Thoughts on Star Wars

Laura With all the brouhaha over Disney buying the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas I thought this would be as good a time as any to relate my Star Wars memories.

I first saw Star Wars when I was on a short, oh-boy-we’re-skipping-a-few-days-of-school springtime vacation in Berkeley CA with my dad and sibs. One day, no doubt desperately trying to think of a way to entertain three bored teenagers, Dad saw an ad in the local paper for a sneak preview of some movie called Star Wars.

“Must be a science-fiction movie,” he said. “Sounds interesting. Let’s go!” Whereupon I started an obnoxious and ongoing whine: Don’t wanna go because I hate, hate, HATE boring science fiction movies!!1 Of course I was outvoted by my more reasonable siblings, so I was dragged kicking and screaming to the movie theatre.

The theatre was one of those grand old movie palaces, with a huge, sweeping balcony and loges. Counting rows, I estimated that there were probably close to a thousand people there, and it was packed to the gills. It was a true sneak peek: The entire audience was completely clueless as to what the movie was about.

I don’t have anything particularly original to say about the movie itself, but it was the movie-watching experience that hit me like a bombshell. Right from the “A long time ago…” crawl the audience sensed that this was something different. The excitement started to build. People got completely caught up in the fun – to the point of actually hissing the villains like in old-timey melodramas. By the climactic Death Star chase, people were literally stamping their feet, gesticulating, cheering like maniacs and all but hanging off the balconies. It felt as though the theatre would collapse under the tumult. There was a noisy standing ovation during the credits – for a movie! – and while streaming out of the theatre everyone was pumped and exhilarated. It truly opened my eyes to what a film could do to people’s emotions, and it was all us kids could talk about for the next couple of days.

Back at school I chattered excitedly to my classmates about how I just saw this GREAT movie that’s coming called STAR WARS!! isn’t that COOL? and you gotta see it, and it’s the BEST THING EVER… but I couldn’t convey the enormity of the experience and they just looked at me blankly.

“Yeah, sure. Star Wars? Uh, whatever….”

After Star Wars finished its nearly-year-long run at one theatre (remember those days?) it eventually made it to our local second-run movie house. I cajoled my mom to see it with me so she could see what all the fuss was about. The film was in terrible shape, with multiple dodgy splices; halfway through the movie, the sound cut out for nearly a minute. And what sound there was in that poky little theatre was dreadful. Without the enthusiastic crowds and glorious projection quality the movie seemed flatter, sillier, less interesting. We went home; me deflated, Mom still not seeing what all the fuss was about.

I’ve seen Star Wars since on video, and have been appalled by what a bad movie it is: awful acting, clunky writing (including really lame stabs at humour), all slathered over by a pretty thick layer of B-movie cheese. (And don’t get me started on any of the next five sequels.) But I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for an incredible film experience that I will most likely never see the like of again.

  1. The reason I “hated” SF movies was that the only SF movie I had actually ever seen up to that point was 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I was too immature to appreciate, and which I was completely bored by. (I have to admit that even now I respect 2001 a lot more than I actually like it.)

    As a kid I had an embarrassingly bad record of seeing movies before I was ready for them. My first rated M (for “Mature”) movie was The Sting, a wonderful film, which I hated in 1973 because as a 9-year old I didn’t really “get” the con men’s machinations. My first political comedy was 1977’s Nasty Habits, where the Watergate satire went sailing completely over my head. (Not that it stopped me from noisily complaining about how BORING and STUPID it was, when we got home.) Was I slow on the uptake movie-wise, or was it just due to a lack of available babysitters?