(photo from vulture.com)
Last night I traveled with my brother-in-law and father-in-law down to the tiny Sturgeon Bay movie theater to catch the 6:15 showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The diminutive cinema house was already filling quickly when we arrived and as my FIL purchased the tickets (many thanks!) my BIL and I joined the swelling ranks of the people queuing up for Star Wars.
For some reason, the theater, or perhaps a clueless patron, decided to make the line push into the entrance rather than into the actual lobby, but this was a minor annoyance, as the doors opened soon enough, and we poured in to find our seats. And it was in this tiny, unkempt theater that I witnessed and became enraptured with JJ Abrams’ continuation of the Star Wars universe and mythos.
Initially, I had no intention of seeing SW on the big screen. I don’t get out to the movies that often–the last movie my wife and I saw in theaters was 2012’s Lincoln–so I made peace with the fact that I’d probably be watching The Force Awakens on streaming services or DVD. But then I saw the first and second trailer, and I was floored. By the time the third trailer came around, I knew that I need to see this movie on the big screen, in a darkened room with a bunch of strangers.
My wife received the first invitation which she promptly and politely declined–she’s never seen any of the other flicks and has no desire to delve into the universe. I’m not above going to the movies on my own, but it is much more fun to go with at least one other person. I knew we’d be in Wisconsin over the holidays so I threw the invitation to my in-laws, plans were made and seen to fruition.
In the immortal words of Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part.” I wouldn’t see the movie until a week after its release, meaning I’d have to do my best to avoid the barrage of spoilers. I clicked away from any news on the internet and berated students in the hallways and my classroom alike for talking about specific film details.
Star Wars has always held a special place in my heart. My earliest memories are of playing with my older cousin’s action figures and then watching bits and pieces of Return of the Jedi; this sixth installment was my favorite for the longest time, due in part to the epic opening at Jabba’s palace as well as the inclusion of the Endorian Ewoks (when you’re a kid, spear-wielding teddy bears wearing hoods are the epitome of cool). Star Wars was soon replaced by He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then video games, and finally The X-Men; however, George Lucas’ universe made a resurgence in middle school with the release of the special editions of the original trilogy into theaters. My friends and I geeked out in a big way, purchasing the trading cards and action figures. Empire Strikes Back became my new favorite; it was epically dark, and had a brutal lightsaber battle during its climax.
During high school, the first of the prequels arrived, and once again I was excited. This excitement faded as I recognized the shortcomings of this new trilogy. Each episode had glimmers of cool in them, but ultimately fell flat; my favorite of the prequels is Revenge of the Sith strictly for the duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin.
J.J.’s film works quite well. No spoilers, but essentially The Force Awakens is a remake of A New Hope (structurally), and this is brilliant because it gives old-school Star Wars fans something they recognize and desire but also acclimates kids that grew up with the prequels to this style of SW film; he introduces characters and plot points that add just enough “new” to set up the rest of the films.
My eldest daughter, Erp, is just shy of five, and while she hasn’t seen any of the Star Wars films yet, she is aware of the SW universe. We occasionally play with my old SW figurines and I tell her about the characters as she asks questions. I think by the time the next one comes around she’ll be ready, and I’m really looking forward to heading to the theater with her in tow, and getting to see how she experiences these stories.