I don’t know how old you are, but I saw THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK three times on opening day. I was a nine year-old girl.
I went with my older brother to the very first screening, got out of it, ran into a friend of his from High School and (sort-of) browbeat him into loaning us money to see it again and to let us cut in line with him. Viewing number two down. We raced home, told our mother how it was the best movie in history (I was 9, he was 14) and how we had to go see it again RIGHT NOW!
Well, “right now” turned out to be a few hours away for the next screening, so we walked back to the cineplex in the mall to get tickets. Next door was a pizza place, so we got a large pepperoni and a newspaper, and sat on the floor in line with a few hundred others eating our grub while anxiously awaiting screening number three.
The theatre manager let us take the pizza in as they started seating early and was a champion for doing so. That sort of thing never happened. I don’t know where my younger brother was at this time, and I didn’t care… I was going to see EMPIRE three times and he wasn’t!
I didn’t see STAR WARS in the theatre, (for some reason that I am sure was parental oversight on my mom’s part) so this was my first theatrical experience with what I now know to be the Fox Studios fanfare. I grew up thinking it was part of John Williams’ score. My local theatre had $.99 Mondays and I went for 18 weeks to see TESB after school by myself. Did I mention I was nine?
When RETURN OF THE JEDI came out, my mother let the three of us kids skip school to see it and she took off work so that if any Truancy Officers were about, she could be the parent. By then my brother was a senior and about to graduate, and amazingly our family had grown to about a dozen teenage boys who looked nothing alike for this screening. My mother told his friends to give her last name and our phone number if anyone hassled them. This is where I mention that my mother was divorced and raising three kids on not much money at all. This is relevant to the next part.
A few days after the triumphant JEDI screening (though I too wished that they were Wookies and not Ewoks) she got a call at home from someone looking for a ‘Rick Blain’.
My brother’s friend Ricky had been at the movie with us, and had done what my mom suggested and used her last name and phone number when he’d gone to the concession stand and gotten hassled. Days passed and he not only thought nothing of it, but didn’t even think to tell my mother. So when she gets a call about a Rick Blain (coincidence: my bio-dad’s name) she went OFF. She started getting loud with the person on the phone about the whereabouts of one Mr. Blain as he owed her child support for three children for over five years… !
In the gaps in between the divorcee-rant that was happening us kids could here a small voice trying to say: “Ummm… Mrs. Blain …. I was calling about …. your sonwhosawthatmovietheotherday…?”
This took about ten minutes to happen due to Bitter Divorced Woman bursting through the phone lines. Once she realized what the call was about, she sheepishly said, “Oh, the movie, I knew about that.” and hung up on the poor woman on the other end of the line.
The end result of this is that I have a huge love for STAR WARS; the music, the characters, (though I only ever was given action figs that were duplicates of my brothers’ or Leia, ’cause who wants a girl-figure?) the anticipation of a new one, and the many (though not all) ways in which the entire thing has become such a part of pop culture over the decades.
There are also disappointments as well, of course. The music of Duel Of The Fates was not one of them. Or the score during the climactic battle during REVENGE OF THE SITH. That’s some good stuff.
Much like how I wish that someone, somewhere, had told Michael Jackson “NO!” when he went on his Quest To Turn Into A White Woman… I wish someone had told Lucas “NO!” about certain aspects of Episodes I-III.
Whether it was during editing (talking to you, Podrace sequence) or casting or even some amazingly bad wardrobe choices (George Lucas) — there could have been more “No’s” and perhaps a better end product. Not even going into characters versus caricatures at this point. We all know the mistakes and missteps of those.
So the idea of a new look at that galaxy (albeit a far, far away one), with its thrilling heroics, dazzling worlds, ever-dangerous quests and strange spirituality appeals to me… how can it not?
I can only ever be true to my glass half-full sensibility that I carry through my life and be ready to spend my $15 at the midnight showing.
I am stating now that I intend to avoid as much news and reviews of this film (the first of many, presumably) to go into it much like I did when I was nine; filled with excitement and awe and a sense of adventure. This is what the STAR WARS films mean to me.
Years ago I told someone that I think that The Lord of the Rings film trilogy had taken the place of Star Wars in my heart. I meant it then.
I had (like so many) watched Episodes I-III with a vision that turned out not to be what we got, and so was disappointed here and there. I can only hope that the conglomerate in charge now not only realizes what it has on its hands legacy-wise (and not just for how much they can sell to us out of nostalgia all over again) and how not only does it creep into pop culture, but into our hearts and memories.
I still remember every bit of that day in 1980 when I saw THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK three times when I was nine. I remember going to all those Monday screenings and my older brother’s award-winning Tusken Raider costume and the Gaderffii stick he made in my grandfather’s wood and metal shop and so much more.
This is what I want to have again. Not just a piece of my childhood and memories of family no longer alive, but to wish like hell that they were here to watch some new STAR WARS with me.
H. Blain loves all kinds of films, books and ideas. Sometimes she churns some out here. Find her on the tweety!