It was 1977. I don’t remember what movie I was seeing, who was in it, or what theater it was playing in. But I remember the moment a trailer began with the words, “Somewhere in space, this may all be happening right now.” My best friend and I were mesmerized. Once our feature was over, all we could talk about was that trailer we had seen.
The swashbuckling heroes were mesmerizing. The plot was larger-than-life. The special effects were the most advanced anyone had ever seen.
On May 25th, I waited in the longest line I had ever seen for a movie, and finally experienced Star Wars. As soon as it ended, I raced outside and got in line to buy a ticket for the next showing. All told, I saw the original 19 times in the theater. No idea how many times since on VHS, Beta, DVD, Blu-Ray, and streaming, but for certain it is the film I have seen more than any other in my life.
I will never forget seeing a lightsaber for the first time, that first trip inside the cantina, and the hair-raising high when the Millennium Falcon first jumped into lightspeed. Movies, and my experience of them, would never be the same. And now at 7:15 tonight, I will be in the theater once again, this time to experience Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.
And I’m delirious in anticipation, yet apprehensive with trepidation…
It’s like taking that final bite of that sumptuous desert on your plate. Finally meeting your lifetime hero. Placing the rose on the coffin of the person you have loved more than anyone else in your life. Knowing that you will always be blessed with the memories they gave you, but desperate for another moment together.
I’ve been able to avoid any spoilers and judiciously stayed away from any reviews, fanboy chats, or anything else that might give a clue as to the plot, characters, or conclusion. But I’m certain that 2 hours and 22 minutes after that first opening crawl, I will be in tears. Bittersweet tears.
The first episode came out a month after my 18th birthday. It ignited my love of Sci-Fi, epic storytelling, and blockbuster movies. It took me to a galaxy that I never knew existed, and desperately wanted to journey to. It was that moment in time in my life, only recently getting out of jail and serving probation, facing down addiction and depression – that movie gave me permission to dream again. The Star Wars saga has been a part of my entire adult life.
Yes, Star Wars is iconic, has become the most successful film merchandising franchise in history, and been watched billions of times. But it has been more than that. It is a zeitgeist of at least three generations.
We collectively cried when we lost Obi-Wan both onscreen, and off. People who never stayed up past 10 pm were waiting in lines half a mile long to see midnight previews of the films. “Luke, I am your father,” became the most famous line ever spoken in a movie. (Forget the fact that it was never actually spoken in one. The real quote was, “No, I am your father.”) Millions of people around the world debated this Darth-is-the-father development as if it were World War III.
Luke and Leia, Han and Chewy, Obi-Wan and Yoda, and even (or especially) Darth Vader – these characters will live forever. Along with them, we commiserated together over clunky dialogue, rejoiced together as Death Stars were destroyed, consoled each other when the plots got too formulaic, but exulted as one when villains found redemption.
It was almost as if there was an energy field created by all living things – binding the galaxy together.
I’m going to try and avoid social media and the datasphere the next couple days. Because here’s what I know: Just as we experienced with Lost, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, The Matrix and other cultural phenomena, there will spring up a veritable cottage industry of pundits, podcasts, bloggers and critics. And most of them will be explaining why the finale disappointed, how some arcane minutia from the canon was contradicted, and what would have been the right way to end this epic trilogy of trilogies.
As far as I’m concerned, you can pack them all up on the last flight to Alderaan…
True Jedi will know and appreciate that there is nothing in this galaxy, or any other, that can provide a fulfilling conclusion for a dream you have waited 42 years to savor. True Jedi will know and appreciate that at whatever stage they accessed this epic space opera, when they reach the bittersweet end, they can’t feel anything but gratitude because George Lucas created something magical.
So as this chapter of the movie draws to a close, I'm thinking of the last thing Obi-Wan said to Anakin, before he turned to the dark side and became Lord Vader…
“Goodbye, old friend. May the Force be with you.”