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Star Wars Memories
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
Like a lot of kids born between the mid-1960s and early 1980s the original three Star Wars films were a big part of my youth. So, it was with an odd sense of "holy-crud that was a long time ago!" that I recently read that The Empire Strikes Back (1980), was released 30 years ago May 21.
Some may claim their first memory to be the birth of a sibling while others might say their first is playing with friends. I've always been a bit proud that my first memory is of seeing Star Wars (1977) in a theater.
Now, I'm not claiming to have seen the film when it was first released in 1977 since I would have still been too young to see a movie like that in the theater. So I'm guessing this memory is of when Star Wars was re-released in '78 or '79 leading up to the release of Empire in 1980. None-the-less, that first memory is a bit sketchy but it consists mainly of the robots C-3P0, R2D2 and the massive space battle that closes out the film.
Just as important as the films were to my youth was the plethora of available Star Wars merchandise that was available growing up. I remember the hundreds of different Star Wars toys, clothes, lunchboxes, cartoons, made-for-TV movies, bed-sheets, records, stickers and dozens and dozens more Star Wars items that if I didn't have, one of my friends did. In fact, I've managed to hang onto a few Star Wars toys from childhood that command a place of honor on my shelf of cool-stuff I keep in my office.
I have a few memories of the release of Empire but honestly don't remember seeing that movie in the theater — though my mom assures me that I did. I mostly remember things associated with the movie, like the follow-along records and toys. But I have vivid memories of when Return of the Jedi (1983) was released. I remember deep and seemingly extremely important conversing on the playground with a friend who had a tie-in book as we discussed what we had each heard was going to happen in the film and what new characters we could expect to see. I was most excited by the new Scout Troopers.
I even remember entering a contest for one of the local papers on drawing what we thought the face of Darth Vader might look like. The fact that I didn't win still irks me.
For the longest time Jedi was my favorite film of the three. I couldn't get enough of the grand scale of the movie, the battle at the end, and — yes — the Ewoks. Adult viewers might decry the Ewok as being far too cute and cuddly, but as an eight year old I loved the little guys and was very envious of a friend who had the whole collection of the Ewok figures along with the village playset.
As I got older I began to realize that Empire was the better of the three films. Though the original has a great, simple story and a pace that leads the viewer from the beginning to the end of the film in an elegant fashion and Jedi has special effects that were not only ground breaking at the time were still the envy of other filmmakers for nearly a decade after the release of the film, Empire is the better movie overall. There's more dramatic tension in Empire than the other two films combined with the main characters going through some serious trials and tribulations. What's most interesting with Empire is that creator George Lucas managed to make the introduction of new characters like Yoda, Lando Calrissian and Boba Fett feel natural and not at all forced. And though the story of Empire is much more serious in tone that either Star Wars or Jedi I don't know anyone who would argue that the film isn't a perfect fit in the trilogy.
Let's take a bet; with how successful 3-D films have been recently, how soon will all the Star Wars films warrant a re-re-re-release into theaters converted to 3D? Do you think it will be in 2011 or '12? My guess would be sooner than later.
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