( I know, it’s hardly an original title for a film that changed the way a generation saw films – and just about everything else.)
Memorial Day Weekend, 1977. I settled into my theater seat, excited at the rare opportunity to see a movie with not one, but both of the Random Parents. I knew relatively little about the film we were going to see – though I knew the important parts: it had spaceships, it had lasers, and (perhaps most importantly) it wasn’t a Disney cartoon. Beyond that, and anunderstanding that The Random Father seemed as excited about this one as The Random Sibling and I did – rare, indeed, for a “family” film – I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The lights went down, the text began to scroll (I wondered momentarily at the novelty of “reading” a movie), John Williams’ impressive soundtrack blasted what would become one of the most distinctive and easily-recognized movie themes in history – and everyone in the theater was hooked.
On May 25, 1977, George Lucas and a cast of all-but-unknown actors (along witha couple of ringers) changed the world. Big words, perhaps, and maybe not applicable across the board. But they definitely changed it for me.
Science Fiction existed before Star Wars, but not on the same scale. You certainly can’t compare Luke, Leia and Chewbacca with Stanley Kubrick’sconvoluted2001, A Space Odyssey – in the mind of a child or an adult – without instantly realizing that Star Wars took science fiction (and film generally) to an entirely new level. Between offering special effects like nothing we’d ever seen and a nearly unmatchednumber of quotableone-liners, Star Wars had something for just about everyone. (It even had a love story for those weird enough to be interested in it – and even that had a quirk or two in store once the sequels came out.)
For months afterward, every kid in the neighborhood wanted to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. (The Random Sibling wanted to be Chewbacca, but that’s another story.) The cool kids had Star Wars action figures. The coolestones had the gigantic Milennium Falcon playset.
You know the one. It cost FIFTY DOLLARS (an unimaginable sum forfifth graders backin ’77) and it even had the cargo compartments where Luke and Obi-Wan hid out after the tractor beam pulled them onto the Death Star. It was cool, and everybody wanted one. Even the girls.
Which points out a second unique aspect of the Star Wars experience: it gave everyone in my generation a common experience anda shared vocabulary. (OK, maybe it was just us geeks, but I somehow doubt that.) I may not know much about where someone comes from or the kind of childhood he (or she) had, but if we’re close to the same age, I can virtually guarantee the expression “Laugh it UP, fuzzball” willprovoke a knowing smile, if nota return quote. Most understand how important it was to have the Original Luke Skywalker action figure (he was way cooler than “X-Wing Fighter Luke”), that Lando Calrissian was not an acceptable substitute for Han Solo, and that no matter how many times your little brother buried Chewbacca in the sandbox, he absolutely, positively could not be permitted back in the house until he found it, even if that meant digging up the entire yard.
Star Wars gave me common ground with The Random Father, who loved it as much as we did. It gave me something to play with the other kids on the block – our bikes became X-Wing Fighters at the mere touch of a young imagination, and sticks became lightsabers (which, our mothers reminded us, would only be funny ‘until someone loses an eye’). Every boy was a Jedi, and every willing girl (and maybe evena fewthat weren’t)a Galactic princess in need of rescue – but not so helpless that she couldn’t pick up a blaster and send a few Stormtroopers to Kingdom Come.
Perhaps more than anything Star Wars was fun – and it continues to be fun, even thirty years down the line. So laugh it up, George, and know that ageneration of blaster-wieldin’, lightsaber-swingin’, universe-savin’Lukes, Hans, Leias – andChewbaccas- are laughing right along with you.
Trackposted to Pirate’s Cove, The HILL Chronicles, Woman Honor Thyself, Dumb Ox Daily News, The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, Conservative Cat, and Maggie’s Notebook, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.