((This is a spoiler free post — in fact this is nearly a repeat of a post written in 2015, updated for the release of a new movie — enjoy))
A long time ago, in a movie theater far, far away, a movie captured my imagination in a way that captured the imagination of hundreds of millions of people. I was six years old when the original Star Wars hit the theaters – and while I just am not sure if this is true, I’d like to think I first saw it in the old Prairie du Chien downtown theater as one of the first movies I saw there (though my memory suggests I went to see Jaws first .. but that would have meant I was 4 when it came out). Over the next few years, I was able to get my hands on picture books, board games, reduced audio records (the whole ‘Luke I am your Father’ scene still sounds weird to me because they shortened it for vinyl, and I played the hell out of that), and of course we had a vast collection of action figures – none of which stayed in the box. I still remember the way we wrote and re-wrote storylines stacking up our LEGOs into different ships and bases. The only regret of those days was the utter shock we had when we found out Luke & Leia were siblings … because that definitely wasn’t consistently with how we played them. I definitely was in the theater when Empire came out when I was 9. Return of the Jedi came out when I was 11, and stood in my mind as completely different than any movies or any story that I had ever seen. It was a storyline that hooked me, kept hooking me, and brought me back to that mystery of a galaxy. As I grew older, I would watch those old films with greater appreciation.
When the prequels came back to our world, I was 27 years old. I remember rushing home from work to finally get a seat a week after Phantom Menace. That showing sticks in my head for two things (and no, neither are the horrid acting and thin script). They both happened within seconds of each other.
It starts with that moment, and everyone who has seen a Star Wars movie knows it. You are sitting there … waiting … anticipating. They put up the distributer names, the Lucasfilms thingy, and then black screen with the words: “Long ago, in a galaxy far far away”
There is silence.
That One Note! That One Big Note! The fanfare that follows is as iconic as icons can be in world in the last 40 years.
That One Big Note is the first thing.
The next one was in the words that followed. For nearly 20 years I was reading words that scrolled over the screen right after that big note. For the first time since the early 80’s I was reading words I had never read before. That’s when it started to sink in. Going through my head wasn’t a single one of the words, only the thought “Holy S**t, I am watching a new Star Wars”
Sure, I was let down by the Prequel. Attack of the Clones was almost a throw-away episode, and I wanted so much more out of Revenge of the Sith. Yet it was still Star Wars, and it was still those first moments that brought me back. In a couple years I, like most of the Star Wars fandom, accepted the fact that this was it. There would be no Episode 7 8 or 9.
Of course – we will be blessed by all 9 (plus 3.5 last year with Rogue One, and a few more to be named later, and rumors of 10-12). I won’t lie to you, Star Wars plays a small part in getting healthy again — you can’t watch a movie when you are dead. Sometimes I think that I need to get through the really bad days in my life because … well … another Star Wars is coming out soon. Seriously, I sometimes hear about tragedies and think ‘poor them, they will never finish the Star Wars saga’.
Last Night – I sat in a theater in Burbank. For the first time that I can remember, I watched a blockbuster movie on the day it was released. Not only that, what I saw was a double feature of Episode 7 (The Force Awakens) and Episode 8 (The Last Jedi). As I prepared for the long adventure of the night, I hearkened back to a night not just two years ago.
It was when Episode 7 came out, and I was seeing it a week after it released in Braintree, MA on a mid-week night. Sitting next to me was a boy no older than I probably was back when the first Star Wars came out. He was chatty, more interested in the recliner buttons than the dialog, and went to the bathroom at least three times (once during the big moment, the Han v. Ben moment, the poor kid has to live with that). But what I remember most was the one moment right in the beginning.
Black screen with the words: “Long ago, in a galaxy far far away …”
There is silence.
When the first big note hit, my fists lifted in the air holding short of going all the way as far as I could reach.
A quick look to the side, and the kid was doing the same thing.
It maybe just a movie, but it’s also a story of a lifetime. It is a story of the fight for good, the power of belief, and the fight for the light to win over the dark side. Its about fighting the demons inside of us, and wondering if we will give in, or rise above. Such simple ideas, but hope is the greatest of gifts to give to a moviegoer. There are more names for my generation then there are years in it. I don’t know what you would call it, but nothing defines the time in which I lived like what will be 9 little movies and the magic Star Wars continues to create.
Now someone please tell me the next one comes out in January … I don’t think I can wait much longer for another.