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Somewhere and Somewhen Else


Star Wars rocked my ten year old world. I can't even begin to describe the excitement of seeing Star Wars for the very first time. One of the things that made that movie such an amazing experience was the transitory nature of going to the movies in 1977. I have to remind my kids, one of whom is the same age I was when I first saw Star Wars, that back in the day when you saw a movie in a theater that was it. There was no DVD coming out dependably in 6 months. When it left the theater it was gone. So you watched movies differently back then. I think I was more alert than I am now. More anxious to notice every detail.

StarWarsMoviePoster1977.jpgI think what was so groundbreaking for me about this film was that it conceived of a world without us. Most science fiction or fantasy I had read up to this point projected either forward or backward with our own civilization being the grounding point. It was either in a distant or imagined future or past. But Star Wars was neither. It occurred in "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."

In other words, from the opening words my mind was blown.

Star Wars is not, in the strictest sense, science fiction. It's fantasy dressed in science fiction garb. But what works in the story is that it transports the viewer into an entirely different world. It opens your mind to possibilities previously unimagined. And when you return to your own world you look at it differently.

What was your first encounter with Star Wars?


Star Wars stayed in our theatre in Muncie forever, it was so popular. We begged our parents to let us go see it, but they only took us after it had been around for months, it seemed. It was at the Strand, a really old moviehouse that they tore down not too long after--if it didn't just collapse on its own. My experience with sf/f was very limited at the time (ok, it's still limited). I vaguely remember watching Star Trek reruns when I was what, 3 or 4, but at the age of 10 or 11 (probably 10), I was much more interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder or Judy Blume, and I was absolutely obsessed with 19th century Native American history.
I loved Star Wars; I think it was the first "adult" movie I had ever seen (my parents were really strict about that; plus, we had a huge family and didn't go to the movies very often at all). I remember being disturbed by the deaths of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, as well as by Vader strangling people. I loved the action; I reallllllly loved Han Solo, (not Harrison Ford--I never liked movie stars, only fictional characters) even though I knew I was supposed to like Luke, as he was the good-guy hero. Sorry, he was just too boring and emo. I tended to like confident guys who didn't give a crap (much).
The thing I remember most about that night, however, was walking out after the movie, and looking up in the sky to see this big thing with red lights--obviously, it was a plane; since it was bigger than most planes we typically saw in Muncie skies, it was probably being diverted to Indy for some reason. But to my brother Bruce and I, it was magical.
From that time on, Star Wars was part of our lives. My brothers had a lot of the toys, we all read the books, we listened to the soundtrack in bed, we saw Empire Strikes back a zillion times (because by then some of us were old enough that our parents could drop us off at the movies). At one point, Bruce, Mark,Wendy and I could rattle off about half of the Empire Strikes back dialogue from memory, which we did in the car on those endless grocery store errands. (Emma and Simon, this was when you could leave your kids in the car for pretty much hours, and no one had a problem with it). And of course, my first first date with Brett was an April 5, 1985 2nd run of Return of the Jedi at the Rivoli. In fact, Brett called me "Leia," which I didn't correct (everyone says my name wrong) until our second first date, over 14 years later. Now he wants to introduce our kids to Star Wars, so someday I'll pop some popcorn and brace myself for play light saber fights.

I was born in 1971, so what I remember is my dad talking about it. He described in detail the opening scene with the spaceship that went on and on, and about the eyeball popping up from the garbage.
I was old enough to see "The Empire Strikes Back" in the theater. My aunt took me. She had a crush on Han Solo.
My husband is 5 years older than me. One thing he remembers is seeing the movie, then buying trading cards with a character he couldn't remember being in the movie. As you said, though, you'd see the movie, and that was it. He couldn't pay to see it again, so it was probably decades before he realized that the large, green lizard-like thing was what the Stormtroopers rode on Luke's home planet.

I saw it at the drive in theatre outside of Superior. We popped our own popcorn and brought it in paper grocery bags. I think the double feature was Star Wars and something with a talking mule.

Well, Reagan gave this speech, and....

I saw it in the theater with my then-best friend Aaron. I was 6. I came home and raved about it to my parents, who then went to see it.

And you're right about once a movie was gone, it was gone. It was a big deal to say, when you were 10, that you had seen Star Wars 10 times. Because that meant you could (a) afford to go 10 times, and (b) were lucky enough to live in a town where it stayed longer or came back, as it did a few times.

Laurie Viets: Was the other movie "The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox"? Because I saw a double feature at a drive in in Lincoln, Nebraska, with Star Wars and The Duchess.

Star Wars was the beginning of the end of American cinema. It's not a bad movie, but it shifted the emphasis from thoughtful realistic movies (like "The Godfather") to flashy children's fantasies and prepackaged diluted mythology. I'm not sure the country is better off.

Krypskaya, I remember that Star Wars played in Lima (about 20 miles away) for 26 weeks. I remember that clearly because they would always post how long it had been held over in the paper like a badge of honor. I don't remember how often I saw it, but I recall frequenting the dollar matinees several weekends. I think while it was running the price for matinees went up to $1.25! Oh the horrors!

Farglebargle, I agree that Star Wars became the very definition of the summer blockbuster, but I also know a lot of independent, edgy filmmakers who cite Star Wars as one of the very reasons they got into cinema. I'm not sure its influence was all bad.

I was telling Brett about this blog entry, and he wanted me to point out that George Lucas was actually trying to recreate those '30s and '40s serials from his childhood, with lots of action,fantastic stories and realtively simplistic good v. evil themes, so it wasn't like he was bringing something completely new to the table--he just had a broader vision and better technology. Those movies, TV shows, and books will always be popular for a reason. We all live out in the real world, where good and evil are not always clear-cut, where evil wins more than occasionally, and in which our lives are pretty much not full of heart-pounding action, chivalry and over-the-top romance. Every culture has its heroic stories--to teach lessons, sure, and provide heroes to emulate, but also to give people a little break from reality. There's nothing wrong with a little escapism now and then--it might just keep us sane.

(And as much as I, Leah, love Godfathers 1 and 2, I think it romanticizes a brutal subculture. When I watch Al Pacino in those movies, I think, wow--he's hot; I'd find a real-life Michael Corrleone to be a wicked thug.)

To get this blog back on track (sorry for the tangent) I was probably the last kid in my school to see "Star Wars", but it was showing in theatres for a full year, something I've never seen before nor after, so I had plenty of time. We saw it at the Randall Park Mall in Cleveland, then the world's largest shopping mall, and I was weirded out by the size of it all, the endless mazes of sparkly shops, and this big shiny toy of a movie. I thought, the future is here and it looks like a lot of plastic. I enjoyed the hell out of Star Wars, of course, but I found my anthem flick a year later with "Dawn of the Dead," about zombies staggering through the mall.

HERE's a phenomenon for you to comment on, Lars: remember when movies would be re-released every year in theaters? I remember seeing Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back sporadically over the course of several years. At the time, theatrical re-release was the only way to do this; home video killed that off.

I also remember that when a director would hit, they'd re-release all his old cr-ppy films to capitalize on his newfound success. After E.T., Duel made its way into theaters for quite awhile. Not that I think Duel is excrement...merely...Dennis-Weaveresque.

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