SPOILER ALERT! This blog is about ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’. Which I saw both a month ago and thirty-eight years ago, respectively. There aren’t really any spoilers here. But if you have not seen ‘Star Wars’ and don’t want to know anything at all about it before you see it, stop reading now. As an aside, you should really go see it at this point. The lines are shorter now.
I saw the first ‘Star Wars’ film in 1977 in the theater when it was actually called ‘Star Wars’. I was 6 (almost 7) and my grandfather surprised me with a trip to the movies. I was very excited. My grandfather didn’t go to the movies. In fact I can only remember him seeing three films in the theater in my lifetime (only one of which was without me).
I had been dropping hints for weeks with my family about the wonderful movie that ALL of my friends were going to see and how much I really wanted/needed to see it too. The name of that movie? ‘For the Love of Benji’. I was delighted when we got to the movie theater on a beautiful afternoon for the matinee and then CRUSHED when my grandfather got the WRONG TICKETS! He got two tickets to ‘Star Wars’ which looked mildly interesting in a ‘Star Trek’ kind of way, but not nearly as wonderful as ‘Benji’. All my friends had seen ‘Benji’. ‘Star Wars’ was PG, we were 6. Oblivious to my distress, my grandfather continued on buying popcorn and candy (my mom would make me pick one) and found us seats. I remember thinking that it couldn’t be that bad. I was still getting to see a movie with popcorn, candy and a soda. Since I didn’t really want to see this movie, maybe I would earn my own movie for keeping Pop company at his. The movie started. I was confused by the “Part IV” title, sure that this was some bizarre sequel I had missed the other parts of. Then it really started and I fell in love.
My mom, grandad, and I were all sci-fi geeks. We watched old B movies, ‘Star Trek’ reruns, and ‘Space: 1999’. ‘Star Wars’ was so much more. The enjoyment I had watching that movie cemented my love of the genre and ensured my geekiness for years to come. It also became irrevocably tied to my grandfather. His favorite scene was the cantina scene. He loved the odd music and the many different aliens. He loved R2-D2. I loved Princess Leia. He and I would see it several more times while it was first in theaters and then again when it was re-released two years later. It was ‘our’ movie. He tried to surprise me again in 1980 when ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ came out, but I was older and wiser then and quite immune to his tricks. Pop never saw the trilogy’s conclusion. He died the following spring. My mom took me to see ‘Return of the Jedi’ and I cried.
Episodes I-III came out and they were fine. I enjoyed them. I didn’t love them. Something was missing. They came. They went. I bought them. I showed them to The Princess along with the originals. It was fun, but different. Then they announced the new movie. I got excited, looked up everything I could on the internet, saw all the previews, stopped reading the internet, Mr. Mouse bought tickets and we waited.
On December 18, I saw ‘The Force Awakens’. It felt right. It felt good. And when they walked into Maz Kanata’s cantina I felt my grandfather. The new movie connects to my emotions the way the very first movie did. To paraphrase Han Solo, I was home. I was once again that 6 year old girl pulled into a world of wonder and excitement. It made me happy and sad all at the same time. All of that independent of the actual story on the screen.
‘Star Wars’ has been a huge part of my life for almost forty years. I have shared the movies with my grandfather, my mother, my husband, and my daughter. I have played games and have played pretend. I have read books and have read web articles. I have laughed. I have cried. I have plans involving my own as yet non-existent grandchildren. To this day I have never seen a ‘Benji’ movie in a theater or otherwise. I have no regrets that my grandfather chose the movie he did that day in 1977. I hope that there is a new generation beginning down this road with their own grandparents who will get to experience the same joy that I did all those years ago.