Long Ago, in a theater not so far away…

my parents sat me down in a seat. The curtains parted. Trumpets sounded, a bunch of words moved past almost too fast for me to sound them out, and then and the biggest…thing…I’d ever seen slowly appeared on screen. Everyone in the theater gasped as a starship filled the screen, and kept coming, and coming… I was pretty young, but even I knew that the dude in the black cape was Bad News. I was hooked, hard, and never looked back.

That amazing film opened 40 years ago this past Thursday, May 25th.

For all the complaints about what Lucas got wrong, and how much better it could have been, and the three high-budget fan-films (when Natalie Portman showed up in Col. Wilma Deering’s uniform, I gave up.)…

Do not mess with Col. Deering.

I really did roll onto the floor (where I was sitting anyway) and laugh. Too close, Mr. Lucas, too close.

…he still opened a door, a gateway into sci-fi for a whole lot of people. And fun movies in general. Would there have been an Indiana Jones or E.T. without Star Wars?

But oh, the first Star Wars movie hit me right in the heart and left me with a love for space opera and sci-fi that never quite died, even when I drifted into fantasy for quite a while. I had a serious crush on Han Solo, as much as a kid of *cough cough* years can crush on anyone. I wanted the ‘Falcon soooo bad. And a light saber. And a blaster. And a Viper fighter from Battlestar Galactica and an X-wing. Mom and Dad settled for the original soundtrack LP, which we still have, with the liner notes.

I learned you could have good robots and bad robots (anyone recall Max from The Black Hole? Scared the bajeebers out of me). I learned about starfighters, and heroes, and that good was good and evil was evil and good won. And that princesses could be self-rescuing with a little help, and still be ladylike. I still admire Princess Leia, although I kinda wanted to be Han Solo. He had the cool ship. And I learned that you can have a great romance without much kissing.

I’ve seen other sci-fi films and TV series with better effects, with more original plot lines, with deeper philosophical underpinnings, but I keep going back to the original HolyTrilogy. I can still get lost in it, deep into it, unlike a lot of “better” films. Yes, Lucas borrowed from everyone. And he put the pieces together in a way that works so well still. At one point in grad school I had all the novels up to the Yuzhon-Vong, and many of the tech manuals. I still regret giving away the tech manuals, but movers charge by the pound, and…

The opening of the film still makes me shiver a little, a happy shiver of anticipation because something amazing, neat, happy, exciting and delightful is coming. I still grin at the cantina music. I’d love to find a way to use the throne room music if I ever get married. John Williams took the leitmotif and immortalized the perfect fifth, and it fits the film exactly.

Yes, I still like the movie, as it was originally filmed. I’ve seen the “updated” versions and the changes didn’t really improve the story. I watched the “first three” out of a sense of curiosity and duty, and got tired of them. They didn’t grab me with the story the way the first three still do. Other people love them, and I’m fine with that. To each their own.

But forty years ago this month, magic unfolded on the screen and sci-fi imprinted on a whole lot of kids and adults.

Let’s see if we can bring that back, shall we?

Edited to Add: Due to my pending departure, comments on this and other posts are now closed. I  apologize for doing this, but I will not have reliable internet access, and I don’t want to leave people in moderation for a week or more. Thank you for your understanding.

4 thoughts on “Long Ago, in a theater not so far away…

  1. Maybe I’m lost because I’ve never seen the Star Wars movies (blasphemy, I know) but WHY would there have never been an Indiana Jones without Star Wars?

    • Because it resusitated the adventure movie as a genre, along with space opera. It showed that there was an enormous market for fun movies, and encouraged studios to budget for movies that weren’t social commentary or anti-war social commentary. (Per a film teacher I’ve chatted with).

  2. The Millennium Falcon is what made the movie for me. When I saw the oil leaking down the landing jacks, the ring of grime around the hatch button, the open wiring panels and litter strewn around… the Falcon looked *real*, not like the pristine starships of previous SF movies. And the Falcon was not only a gearhead’s hot rod of mismatched parts, it didn’t always work…

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