The original "Star Wars" created excitement when it was released in 1977 because it recaptured the magic of classic movies, of which "El Cid" is the fullest and purest example. George Lucas understood the nature of movie art-- the movie-as-a-movie-- and so was able to use every movie attribute. Lucas knew that the wide screen is a canvas and also a stage, and used it accordingly. "Star Wars" uses sets, costumes, stances, gestures, entrances, speeches, amid the conflict of good and evil, in order to lend drama to the happenings. The large screen is completely utilized, from the movement of fighter jets and colorful explosions, yet also set piece scenes with his characters. Sound is crucially important, from the squawking of Chewbacca to the humming sound of the laser weapons used in the final duel, to the rousing John Williams score. Lucas knew how to make a movie, exploiting that which film does well, which makes it unique as an art. The characters are weak, the themes silly, but it's a great experience from start to finish.
(In my next post I'll reveal how "El Cid" was undoubtedly a huge influence on Lucas, as I discuss that which "El Cid" does best of all.)