The First Time I Watched Star Wars
Today is the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars which makes me feel old. LOL
I was 8 years old when it came out on May 25, 1977 and I remember the first time I saw it like it was yesterday. We've constantly heard about there being nothing like Star Wars before it came out, but I cannot stress how true this really was. I watched it the first year it came out. We didn't even know what a VHS was back then and Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi meant nothing to us then. The only thing that came close was Star Trek, but that was on television and less grand.
Please bear with me if the writing seems a little infantile at times. I am trying to channel that inner child who sat in the theater for the first time as I write this so I can jot down how I remember watching it.
As most kids are, I was restless in the theater waiting for the movie to begin. But, as soon as that first note of the now legendary John Williams main title song, I sprang to attention. The crawl came up, but I couldn't read that fast and I started getting restless again (come on, folks...I was 8 years old!). But, as soon as the crawl ended, the sight of seeing a Star Destroyer persuing the Tantitive IV come on the screen. My eyes widened and I was hooked. Again, I had never seen anything like this. People have to remember that this was the 1970s where more realistic, gritty cinema was the rage.
From there, I watched in horror as a large man dressed in black surrounded by mysterious men in white armor burst into the ship. I was intrigued as to who this person was, but I could instantly tell he was bad. His wheeze was eerie to me. Little did I know this would become one of the most reviled (and loved) villains of all time - Darth Vader!
The story continued and I saw Princess Leia, a beautiful woman dressed in white with the coolest hair, ever shoot some stormtroopers and was not afraid to stand up to Darth Vader. And then the two droids R2-D2 and C-3PO who I just adored because they were like the Abbott and Costello of droids. They really did remind them.
I remember just loving the Jawa because they talked funny, but I was worried for both my droid friends. And then I was filled with anxiety when Uncle Owen didn't pick R2-D2 right away. I just remember rocking back and forth in my seat worried. Oh, and the blue milk! I remember thinking how gross it looked.
Luke Skywalker was that guy that everybody wanted to be. He was cool and kind, but wanted to have a life of his own. I immediately liked him from the beginning.
Obi-Wan Kenobi was amazing to me. He was a wizard. How did he make those stormtroopers look away? It was magic! And the magical sword he gave Luke. I had never seen anything like a lightsaber before. Then, I remember the hologram of Princess Leia pop up. She seemed so sad to me and I remember thinking they had to go save her.
I thought seeing all the aliens were cool. The Jawa and the Tusken Raiders. But, when they arrived as Mos Eisley Cantina, I was in 7th heaven. I had never seen such a vast array of aliens before in my lifetime. At least not in real life. Maybe in the cartoons. And the Cantina Band song would forever remain in my head for the rest of my life. In fact, I'm humming it right now as I write.
But, you got a sense that the Cantina was dangerous. I mean, you had men wanted in 12 star systems trying to pick a fight with Luke Skywalker. And, then one of them lose an arm. Wow!
From here, we meet Han Solo who's vest I was obsessed with. I don't know why. I just remember thinking how much I wanted his vest. And, he had with him a large dog like friend who didn't speak English. But, I instantly liked Chewbacca. He was a gentle giant. I didn't know what a Kessel Run was, but the way Han Solo said it, I could tell that the Millennium Falcon was going to be awesome.
And, it was! It even had an awesome chess set with holographic aliens!
They arrive at the giant planet, which was not a moon, but a space station - The Death Star. And, one thing I remember realizing here was that Princess Leia was different than other princesses. She was surly and actually saved Luke and Han. I even remember when she watched her planet blow up, she didn't even cry. I would have cried. She wasn't just somebody to be rescued, but part of this team. Yes, maybe I was a young feminist, but I had always been a Wonder Woman fan and, so, that might have played a part in realizing that she was not a damsel in distress.
I was on the edge of my seat when Darth Vader fought Obi-Wan Kenobi. And I cried when Obi-Wan sacrified himself. I didn't really understand why he did it at the time. I was just sad he died.
Now. our heroes were part of the Rebellion and they are tasked with blowing up the Death Star. It was all so amazing to me seeing all these space ships (as I remember calling them). Some looking like Xs and some looking like "circles with two square things on them" (as I would describe a tie fighter |-O-| in a school report I wrote)
The whole battle was exciting and I remember rocking back and forth at the edge of my seat wondering if they would make it!!!! And they did! Good defeated evil! The good guys won! Yay!
At the time, I knew little about Joseph Campbell and the Hero's Journey. But, I was a big fan of Greek and Norse mythology and the tales of King Arthur and, even at eight years old, was able to connect the story on a mythological level.
Star Wars, or as its now known Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (although it will always still be just Star Wars to me), would then go on to usher in a new era of science fiction films and television shows. It was a glorious time to be a kid. Soon, we were seeing things like Superman and Raiders of the Lost Ark on screen. We talk about this being the Golden Age of Geek Films, but really the late70s and early 80s started it all.
I would actually go on to watch A New Hope more than 100 times in the theater. But, you have to understand that tickets for children back them was something like $.50. So, every day for the summer, my mom would drop us off at the theater and I watched it all day long for a summer. LOL!
Star Wars has become such a part of my life, including my affection for all its characters. I tried to avoid spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so I was shocked when Han Solo died. It felt like I was stabbed by the lightsaber myself because here was this iconic character who is now gone from my life forever. But, the worst was when Carrie Fisher, who brought Princess Leia to life, died. I still get sad about it. I didn't know her personally, but I feel like a friend died. That's because like all the characters, Princess Leia is a big part of me. She was a friend.
So, on this 40th anniversary of Star Wars, I raise my glass and celebrate a phenomenon that can never be matched or duplicated. At least, not in my heart.