The Summer of Star Wars

I wanted to add my voice commemorating the release of Star Wars, one of the single biggest events to have an impact in my life. I also wanted to delay this posting past the 5-25-77 milestone because in 1977 I was just approaching 10 years old, and there was quite a bit of discussion as to whether I would be allowed to see the movie. You see, this movie was rated ‘PG’ and I hadn’t ever been witness to the horrors of anything outside the ‘G’ rating.

I wasn’t taken to see the movie until after most of my friends had seen it a few times. In fact, I don’t believe I saw the film until late in July or early August, but my memory on this is hazy. I also don’t remember how I came to be aware of Star Wars, I just know that at some point I became obsessed. I read everything I could get my hands on about it. I distinctly remember picking up the Readers Digest that had Star Wars on the cover and reading everything it had to say about it with great relish. I knew the whole story before I ever saw it. It seemed that hardly a day went by that there wasn’t some sort of avid discussion somewhere in the neighborhood about hyperspace and light sabers. This was in the time before SPOILERS and we didn’t care.  I remember telling my parents that there was only a little blood in one scene where a walrus guy gets his arm cut off, but they don’t show the arm getting cut off, just laying on the floor. I’m not sure how this was supposed to help my argument. I’m sure my parents knew as much about the film as I did*, but they never gave me much reason to believe I was going to get to see the movie.

When the day finally came we went to the only place that it was playing locally, the Center Theater downtown. I couldn’t believe the size of the screen and how many people would fit in the audience. When we first see Princess Leia’s ship pass from overhead followed by Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer that just kept stretching on and on and on I was in total heaven. I had been a space nut ever since the NASA Apollo missions I watched as a wee tyke, and now it felt like I was really out there.

So many of my memories of the movie are still so vivid. I remember being really scared of Darth Vader as he strode about the wreckage of the opening battle and being afraid for Princess Leia as the floating interrogation droid floated into her cell. C3PO and R2-D2 falling away from the rebel ship in the escape pod is etched into my mind and the trading card of their pod falling towards Tatooine was always one of my favorites. The Millennium Falcon was the coolest spaceship I’d ever seen, easily supplanting the Space 1999 Eagle in my mind, but the TIE fighters were the ones that I really wanted to fly myself.

I’m sure it was the impressionable age at which I saw the film that cemented it as the high point of cinema for me as it did for many kids. It doesn’t really hold up to close inspection, as a magnificent film, but it is, still, probably the movie I’ve seen more than any other. The feeling that, just maybe, something could spirit me away from my dreary existence in a moment and catapult me into my destiny like Luke was a staple of my fantasies for so long. I spent hours explaining what was going on to a robotic figment of my imagination when I was trying to figure things out, although it was a cool robot like R2-D2, and most certainly not C3PO.

For some reason the subsequent movies** never really did much for me. I don’t know if it was because they couldn’t live up to the first-time experience of Star Wars, or if by the time the sequels rolled around I was so steeped in science fiction ala Battlestar Galactica, or Buck Rogers that my universe was getting crowded. I only just added Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to my collection this year.*** They have some nice parts, but they just can’t match what I imagine was that particular Saturday afternoon in mid-to-late summer 1977.
* well, maybe not as much, but a reasonable amount.
** until Rogue One, but that’s another story
*** again, another story