work continues to permeate Star wars film and television projects. With Star wars Visions making his big debut this week, I decided to take a look at how specific films from Kurosawa’s career helped shape the world and the characters of Star Wars.
The hidden fortress
The hidden fortress is perhaps the most important movie on this list, as its plot structure and characters form the main basis of Star Wars: A New Hope. The 1958 film focuses on peasants Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara) escorting Makabe Rokurōta (Toshiro Mifune) and Princess Yuki (Misa Uehara) as they attempt to smuggle gold from the clan Akizuki from Yuki across Japan. George Lucas used The hidden fortress as the basis of his original plan to New hope and took the idea of telling the story through the eyes of two modest protagonists.
“The only thing that really intrigued me was the fact that the story was told by the two lower characters. I decided that would be a good way to tell the Star Wars story… It was the strongest influence, ”he said in a maintenance. Tahei and Matashichi would become droids C-3P0 and R2-D2; Princess Yuki has become Princess Leia; General Rokurōta became the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi. And instead of gold, R2 would carry the secret to toppling the planet-killing Death Star in its memory banks. Lucas even planned for Mifune, a longtime Kurosawa collaborator, to play Obi-Wan before Alec Guinness took on the role.
Perhaps the film Kurosawa is best known for is from the 1954s. Seven Samurai-a movie which is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “samurai”. Seven Samurai focuses on a village that hires a group of seven samurai to protect them from a horde of incoming bandits. The film popularized the ‘assemble a team’ sequence that has become a staple in other ensemble films such as its Western counterpart. The Magnificent Seven and even lively dishes like The life of an insect. Star wars would like to use Seven Samurai as an influence for a number of projects including episodes of The Mandalorian and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
The most direct comparison would be Thief one, who sees Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) assemble a motley team in order to steal the Death Star plans. Just as the elder samurai Kambei saves a young child, the rebel commando Saw Gerrera saves a young Jyn from Imperial forces in Thief onethe opening sequence of. And the rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) ends up assembling a group of warriors including the blind monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and the imperial defector Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) to form the titular Rogue One. Zack Snyder (Army of the dead) was even considering making a Star wars take charge Seven Samurai in 2013, which ultimately turned into the next Netflix movie Rebel moon.
The other movie that comes to mind when I talk about Kurosawa’s career is Yojimbo, which turns 60 this year. Yojimbo focuses on the ronin Sanjuro (Mifune) who pits two war crime lords against each other in order to rid a small town of their influence. Sanjuro’s stoic nature, along with the intense sword fighting sequences, would give birth to the spaghetti western genre when Sergio Leone remakes Yojimbo in a handful of dollars in 1964. Sanjuro has also inspired many fictional characters over the years, including The Man with No Name by Clint Eastwood and Din Djarin from The Mandalorian. Like Sanjuro, Djarin is a man of few words who is highly skilled with arms and has a strong code of ethics to which he adheres, known as “The Way”. He even finds himself traveling from planet to planet to right wrongs and fight to protect the Force-sensitive child Grogu. Star Wars Visions would even pay homage to Yojimbo with his first episode “The Duel”, which features a Sith swordsman who looks more than a passing fad to Sanjuro.
Although it lacks the action that permeates Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, Rashomon has become equally influential because of his unorthodox narrative. Kurosawa centers the film on the murder of a samurai and the assault on his wife, with four different witnesses telling a very different story of the events that unfolded in court. Star Wars: The Last Jedi uses what is called “the Rashomon effect ”by featuring three different versions of The Night Luke Skywalker faced off against his nephew Ben Solo, which led to Ben’s transformation into Kylo Ren. Luke first tells Rey that Ren buried him in the rubble and set the Jedi Temple on fire; Ren retaliates by revealing that Luke attempted to kill him. The final version shows that Luke considered hitting his nephew, but withdrew in shame the moment Ben woke up. These conflicting accounts are also reminiscent of a lesson Obi-Wan Kenobi taught Luke during Return of the Jedi: “You will find that many of the truths we hold on to depend heavily on our own perspective. “
Star Wars: Visions has come full circle with the franchise with its debut, as anime studios have given their own spin to the world of Star wars while highlighting the franchise’s roots in Japanese culture. And with new movies and TV shows in development, including the upcoming one Book by Boba Fett, there is a chance that more of Kurosawa’s films will serve as inspiration for filmmakers and fans alike.
Star Wars: Visions is currently available to stream on Disney +.