maura @ 6:30 pm
I’ve long been convinced that my age cohort was born at the absolute best time to experience the Star Wars movies and fandom. I’d just turned 8 when the first movie was released. My dad took me and my sister (she was just over 3) to see it in what I remember being a big deal — I think we went to a biggish theater in Center City Philadelphia, and there were definitely long lines. It was amazing, of course, unlike anything I’d seen before (partially because many of the other space movies of the 1970s were too much for kids). I was 11 when Empire Strikes Back was released (and we were just about to move halfway across the country for my dad’s new job), arguably the best of the first 3 films (fight me). And I’d just turned 14 when Return of the Jedi came out (just as my family was getting ready to move back east).
I’d wager that’s pretty much the perfect age range for those movies — starting when I was old enough to understand (most of) what was going on and ending before the teen spirit fully took me over. It’s hard to overestimate how pervasive Star Wars was (and is) to nerds in my age group. I remember it being one of the first movies we rented when we first got a VCR in 1980, so my brother could finally see it (he’d been a toddler when it was in the theater). In college the campus movie theater showed all three and the theater was packed, all of us nerds reciting the best lines in unison.
When news of the 3 prequels broke we were grown-up nerds living in NYC, and like our other grown-up nerd friends we were pretty psyched. With a bunch of our pals we lined up to see the original (though enhanced/altered, sigh) trilogy at the amazing Ziegfeld Theater in Midtown Manhattan on its incredibly huge screen. Then Phantom Menace was released and, well, Jar Jar (sigh). By the time Attack of the Clones came out we had a little baby who was adorable yet not fond of sleeping, making it a challenge to see movies. Ditto for Revenge of the Sith (though by that time he was a nonsleeping preschooler). When he was old enough we showed him all 6 films, of course, and like other parents our age experienced the intense disappointment of his strong interest in Episodes 1-3 and repeated complaints about Episodes 4-6 (“this is so boring!”). Jar Jar and the fast cuts, that’s what the kids like (have we failed as parents?).
And that was about it for me, for a long time. I don’t think I saw Episodes 2-3 more than once; they were confusing and dull, Anakin was a whiny stalker, and I just couldn’t get into it. The kid watched the animated Clone Wars series for a while which I admit did seem better, especially since there was a female main character in the Jedi trainee Ahsoka. But I still found it confusing and didn’t watch much.
I belabor all of this history as context. When it was announced that Disney bought the Star Wars franchise and JJ Abrams would direct a new movie, I thought “meh.” I’d see stuff on Twitter occasionally and yeah, it was cool to see that photo of the cast beginning readings — I was pleased to see a person of color *and* another woman (also: Carrie Fisher 4eva). But the movie just wasn’t on my radar, for the most part, not something I was planning to see as soon as it was released. And then, out of nowhere, the kid up and got obsessed. I blame the internet (obvs). He started watching Clone Wars again and insisted that he really really really wanted to see the movie and, moreover, could we please watch Episodes 1-6 before the new one? After some Netflix scrambling we did, though I admit I mostly tuned out of the early ones (again).
And so it was on December 25, 2015, that we took the train into Manhattan for a dinner of Chinese food (yum, dumplings) followed by a trip to the Ziegfeld Theater to see The Force Awakens. I still hadn’t done much reading about it and was still a bit “meh,” even as we stood on line and took our seats.
It’s corny beyond belief, but I was completely, utterly blown away. Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega (who was terrific in Attack the Block) as Finn were uh-may-zing; the fan service of General (yessss!) Leia Organa and Han Solo was sweet; the details — most especially the early scenes with Rey scavenging and living on Jakku, and of course with Rey and Finn on the Millennium Falcon — impeccable. I bought my 10 yr old niece the Lego Rey’s speeder set for her birthday and almost, almost had to keep it for myself; I’m considering buying the DVD of Force Awakens, too (something I pretty much never ever do).
I was also relieved beyond belief that the movie was so good (and the dumplings, too). Last xmas was the first anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death, and the month before that, the first anniversary of our good friend’s death. We saw many, many nerd movies at the Ziegfeld with our friend in the 23 years we’d been friends, and most certainly would have geeked out on Force Awakens with her. We almost always visited (or traveled with) my mother-in-law at xmas. We didn’t have any travel plans or visitors for xmas last year, and as the date approached I was pretty nervous about how we’d all feel on that day, whether we could push back on the weight of it all even if only for just a few hours. And then Poe sent BB-8 off with the plans and Finn stole a TIE fighter and Rey ate that magical puffy bread and it was awesome.