It was forty years ago today Star Wars exploded onto the scene and science fiction – and movie going – as we know it has never been the same. I still remember sitting in the Norridge Theater, with Greg and our mom, as a matinee showing began. It was the first week of the release and Star Wars fever hadn’t yet gripped the country as, truth be told, no one really had a clue what the movie even was; I know Greg and I had only badgered our mom to take us to the show because we’d read the first issue of the Marvel comic adaptation which came out the month before. Honestly, I even seem to recall buying the comic by accident as it wasn’t a title which fell into my usual Captain America/The Avengers/Whatever Marvel Cover Looks Super Cool This Week purchasing habits. I was even disappointed I’d spent well over one tenth of my two dollar weekly allowance on a comic I knew nothing about in the first place.
That’s how nine year old minds sometimes work…
The theater wasn’t very crowded (standing in huge lines, stretching blocks in length, for a ticket would come later) as the lights dimmed and the Twentieth Century Fox intro appeared. I jumped in my seat a little as John Williams’ theme began and the words “Star Wars” blasted onto the screen. I’ll never forget the moment the Star Destroyer rumbled onto the screen and my kid brain nearly exploded; that starship seemed to pass over our heads forever and ever. I sort sorry for all the Star Wars fans who came on board later and received their introduction to the series on VHS or DVD or Blu-Ray since most of the magic of seeing that Star Destroyer for the first time is lost on anything less than a theater screen.
Of course, after the movie, Greg and I walked out into the sunshine of that May afternoon completely gobsmacked. Eventually we’d go on to see Star Wars in a theater about a dozen times and we even saw the film in theaters in Florida and California during our Spring and Summer vacations that year. Our Christmas wishlists were chock full of whatever Star Wars toys and models had been rushed into production too. Like most kids we only had Star Wars rattling around our heads.
Where I find my greatest affection for Star Wars though isn’t in the original film, or those that followed, but in the horizons which opened up to me after that matinee. I read comics and watched reruns of Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits but I can’t say I was overly conscious of science fiction or that SF had made a huge impression on me. On a side note: I don’t truly consider Star Wars science fiction since the series really boils down to fantasy; hyperspace travel, lightsabers, the Force all work because …well …they work and you’re not going to get a scientific explanation as to why.
Always a voracious reader, I introduced myself to the works of Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Larry Niven. I set out to see movies like Silent Running, Soylent Green, and A Clockwork Orange. Sure, I watched many of the shlocky movies and TV series which popped up in the wake of Star Wars but I also found Doctor Who and Blake’s 7 on our local PBS affiliate. It’s possible I could have been turned onto a lot of these things without Star Wars but I can’t say for certain it would have happened.
I’m most thankful for all the great friends (my best friend Elliott Miller especially) and awesome people I’ve met over the years due to a shared interest in science fiction, fantasy, and – through an association with those genres – gaming. I know I may not have dug all of this without Star Wars so it’s possible they wouldn’t have either and we would never have met and bonded. Hell, I even run this website due in some small way to Star Wars.
So here’s a toast to George Lucas and Star Wars on the fortieth anniversary of the film’s release! I’d have never guessed, as a goofy nine year old kid, how one afternoon in a movie theater would lead to a lifetime of fun and friendship.