Not only has the Force awakened, but so have generations of Star Wars freaks, united by nostalgia, driven by a mythic zeitgeist, eager to have their galaxies rocked by one of the most anticipated films in light years.
Fans in Star Wars costumes camped out on Hollywood Boulevard for days in advance of the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams' reboot of the original George Lucas trilogy. Industry Yodas predict an opening weekend that will hit $200 million in North America, and $400 million more overseas, possibly launching it into the all-time box-office stratosphere with Avatar, Titanic, and this summer's Jurassic World.
For local luminaries - from the food, film, academic, commerce, politics, science, and TV universes - Star Wars has been a big deal. So, here are some memories and more-or-less meaningful observations about seeing Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan, and Darth for the first time. Did Star Wars change them? Are the batteries to their lightsabers charged and ready to go?
I was in fourth grade when it came out. It took over my life, like it took over the culture, for the next five years. I saw it in theaters, like, nine times. . . . It was the first time I had ever seen a science fiction movie that was dirty. It had, like, dust in it. . . . The storytelling is pretty old mythology, but I thought it was all about the aesthetic, right down to the screaming sound the fighters made. I had never seen a science fiction movie that badass.
I saw the original at the Majestic Theatre in Reading. . . . It blew my 10-year-old mind. . . . I've wasted so much of my life as a result of Star Wars making me think that there's stuff worth watching in the sci-fi section. There isn't . . . OK, Alien kicks ass, but that's about it.
I was in fifth grade, about 1995, and saw the first episode, A New Hope. . . . It's been an obsession ever since. That brilliant band music at the Mos Eisley cantina? I got the sheet music for my clarinet. I still have it. I've dressed as Princess Leia for Halloween, and I have a whole suitcase of R2-D2-related equipment.
I was 8. I remember walking in [to the theater in Pittsburgh, where he grew up] and seeing what I later learned to be Darth Vader. . . . When I was in sixth grade, Return of the Jedi came out, and my sister and I kept calling in to a radio show . . . to get tickets to the pre-premiere in Pittsburgh. So, we called, we called, we called, and we won. I got to skip school that day, and my sister and I went. The guy next to me cried when Yoda died.
[The whole office is into Star Wars.] We are all going to not just the premiere together but . . . the marathon leading up to it. We are going to see the first six movies and then the new one, back to back, for 20 straight hours.
I'm no sci-fi geek, but I saw Star Wars (the first) when it came out in 1977. . . . I remember buying a large popcorn at the theater in Plymouth Meeting Mall, thinking it would be a long night. The first time I saw Obi-Wan Kenobi, I was hooked.
At the time, I thought Star Wars was the best movie I had ever seen, for the swashbuckling action, the imaginative gadgetry, and - before its whiffy, pretentious sequels - the pure fun of it. I saw the film twice the year it came out, when I was 23, first in New York at the cavernous Loew's on 44th Street and shortly after that in Paris in Montparnasse, where it was called La guerre des étoiles. The French voice-over made the film even more fun: The droids were named R-Deux-D-Deux and C-Trois-P-Zero. . . We came out exhilarated and crossed the street against the light, waving imaginary light sabers and shouting at incoming traffic, "Que la Force soit avec toi!"
I saw the original trilogy first on VHS tape, with friends in middle school. . . . When they were rereleased as special editions in theaters, we were there opening night for each one. I still own the special edition boxed set of the original trilogy on VHS, despite not owning a player; I just can't bring myself to part with it.
One of my brothers-in-law gave us the boxed set . . . and it became a staple of our life, as a very young [daughter] Zoe adopted them as her go-to movies. (She is now 21.) It almost seems as if it was a soundtrack of our lives running on a loop in the background.
I remember 1977, seeing it with my dad downtown. It was the first time I stood in line for a film. . . . There is something truly special about the writing and emotion in the John Williams score that changed everything for me. My senses were overwhelmed, and it seemed to shift my perception of what could be.
I think I have seen every one. . . . I have aged with the stars of Star Wars.
[He used to take his two children and four nephews to see the films. They had toy lightsabers.] We'd have these sword fights. . . . My nephews and children got mad at me because I'd always win.
I saw Star Wars with my soon-to-be husband, Charles, in a theater in Wildwood. I was 23. . . . I remember thinking it was going to be another Lost in Space-type movie, and that show was never top on my list. . . . Han Solo got my attention - I'm quite sure, the beginning of my attraction to Harrison Ford! However, these days I ask myself, "How did he get so old and I didn't?"
I have seen all of the Star Wars films. I vividly remember seeing the first movie when it came out during the summer between my junior and senior years in college. The graphics may seem limited today. At the time, they were simply incredible.
It was a big part of my childhood. My twin brother and I watched it obsessively. Our favorite was Return of the Jedi. We used Wiffle ball bats as our lightsabers to reenact the final fight scene, while my older brother pretended to be the emperor and zap us with his Sith powers.
That phrase, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" - you're immediately sucked into a limitless landscape of possibilities. . . . Everybody who goes to see this can identify with somebody. I want to be Darth Vader. Who wouldn't want to have that voice?
My dad took me to see the first (fourth) Star Wars. I had just turned 5. I remember him reading from the screen, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." I felt like I was going to start hyperventilating, or maybe my arms, legs, and head were about to fly off my body. In a good way.
I named my son Luke and I'm not Catholic. My first words when they handed him to me in the hospital were, "Luke, I am your father." The nurse looked at me like they wanted to take him away from me. True story.
I had the opportunity to go to Skywalker Ranch a few years ago. It's the production base for Lucasfilmcq. . . . Ever since, I typically wear a Star Wars shirt I bought there under my snowboard gear. It makes me feel like a snow warrior. The film makes you believe anyone can rule the universe if they just have the right tools (like a lightsaber or a cool T-shirt).
I remember standing in a line at this theater in my town [outside Manhattan], the Lafayette Theater. We lined up around the block. I [was] blown away by the spectacle of it, asking my father if the storm troopers were hurt when they got shot, who is R2-D2 . . . wondering how light sabers work. . . . Why is it cool now? It's like reliving childhood. . . . It's one of the few ways you can channel being a little kid.
I remember seeing the first Star Wars on vacation on Long Beach Island, just before my 10th birthday. It was amazing - the music, the special effects, the characters, the battle of good vs. evil . . .. That sound that the Millennium Falcon made when it went into warp speed was awesome! . . . I was a Luke Skywalker fan. I liked that he was serious . . . and he rose from humble beginnings to become one of the greatest Jedi fighters in the galaxy. Like an intergalactic Rocky!
I fell in love with Star Wars from the get-go [at age 11]. . . . It kind of inspired me to go into the engineering field. In the job I have now, we do Star Wars-types of activities.
[Weighty question about the new movie:] We were wondering why Chewbacca doesn't have any gray hair.
This is easily the most anticipated movie in the history of mankind. . . . I've never anticipated anything so much before, and I had a baby this month (whose name is Star Wars-inspired, I might add - Aayla)! . . . I've had my tickets for months. They're burning a hole in my pocket the size of the Death Star.
I was in my teens when the first Star Wars came out. As a young trumpeter, I was blown away by the fabulous orchestral score. At that moment, I became a fan of John Williams. During the "Star Wars in Concert" world tour, I conducted his scores for the first six Star Wars films in more than 150 concerts. . . . Musicians, music lovers, neophytes, connoisseurs - they all loved the music!
The power of the music is the beautiful orchestrations combined with simple, catchy tunes that refer to the collective memory people share across cultures.
My first public Star Wars experience was sitting in the theater - if memory serves, it was the Boyd - with my 7-year-old son, Jonathan [now a cinematographer and TV director], holding his hand and laughing aloud. My first private experience with the series was shooting the "speeder bike" plates for Return of the Jedi.
[Favorite line:] "These are not the droids you're looking for."