A Long Time Ago…
I remember buying Marvel’s adaptation of Star Wars prior to the movie opening but didn’t think much of it. They were pumping out so many adaptations and this one was of a film we hadn’t seen yet. I was there because Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin had produced work I enjoyed.
While Arts & Leisure editor at Pipe Dream, I had received a glossy brochure from 20th Century-Fox that had great images from the movie, piquing my interest. We had ended production for the school year so there wasn’t much I could do with it other than bring it home as a cool keepsake.
My best friend Jeff and I were determined to see the film when it opened that May, but some circumstance thwarted the effort. Instead, I watched the 10 p.m. news for the reviews, which showed clips from the first Millennium Falcon dogfight and I thought it looked great. I saw the same clip on a different network’s 11 p.m. news and knew from their praise this was going to be good.
The following evening, a Thursday night no less, there were lines to see this at Mid-Island Plaza (now the Broadway Mall in Hicksville, NY). I hadn’t seen a trailer, hadn’t read too much in Starlog (their sellout issue #7 had yet to be released), and walked in not really knowing what to expect.
But, the moment there was the crawl and the music, I was immediately taken to another place, far, far away. Growing up a child of the 1960s, I was practically raised on the television airings of the classic movie serials from the early Phantom Empire to Buck Rogers and all three Flash Gordons. I loved the space opera and each had the episodic crawl to fill in eager audiences.
The movie looked unlike any science fiction film of its era. Prior to its opening, there were lots of dystopian films from Planet of the Apes to Logan’s Run. Nothing optimistic or fun, nothing to recapture that thrilling sense of wonder that first attracted so many of us to science fiction.
The story was clear cut, with interesting androids, spaceships, battles, and races. It was the classic good versus evil story where the bad guy wore black and the youngster had to grow into his destiny. Yes, it followed the Joseph Campbell template but at 18, I didn’t know that yet. All I knew was that I was entertained.
And I went back again and again, a rare instance then and now. It held up nicely each time and became a communal experience. I had a chance to think back to those days when The Boston Globe interviewed me as part of their generational look at The Force Awakens.
Tonight, I will walk into the Senator Theater and take my seat with Deb, my daughter, and son-in-law. I know a lot more about this one than I did in 1977, but I haven’t felt this sense of excitement and anticipation for a film in a long time.
Say what you will about George Lucas as a filmmaker and storyteller, but he has my thanks for giving us a new hope in film and in science fiction. Its groundbreaking effects and return to classic storytelling devices opened the doors for so much that has followed.