>30 Years Ago

>Growing up, I loved “Star Wars.” It’s a sentiment that’s shared by a lot of people of my generation and rightly so. I saw the original entry during its first theatrical run–I think my mom and grandfather took me one summer when I was visiting Memphis. I recall loving it and being even more intrigued when I heard a sequel was coming out.

Back then, I didn’t know about theatrical runs, opening dates and all of that. I just knew that a new “Star Wars” movie was coming and that it was called “The Empire Strikes Back.” And I knew that I wanted to see it. And I did see it–several times during the summer of 1980. I’m not sure how many times I saw it, but it felt like a bunch. I’m fairly sure I saw it at least once with each set of grandparents and I also recall when the movie finally arrived at the base theater, going with friends and waiting in a huge line to get in. The base theater showing was memorable because I remember when the huge yellow “Star Wars” logo appeared on screen for the first time, the entire theater erupting in applause.

I clearly recall lots of debates with friends about the big revelation at the end of the movie–that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father. Whether this was accurate was something that divided my friends and I. I recall being firmly in the camp that Darth Vader couldn’t be Luke’s dad for a long period of time because he was a bad guy and bad guys lie.

It probably didn’t help that I had a copy of the soundtrack on vinyl and could listen to it a lot, trying to determine if Darth was telling the truth or not. I’d got the soundtrack the summer the movie came out, after I requested my parents buy me the “story” of the movie on record. I thought they’d get me the smaller record but instead they came back with an LP vinyl that was called “The Adventures of Luke Skywalker: The Empire Strikes Back.” It was music and dialogue lifted directly from the movie with some narration thrown to help you keep up with the story. And I think I might have worn out the record–I recall listening to it on my Granny’s stereo, with the fold out images from the movie there, helping my imagination run wild. It’s because of this record that I have large, unusual chunks of the movie memorized like the totally random line, “Lando’s not a system, he’s a man….”
I found an image of the record cover on-line and it’s pretty cool. I wish I still had it because the cover art work is pretty cool. If you want to check out the interior with the panels, you can HERE.

Now here it is 30 years later. And I still love this movie. To my seven year old mind, nothing was better than “Star Wars,” but as the years have gone by, that opinion has changed. “Empire” is my favorite of not only the original trilogy but also the entire saga. I’ll even be bold enough that outside of “Star Trek II” it’s the best sequel ever made…even better than “Godfather, Part II,” which is held up by many as the greatest sequel of all time. Sure, it’s a good movie, but it’s really long and while both have character development, “Empire” has epic space battles. And that cool battle on Hoth.

And now, the movie is 30 years old.

As I was re-watching the movie again a few weeks ago, I was, once again caught up in the breathless excitement of watching it all unfold the first time. No, I can’t ever replace one of the biggest twists in all of movie history (I often wonder if they’d have been able to keep the Darth Vader revelation under wraps today), but there’s still so much in there that I enjoy it every time. Like all the great movies, it’s one that almost immediately after I’m done watching it, I want to start over and watch it all over again. (Especially the asteroid chase sequence).

In short, “Empire” is one of the most close to perfect movie experiences I know. Yes, as I watch I wonder about the time frame for the movie since it appears Luke spends weeks or months on Degobah while Leia, Han and company are on the run for only a few hours or days. And exactly why Luke is able to escape from Hoth by flying around to the other side of the planet makes little or no sense….

But that still doesn’t take away from my love of this movie. And my joining the world-wide celebration of one of the greatest movies of my generation and all-time.

And, yes, I do feel old, knowing I saw this one in theaters during its initial run. But my fond memories of it and all the cool toys I collected related to the movie more than make up for it.

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