In 1980, my family took a vacation in Lake Tahoe with some of our relatives. We rented a cozy cabin and spent the week listening to the only decent eight-track tape anybody had bothered to bring; I heard Blondie’s “Call Me” a thousand times while playing Risk that week.
1980 was a special year, because that was the year the much-anticipated sequel to Star Wars came out. My cousin, who was two years my senior, was infatuated with Star Wars. I remember his room being littered with Star Wars toys. He had every action figure imaginable and they all fit neatly into a Darth Vader action-figure case. He also had Luke’s land speeder and an Imperial Walker. I can’t recall a lightsaber specifically, but I’m sure there was one nestled somewhere among all the other Star Wars toys. It was an impressive collection.
Anyway, he’d already seen Empire Strikes Back by the time we went on our annual summer vacation, but he wanted to see it again. If I remember correctly, he had to see it again. His persuasive skills were unmatched, so eventually, he and I were shuttled to the theater and dropped off. It was the first time I was allowed to go to the movies without my parents, which was a big deal, considering how overprotective my mom was.
The Star Wars Generation
Going to the movies without adult chaperones was a big a deal, but not as much of a big deal as Star Wars was. I think you had to be a kid in the late seventies and early eighties to truly appreciate just how much it permeated the entire culture. We were the Star Wars generation.
I was just a hair too young to really remember when Star Wars came out. I’m not even sure if I’d seen the first film when I went to the theater and saw its sequel. But I do remember that it was a hot topic for conversation, and not just among children or the sci-fi crowd. Everybody was wowed by it. I can’t tell you how many times my parents have said, “It was unlike anything we’d ever seen.”
But that’s not how it was for me. Star Wars is something that has always been there; it’s woven into the tapestry that is the backdrop of my life.
The Force Awakens
The original movie was a breakthrough film unlike any before or since. It was the little movie that chugged along and exploded into a phenomenon.
The newest installment in the Star Wars franchise hits theaters this Christmas. It’s called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and what an apt title. Return of the Jedi left us with just two souls who had the potential to tap into the force: Luke and Leia. And now after all these years, they are returning. The title suggests a Jedi revival, something Star Wars fans have spent decades hoping for.
I must say. I literally screamed when Han and Chewie appeared. Screamed I tell you! What can I say? I grew up on this stuff. And no matter how many times I watch this trailer (I’ve watched it a LOT of times), I still get all excited like a kid about to walk into Disneyland every time Han says, “Chewie, we’re home.”
Back when the films in the original trilogy were being released, there was no streaming video. We didn’t even have VHS tapes yet. You had to see the film while it was in the theater, which is why fans trekked to the cinema to see their favorite movie over and over again. Your only other hope was that it would eventually make its way to prime time television.
Home media changed all that, which is why I was able to plop down in front of a television and enjoy the original Star Wars trilogy (OK, not the true original where Han shot first, but the closest thing to the original that we fans can get our hands on). It’s been years since I really watched all three movies. Oh they’ve been on the television, playing in the background, and I’ve watched a few scenes here and there or caught clips of the films while watching documentaries, but this is the first time in years that I parked myself in front of the screen and paid close attention to the films.
So I was a little hesitant. What if the movies didn’t hold up? What if they felt dated or cheesy after all these years? Would Chewie suddenly look like a homemade stuffed animal? Would the droids feel fake? Would the chemistry between the actors be weaker than I remembered?
Well of course not. The original Star Wars trilogy is a timeless phenomenon for good reason: it’s a story that stands the test of time. I blasted through my Star Wars marathon and was sad when it ended. But luckily there’s some consolation: I’ll get to revisit the beloved world of Star Wars later this year when The Force Awakens hits theaters. I. Can. Not. Wait.
Today is Star Wars day: May the fourth be with you.