This past Monday at half time of the Eagles vs Giants Monday Night football game Disney put its marketing magic to work and showed the final trailer for the much anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The movie is still about two months away but has already shattered movie ticket sales and is set to be the biggest box office of the year. I’ll admit the trailer left me a little underwhelmed (and I have only since seen in the one time) but that doesn’t mean it won’t be one of the few movie experiences I actually remember forever.
Looking back The Star Wars movies mark very memorable theater experiences unlike anything that is generally seen these days. In 1977 I was still just a wee 2 year old so I wasn’t in those big lines around the block to see the first Star Wars movie in theaters. What I do remember about Star Wars is that it being my first big experience with a VCR. The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980 and I honestly don’t remember seeing it in the theater but I’m pretty sure I did. I do know that by that time I was playing with my star wars figures regularly so I must have seen the movie! I do very much remember going to see Return of the Jedi though, and I remember getting a brand new Return of the Jedi action figure that day as well. I was still too young at that point to be thinking about more Star Wars movies but somehow knew there would never be a part seven. Not many people like to remember them but the Ewok television movies were pretty cool to keep the story going, although they don’t hold up as well today I’m glad I have them on DVD!
The big experiences began in 1997, I was away at college at Penn State Harrisburg when the original trilogy special editions were released to theaters during a three month span. I remember at that time I was the one in charge of getting the tickets for each showing bright and early in the morning to see them opening night. On January 31, 1997 A New Hope, February 21, 1997 was Empire Strikes Back and then on March 7, 1997 we all saw that long drawn out Ewok celebration in Return of the Jedi. It was a great time to be back to the theater seeing Star Wars on the big screen again with friends. It’s odd going to see a movie in a theater that you’ve seen a dozen times and could watch anytime you wanted, but seeing it with friends and other people on a big screen with that type of excitement was a blast!
Of course it wasn’t until 16 years after the original Return of the Jedi release that we all headed back to the theaters to find out how the story began. The Phantom Menace was released in 1999 and the world got it’s first taste of Jar Jar Binks. The theater that I saw Phantom Menace is no longer in operation (it’s actually being renovated now though) but I remember that midnight showing well. That showing was in a relatively small theater but all those Star Wars fans packed into such a small space gave it character. Our “OMG Star Wars is Back” glasses quickly fell off soon after and many started to wonder did we wait all this time for this?
Things picked up in 2002 with Attack of the Clones and the trilogy would end in 2005 with Revenge of the Sith letting fans both see how Anakin made his final transformation to Darth Vader and witness the birth of the twins. For me Revenge of the Sith would be my favorite of the trilogy for its dark turn and I don’t really despise it the way many do. I saw Episode 2 and 3 in much bigger theaters, I remember leaving the theater after Episode 2 a way you never leave those theaters as they were so packed, leaving well into the night already anticipating Episode 3.
The one Star Wars movie I did despise was The Clone Wars movie in 2008. I distinctly remember going to see that movie and realizing I just paid to see three episodes of a TV show, which I should have watched on TV. The Clone Wars would go on to be a great show (one that I still have to watch most of) but it did not get off to a great start.
Now here we are on the brink of the first movie of the next trilogy. December 18, 2015 will be the biggest movie day this year, every single holiday wrapped up into one day, the everyone is working the theater day. I don’t think I’ll be seeing the movie opening night at midnight this time, those days are mostly over. Hopefully I’ll get to see it opening weekend. However whenever I do get to see it this one may be the most special movie of all.
Prequels aside it has been 32 years since Return of the Jedi. There has been a lot of expanded universe Star Wars since then which has all been nicely wiped away. Thirty two years we’ve waited for a Star Wars sequel, one that will feature new characters as well as the original cast. What will make this one the most special though is I’ll get to see this one with my son. When Return of the Jedi was released I was about 8 years old, he’s 9.
I can’t wait.