I'll be the first to admit that up until a few years ago, I had absolutely no interest in Star Wars, in fact I had never even seen any of the movies. I was born one year after the first movie was released in 1977 so most of my friends, especially the male ones, were completely obsessed with them. I knew the characters, I think that they are a firm part of our popular culture, but I had no idea what there role was. However, that all changed a few decades later. I now have children of my own, two boys no less, and they are both Star Wars mad! For a while, I managed to simply feign interest in the movies, but one Friday night as they were watching what I now know to be Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, I happened to look up and saw something that would change my opinion of Star Wars forever. It was the famous fight scene between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, as they both battled with lightsabers whilst balanced on rocks floating on a river of lava. Something clicked that day, whether the Force was calling, or whether it was the rather impressive CGI work with the lava (let's be honest, this is more likely given that I'm a geologist), I don't know, but from then on I was hooked as well.
Over the past few years, I have been making up for lost time and have watched all of the movies more times that I can remember (although I have never watched them all in the correct order so my version of the story may be different from yours), I have been to numerous Comic Cons and have even made Star Wars gingerbread! I have also taken a great interest in the filming locations because whilst the story might be set in a galaxy far, far away, the filming has to be done here on planet Earth (for now). As always, the geology and geomorphology plays a key part in the location choice for all of the movies so just for a bit of fun, I've given a brief run down of some of the key planets and the geology of their real-life filming locations.
|Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley, California|
During the filming of Episode IV and V, shots that were scheduled for Tunisia were filmed in Death Valley, California, as production had gone over budget. Taking advantage of the typical 'badland topography' with its densely spaced drainage, deeply eroded hills, and lack of vegetation, Twenty Mule Team Canyon became the new Star Wars Canyon and was where R2-D2 was filmed as he made his way to Ben Kenobi's hut.
|Tower karst in Guilin, China|
Everyone remembers the icy wasteland of Hoth from Episode V but it's real location was the Norwegian glacier of Hardangerjokulen and the area around the nearby town on Finse. The glacier itself is the sixth largest in Norway and is around 380m thick. It has played a significant role in the education of glaciologists over the past decades as it has been used as a base for a number of glaciology courses. Hardangerjokulen has also been the subject of a significant amount of recent research into glacier fluctuations during the Holocene period.
Regarded as being the most Earth-like planet, Alderaan is probably most famous as being the home planet of Princess Leia. It was mentioned in both Episode I and IV, but was not actually seen until Episode III. Filming for Alderaan was done in Grindelwald, a municipality in the Swiss Alps, but also the name of a glacially-carved valley and glacier adjacent to it. The area around Grindelwald has received a significant amount of publicity over the past few decades due to the retreat of the Lower Grindelwald glacier.
|Mount Etna erupting in 2002|
This impressive array of global filming locations has given us the planets that we know and love in the Star Wars series so far but what about Episode VII? The filming locations have been kept under wraps, although a few leaks have come through here and there. Rumour has it that filming has taken place in Iceland, and given the geological wonderland that Iceland is and the fact that it is used for a number of other science fiction movies and TV shows, then it comes as no great surprise. It has also been rumoured that filming took place at Skellig Michael, a small island off the south-west coast of Co. Kerry in Ireland. This relatively inaccessible place is a World Heritage Site as it was the location of a 6th century monastic site, perched on top of strongly deformed Devonian rocks that appear to burst up from the sea floor. A truly spectacular site but not an easy one to reach! It's been said that the producers of Episode VII have relied much less on CGI this time, and have instead used 'real' locations so let's hope we get a few geological surprises as well as a few storyline ones.
|Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry, Ireland|