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On May 25, 1977 Star Wars opened in only 32 theaters nationwide. I was 23 years old, in my last semester of College – having drawn out my time at Indiana University as long as I could – and I had lots of time and a small amount of money on my hands. At the time it wasn’t ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’, the title on the billboard was simply Star Wars and after seeing it on Louisville’s opening night at the Bardstown Road Cinemas – the premiere viewing spot of the time – I was determined to see it as many times as possible. It turned out I wasn’t the only one.
“On opening day I was on the East Coast and I did the morning-show circuit — ‘Good Morning America’ and ‘Today,’” Gary Kurtz, the producer of “Star Wars,” told Hero Complex last year. “In the afternoon I did a radio call-in show in Washington and this guy, this caller, was really enthusiastic and talking about the movie in really deep detail. I said, ‘You know a lot about the film.’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen it four times already.’ And that was opening day. I knew something was happening.” (Hero Complex magazine)
Over the course of the next few weeks I saw Star Wars at least 15 times – I remember it being closer to 23 but that doesn’t seem possible. I would see it at noon before I went to classes and see it with my first husband at night after supper. The last time I saw it was at a 2:00 showing and I was the only person in the theater – right in the middle of the front row. When Han Solo kicked the Falcon into hyperdrive, it felt like I was zooming into the galaxy with him. I was there to use laser guns to fight the battles right along with him. I was front and center literally walking into the jazz bar with a variety of unusual creatures (not just bipedal monsters in plastic suits).
One scene that stuck with me was close to the beginning where the starry-eyed Luke Skywalker walked out to the edge of his farm, threw his cloak over his back, put his foot on a boulder and stared into the cosmos, wondering where life would take him. He was well aware that he would need to strike out on his own if his life was going to amount to anything.
Ah – the grandiose dreams of the young.
It took six years for The Return of the Jedi to come out. I tried to overlook the teddy bears (Ewoks) while delighting in the dizzying rides through the forest on hoverbikes. One huge selling point of Return was the amount of STUFF you could purchase from the franchise. By that time in my life I had two children and of course they got the AT AT Walker from Endor for Christmas…and we all played with it. That same toy is going for $795.00 now, but we loved ours to death. I am even not too proud to admit that I bought a Ewok stuffed animal for my 3-year-old that year.
According to Hero Complex:
“I don’t think people realize how significant ‘Star Wars’ is as a cultural touchstone,” Seth Green, “Robot Chicken” producer, told Hero Complex in December. “You’re talking about something that’s maintained relevance and financial success for over 30 years. And if you look at the next 15 years, where Lucas will release all the movies in 3-D while supported by one, potentially two on-air series, it’s cross-generational from infants to 60-year-olds. There’s nothing in the world that rivals ‘Star Wars’ as a relevant brand in today’s marketplace.”
In the same way we laughed about Ewoks back then, millennials now laugh about Jar-Jar Binks from The Clone Wars (and who can blame them). I saw Jar-Jar impersonated by Howard Wallowitz on The Big Bang Theory “you betcha-betcha”. I have to laugh when the Leonard and Sheldon talk about all the Star Wars stuff they cherish – me too.
I went to see the most recent one – The Last Jedi – and enjoyed the movie and wish it well, but there was one scene that stuck with me. It’s that one towards the end where (I could say spoiler alert but you’ve seen it) Luke has done everything he could to allow the youngest disciples to escape, when he goes out to the top of a mountain and overlooks the sun setting on this alien planet. He is so far from where he started. He puts his foot on a boulder and the edges of his cloak floats on the wind. The audience now looks into a face lined with memories and wisdom and disappointment, allowing us to wonder how he views his legacy. As if in response, he simply vanishes, caught up in a gust of wind to be carried into the dusk.
Since retiring, I too look back over my life and wonder what the next part of my life will entail, hoping that I have done what I could to enrich the decades I have lived through. The Bardstown Road Cinemas went into ruin a decade ago and is now a parking lot, something I try not to look at when I drive past.
But Star Wars was always what a science fiction story should be. It was something a person could take with them through different eras of their life. Something that stuck with them, encouraging them to dream bigger, helping them to accept disappointments as part of the overall theme.
We’re always looking for those kind of stories here at Quantum Muse and we hope you’ll find something to reflect upon as you read through this month’s offerings. Enjoy.
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