Forty years ago in a galaxy not very far away…I saw “Star Wars” for the first time

Today I will “bow down to the Mouse” and see the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. Like many other Gen X’ers, I can honestly say that Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood. I saw the first SW movie, A New Hope, when I was just starting to be able to read. Imagine being a 5-year-old and seeing these words scrolling on a big screen!

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I’m fairly certain I didn’t know what all of these words meant when I was 5…

I had not even started kindergarten when this movie was released in May, 1977; but I was already starting to read. When I finally started kindergarten, I was placed (along with one other kindergartner) into a first grade reading group. Before we went to our reading class with the first graders, we had to go to the cafeteria to let the “lunch ladies” know how many cartons of white milk- and how many of chocolate – our classes would need (there were two kindergarten classes). We took our “job” very seriously – as we walked down the hall to the cafeteria (which was really a multi-purpose room with an attached kitchen), we repeated the white milk/chocolate milk numbers so as not to forget them, lol…

Though I was an advanced reader for my age, I’m pretty sure I didn’t comprehend all of these “spacey” words in the opening credits! Nonetheless, after seeing the movie, I was enthralled…I even had a T-shirt, which I loved, and it would get me in trouble in ballet class. Apparently my ballet instructor “Miss Janet” did not appreciate the “layered” look. But like many of the SW characters, I was a rebel. As I argued to Miss Janet, it was way too cold in that room to wear JUST the leotard, though had leg warmers been a thing back then, I would have loved wearing those in that drafty, drafty room in the Rogers Lodge…(sorry, not sharing any photos of me in my ballet apparel, ESPECIALLY not the pink tutu I had to wear in my only ballet recital). Those will remain safely in my parents’ photo albums!

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Interesting a Mickey Mouse doll is sitting next to me in this 1977-1978 photo. Little did we all know that he would one day be in charge of an entire media empire, including the company that created Star Wars…Also notable is my right elbow is smashing the face of my “Mrs. Beasley” doll. Poor, poor Mrs. Beasley…she was never one of my favorite toys, and neither was Mickey, for that matter!

My dad didn’t do anything half-assed when it came to taking us kids to the movies. Sure, we COULD go see movies in our small-town movie theater, which we visited often. My folks took me to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  here at least four times (I was mesmerized by the evil queen), and my older brother and I saw countless Godzilla movies here when my mom would drop us off here so she could go grocery shopping in peace. It was a sweet deal – we got to see giant monsters fighting each other on a big screen, and mom got to shop without my brother sneaking “extra” things into the cart and me tugging at her leg asking her to buy some silly toy or junk food item I didn’t need.  But when a “big” movie came out, Dad  would take us all to the biggest movie theater in the area, which at the time was Flint Cinema (now the site of an Auto Zone). This was before multiplex theaters became the standard. For my brother and I, it was a real treat to go to the “big” movie theater with the bigger sounds, bigger lobby, bigger bathrooms, bigger screen. Other movies we saw at this theater included The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reds, and at least the first two Star Trek films. This theater remained open until 1986, and its last movie to be shown was FX. By that time, we all were going to a local “multiplex” to see most movies, though we would still occasionally see movies at our “small town” theater.

My favorite of the “first three” SW films was, and still is, The Empire Strikes Back. This one was released when I was about 8, and I enjoyed the dark themes, the snowy Hoth settings, the Imperial Walkers, that “Stand by, Ion Control” woman, the creepy Dagobah System setting, Cloud City, bounty hunters, Luke losing his hand…and most of all? Yoda. He was my absolute favorite character. I’m sure it had a lot to do with him sounding exactly like a Muppet, and I was a pretty big fan of the Muppets (he was voiced by Muppet puppeteer Frank Oz). I liked Yoda enough to have a Yoda action figure, which was the only action figure I had from the movies. I remember being devastated when I couldn’t find Yoda’s tiny, tiny cane! My mom wound up emptying the vacuum cleaner bag and finding it (now if THAT doesn’t win a nomination for Mom of the Year…)! My action figure collection paled in comparison to my husband’s! Big difference between being a 5-year-old girl when Star Wars came out and being a 5-year-old boy! The action figures were pretty much “boy toys,” for sure! My older brother was a bit too old to have been ensnared by the Kenner action figure marketing geniuses, though he did have a SW bedspread and matching curtains in his bedroom! My husband was another story…

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An assortment of my husband’s old Star Wars toys.  He has two plastic boxes of the toys, which are (roughly) sorted by “good guys” and “bad guys,” though the medical droid was put into a box with the “bad guys,” lol…

By the time The Return of the Jedi opened, there was a LOT of excitement about it. We already knew that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, and Luke had been receiving Jedi training from Yoda. And we ALL wanted to know what was to become of Han Solo, who was frozen in carbonite in the previous installment.

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Han Solo was my husband’s hero when he was growing up. Though I was a bit too young to have had any kind of a “crush” on Han Solo  when the movies first came out, let’s just say as I grew up, I developed more of a fondness and appreciation of this rogue character!

As we waited in line to see Jedi at the Flint cinema, I leafed through a program that had been printed out just for the movie’s release and got a sneak peak of some of the characters we would be seeing in this movie. It was kind of exciting being among the first people in the area to see this big, big movie on the biggest screen in the area! And when we finally got into our seats and started watching, it didn’t disappoint!

I was spellbound by all of it. Cloaked, incognito Luke going into Jabba’s palace unwelcome… seeing the Han Solo carbonite statue…Luke signing over R2D2 and C-3PO to Jabba (how could he DO that)? Luke trying to bargain with Jabba..and Luke having to battle the Rancor monster. How in the WORLD was he going to get out of THAT pickle?

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Oh yeah…THAT’s how…

And then Jabba ups the ante, and hauls everyone to the giant mouth thing in the desert, and Han Solo is rescued and fully thawed, but still can’t see very well. How in the world were they going to get out of THAT hot mess?

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Oy…are those tentacles? Close-up view of the Sarlacc, or “that giant mouth thing in the desert”

Long story short, teamwork by the “heroes” gets them out of that hot mess, Leia (who has become Jabba’s Playmate of the Month) strangles Jabba to death and they move on to their next big fight. Leia gets to put on much more functional clothing (in this case a camouflage poncho) and they all have to try destroying something the bad guys control on a planet (power generator?) that just happens to be inhabited by a bunch of adorable, primitive furry things, which we later learned were called Ewoks. Who wants to buy an Ewok toy? Well, apparently lots, and lots of people! Otherwise, why would they they even BE in the movie? Toy sales, toy sales, toy sales! Because they were cute ‘n furry, they probably had appeal for little girls, too! Though I did not own any Ewok toys.

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Wow, these things all had names! Now start learning them all, lol…

My mom absolutely HATED the Ewoks. I was 11 at the time, and thought she was being a bit harsh, but I’ve come to agree with her about them. They were just TOO cute. And they had wrinkles in their furry costumes! And yes, they were just in the movie to sell toys. They could have just as easily had their battle on a planet inhabited by Wookiees (which I think was something that was discussed), but NO they had to be on a planet with THESE furry things!

Nonetheless, the Ewoks didn’t ruin the movie for me at all. But because of them, the previous movie will always be held in higher regard. But I did enjoy the scenes with the anti-gravity speeders, and I liked Leia’s costume enough to lamely try mimicking it for Halloween in 2009.

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We won third place in a 2009 Halloween costume contest. Me with “Darth Beerius” and an annoying Jawas.  Three characters from three different SW installments, lol…That camouflage poncho is actually made of heavy fleece and still gets used on camping trips! It’s warm enough to keep me comfortable in that drafty ballet classroom!

When I go see The Last Jedi movie today with my husband and parents, I hope to be as excited as I was seeing these first three installments as a kid, even though Han Solo is now dead, and Carrie Fisher is dead. I wasted money on episodes 1-3 and hoped that each one would bring my SW groove back. Nope, all of those disappointed me, though seeing Yoda flying through the air and fighting was kind of cool. The Force Awakens had its moments, and it certainly impressed me more than episodes 1-3. Rogue One also had its moments, but I honestly can’t remember a damn thing about it, except everyone died at the end. Maybe I’ve just become too old to be as thrilled by a movie anymore. But I will never, ever give up hope!

 

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