I can’t believe I missed it. I’m a horrible, wretched, pathetic loser. I missed one of the most important anniversaries in my life. It was the anniversary of the single most important event in my childhood—the event which defined my imagination and helped to create the imaginary world in which I lived for years.
Yes, dear friends, I missed the 30th anniversary of the opening of Star Wars. Maybe it’s appropriate, really. Maybe I should have remembered the day that we first ventured to the local theatre to see that landmark picture. After all, when George Lucas’ historic space opera opened just before Memorial Day of 1977, only 40 theatres across the country played it.
Alas, neither of Clarksville’s two theatres were on that list. We were fortunate to have the Martin Twin on Riverside Drive and the brand-new Capri Twin near where we lived. It didn’t come to our galaxy until a couple of weeks later. Suffice to say, I was as oblivious to that historic day then as I was this year. In fact, I had to be talked in to going to see it. My dad piled my brother and me into the family car.
“Let’s go see a movie,” he said.
“I don’t want to (insert whine). Cartoons are on.”
“It’ll be good. Come on.” It wasn’t a request.
“But what’s it about?”
“It’s kind of like Star Trek.”
I was sold. The cartoons could wait. This was going to be pretty neat, or so I thought. I had in my mind a picture of something like the Enterprise zapping away at the bad guys. Maybe it would have a few badly-dressed ‘aliens’ or some guys in gold makeup to play the evil villains.
I talked Dad into letting me sit on the front row. Okay, I admit. I whined my way into sitting on the front row. After all, if this was going to be a space movie, I wanted to be as close to the action as possible.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. When those bright yellow words appeared on screen for the first time (sans “Episode IV: A New Hope”), I was immediately transported into an incredible world where young blonde teenagers could save the day. From the front row, I swear I could have seen people inside those tiny lights of that massive Star Destroyer as it rumbled by on the screen.
There were laser battles. The zap guns were so incredible! I had no idea what those red zaps were called. But they were sure cool. So, like any responsible child in the days before the Internet, I asked Dad. I thought at first he said they were beans. No wonder they had such an explosive reaction on people. “No,” he clarified. “They’re beams.” It’s a good thing he clarified it for me. That would have ruined beans for me forever.
I imagine now that my dad was secretly worried that I would be so engrossed in this new movie that it would forever change the pantheon of my imagination into a recreation of Star Wars. If he did, then he was right.
This was a classic story of good versus evil—it was a lived-in world where the polished gray suits of traditional sci-fi were nowhere to be seen. I had no concept of cardboard characters, and I was completely bereft of any understanding of proper film criticism. I didn’t care about plot, characterization, cinematography, or the ability of the director to tell a story. I was six, for heaven’s sake. I just wanted to see Luke save the day!
The lightsabre battles were dazzling. The battle scenes were explosive. Poor Ben, he got sliced into oblivion! And the Death Star—how on earth would our heroes deal with THAT? Oh, it was an event to remember. When that behemoth got its just reward by exploding, I was so excited.
My poor dad: he had to deal with a mini-Luke for the next ten years. He had to endure several years’ worth of action figures, space battles in the downstairs den, and constant whining about getting our allowance so we could buy new ones. My childhood was already defined by Legos. Now that Star Wars was in the mix, I’d have to build spaceships and have space battles.
A couple of years ago, I saw that Legos had Star Wars kits available. Why, oh why, didn’t they have those when I was a kid? It was the ultimate marriage of my two childhood favorites. There were Lego X-Wing fighters. There were Lego TIE fighters. There was even a Lego Millennium Falcon. Alas, I was an adult, so I didn’t buy such toys anymore.
So I bought a Lego Podracer from Episode I. It’s still in my closet. Shh, don’t tell anyone.
It’s been thirty years since Star Wars first opened. Since then, five more films have been added to Lucas’ canon. Two cartoon series, a few terrible holiday specials, and a myriad of books and comic books have been released during that time, and the franchise has no sign of slowing down any time soon.
I have only one person to thank for this experience. Thanks, Dad. You took me to this film for the first time. I’ll never forget it. Just because I forgot one anniversary, it doesn’t mean I won’t forget something far more important:
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.