Star Wars’ typographical weirdness

The Star Wars title card.

Star Wars opens with the most iconic title sequence in cinematic history:


To this day, these simple type effects give me chills—even apart from their glorious orchestral accompaniment. 

Still, the typography here raises some interesting questions. Take, for example, the bluish preamble: 


Here, the text “wraps”—i.e., “far away” falls to a second line. The filmmakers could have sized down the type and fit the entire fragment on a single line. In other words, they could have rendered the text like this: 


This looks fine. But it’s not quite right, is it? We need the line break; it invites us to linger on the words, set apart from the rest—“far away.” The phrase harkens back to childhood fairy tales. It encourages us to set aside our analytical, adult selves and conjure up a childlike reverie. 

What about the ellipsis (“….”)? The dots point forward; the film to follow fills in the blank. “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… [this story happened].”

Why use a four-dot ellipsis here, though? Typically, that fourth period denotes a stopping point—-an end. But the movie’s just about to start! I’d like to think that George Lucas was trying to communicate something profound about his franchise’s endgame. More likely? He just doesn’t know his punctuation.[1]

After the preface fades to black, the familiar STAR WARS logo blasts through, accompanied by blaring brass. The wordmark zooms off, rocketing towards a distant point at the exact center of the screen: 


As the logo vanishes, a plot synopsis begins to crawl its way into the distance, too. But this text scrolls towards a different target:


I’m nitpicking, but technically, these vanishing point shifts disorient the audience. 

But what other choice was there? You can’t de-center the logo. And if the crawl had targeted the center point, the audience would have struggled to decipher it: 



Of course, you could abandon the silly “Paragraphs in Space” effect and opt for a standard “credits” scroll. You know, good ol’ up-and-down? Or—heaven forfend!—you might write a movie that doesn’t require an essay-long introduction.

But it’s too late to change the Star Wars typography now. After six films, fans revere this pattern. We may know next to nothing about J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Wars sequel, but here’s a safe bet: the film will open with a blue preamble, a zooming wordmark, and a crawling synopsis.

  1. One more oddity about that ellipsis: Return of the Jedi—the “final film—omits that fourth period. This, according to Wookieepedia. The special editions apparently “correct” this inconsistency, since my copy of Jedi includes the fourth dot.  ↩