This week’s Flashback Friday: You Never Forget Your First Time…Watching Star Wars!
I’m happy to have science fiction author, Scott Whitmore, here for a guest post on how Star Wars influenced him as a writer.
I don’t watch many movies in the theater these days. Cost is certainly a factor (some perspective: when I was a kid, movies were a quarter to get in, popcorn was a nickel and candy and a soda were a dime … meaning my brother and I could catch a show for a dollar) but a much bigger consideration for me today is what I call “ease of access.”
With Blu-ray DVDs, a cable TV package bursting at the seams with on-demand entertainment, and the ability to hit pause whenever I need a bathroom or munchie break, the big-screen HD TV set in front of my ultra comfy sofa is a suitable replacement for the multiplex.
One movie I absolutely want to see in the theater (at least for the first time), though, is Star Wars: Episode VII — the Force Awakens. Seeing the original movie, Episode IV — A New Hope (back then it was just Star Wars) is one of my favorite memories.
I was fifteen and many months away from getting my driver’s license in 1977 when Episode IV came to the two-screen theater at the local mall a twenty-minute drive from the small Midwest farming town where I grew up. What small social life I had depended on friends who had their licenses and that meant doing what they wanted to do. “The movies” was a common destination, but when I got into the car that Friday night I had no idea what we were going to do.
The backseat was full, three across, but being the last one picked up I sat up front. I turned to my friend behind the wheel and asked what the plan was. He wanted to see a show, he replied, a movie he’d heard was really cool. He couldn’t recall the name, it was something about spaceships, but it was really cool so he knew we’d all like it. A half-hour later we were in our seats, licking the salt and butter from popcorn off our fingers and gently squeezing ice-cold sodas between our legs (warn’t no cup holders back then, kids).
None of us knew what the movie was about (also warn’t no internet). I remember someone asked if it was really that good and the two guys in front of us turned around and nodded in unison. They just watched it, one said, and when it was over went out and bought tickets to see it again. “So it’s really cool, huh?” I asked and he smiled knowingly. “Oh, yeah.”
The lights went down and when the previews were done those now-famous words appeared, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” The wonderfully rich music of John Williams suddenly started, a small surprise but hardly the last we’d have, and the prologue crawl began. For the remainder of the movie I was transfixed, unaware of anything except what was happening on the screen, which was so imaginative, so visceral, so different (and yet it all made so much sense!) than anything I’d seen before.
One definition of “transcendent” is: surpassing the ordinary; exceptional, and some of the synonyms listed include: incomparable, matchless, peerless, unrivaled, inimitable and unsurpassable. Yeah, that first viewing of A New Hope was all of those and a whole lot more. It was the first time I’d ever become so immersed in a movie that I lost all sense of the reality around me. To paraphrase something I read in a novel once, my mind was well and truly blown.
That was nearly forty years ago and I’ve never again experienced that feeling of transcendent immersion with another movie. In the years after Episode IV I’d see Alien and Raiders of the Lost Ark in similar circumstances — not knowing what the movie was about beforehand — and felt the totally unexpected joy of discovering something really different and cool, but it wasn’t the same. Not even close. I don’t expect to recapture that feeling with the new Star Wars movie, either. But with skilled director J.J. Abrams running the show, I think it will be well worth making the trip to the theater in case it does.
(Image from Star Wars is Copyright 20th Century Fox and used under Fair Use for the purpose of education and/or criticism.)