I could try and impress you with my STAR WARS cred by starting this column with “It was May 17,1980 and I was at the Lakeside Cinema with my two best friends to see the sequel to STAR WARS.” And ever word in that statement is true. But to be honest I had to google the opening date for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Heck, I even had to message Mark to ask what theater we saw it at. I’m terrible with dates, if it was more than a week ago I’m not going to remember it, much less 35 years ago.
I saw STAR WARS (Sorry, I’m not going to call it A NEW HOPE, that’s not what it was called when I saw it, to me it was will always be STAR WARS) within the week it came out. I had just graduated school and started a new job at HJ Wilsons. I was living on the Westbank than, still with my parents in Gretna. Oakwood Mall had a theater than, back when the mall was a lot smaller and the food court consisted of an Orange Julius stand.
There are some movies and some scenes that stay with you for life. STAR WARS is one of those movies. The opening scene after the words scowl by of the slow passage of the mammoth ship left me spellbound in my seat
Though there was no internet at the time I didn’t go into the movie completely clueless to what the movie was about. The comic published by Marvel had already had at least one issue published. Or had it? Memory is funny, it consists of facts and remembrances and what people say, somehow all that gets mixed into what you remember and sometimes you swear you remembered something that just is not true. So maybe the comic started after the movie came out. Still there were magazines that were writing about the movie, in the science fiction magazines lines were already being drawn about the movie. There was an editorial in ANALOG, one of the major science fiction magazines by Ben Bova, taking the movie to task for Luke basically giving up on science in the climactic battle scene and giving in to a mystical force.
There had been a lot of science fiction movies before, but STAR WARS looked lived in.
The first time I saw STAR WARS I was alone. The next time I was with new friends I had made at work. I hadn’t know any of these people very long, just knew them really from work, but we all liked STAR WARS and wanted to either see it for the first time or probably mostly the second or third time. Most of these friends are still in my life today. I guess STAR WARS fans are just good people to know.
After the first movie came out there were toys. Lots and lots of toys. I bought some of them. I wasn’t fanatical about buying the toys. I know I purchased action figures of most of the main characters from the movie. When I see some of the prices these figures get today I want to cry. But it wouldn’t have mattered, I opened all my toys to play with. I have no idea where any of these toys disappeared to, except for one I still have. A twelve inch remote control R2D2. He beeped and his head swiveled and he moved back and forth. I still have the figure, the remote is lost to who knows where.
For THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (and later for THE RETURN OF THE JEDI) I stood in line with Mark and Sal on opening day. We were the first in line, we had the day off from work and bought our tickets hours before the movie opened. We sat there and waited as the line grew and it got closer to time to let us all in.
Pre-Internet it was a lot easier to stay away from spoilers. I don’t remember if it was for EMPIRE or JEDI that Marvel had released the comic magazine version of the movie early in New York and had to call it back when Lucas Films discovered the comic version of the movie out before the movie itself. Watching the movie with an entire theater full of people that had no idea what was coming was a treat that in today’s spoiler filled as soon as the movie if not before comes out fans don’t get to enjoy. When Darth Vader tells Luke that he is his Father the audience was in shock. And the final battle between Luke and Darth Vader. I remember sitting in my seat, knowing that it was getting close to when the movie should be ending and thinking that they were going to end it on a cliff hanger, having Luke hanging on for life as Darth Vader stood above him. We all know that’s not how it ended, but for a few minutes I was wondering.
I remember buying all three movies on VHS when they came out as a trilogy. And than re buying them with them came out on DVD. I haven’t watched the movies in ages. All these thoughts are because of the new movie coming out. I just purchased my ticket to see it at 9:30 in the morning of the Friday it opens.
After STAR WARS came out there were countless articles about it and interviews with George Lucas. I remember him making a comment that he had planned STAR WARS to be three trilogies, one showing the creation of Darth Vader, the second the ones that went with STAR WARS and the final one would be set farther down the road with the same characters. Later it seemed Lucas went back on that and I could never find him saying that. Maybe like I said, memory can be a funny thing.
The trailers have looked amazing. The scene with Han Solo and Chewie could bring tears to a Star Wars fan’s eyes. But I remember how excited I was for the prequels to STAR WARS. And how disappointed I was when I saw them. I went to the theater and saw all three, each time hoping against hope that the next one would be better.
To be honest there is no way this movie can live up to all the expectations the fans have for it. I’m just hoping for a good movie that gives us some of that excitement and joy we all got when we watched the first three movies. I’ll let you know after I see It what I think.
John Holland is the writer of Ayla Speaker for the Dead which can be found at Aylathecomicbook.com. You can find his comic Diebold at Diebold.ws. Sometime in the first half of 2016 The Almighty Project will debut. He’s working on a few other projects, all in different stages of completion. In the past he has written comic books for such publishers as Fantagraphics, Malibu, Innoviation, Kitchen Sink and more.