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Thursday, May 19, 2005

May The Force Be With You

". . . And Also With You." (okay, the response is derived from combining my Catholic upbringing with a love for science fiction, but I've always suspected George Lucas losely based "The Force" on the Holy Spirit)

With the release of the final movie in the Star Wars series, Revenge of the Sith in theatres, I'm reminded of seeing the original film for the first time. It was 1977 - my parents and I were visiting family friends in Toronto and I went with my Dad, my Uncle Jack and Cousin Lisa. (Okay, so Jack and Lisa aren't actually relatives, but such close friends of my parents that I always thought of and addressed them this way). That afternoon my Dad was running through a list of potential movies to see. I seem to remember something like Smokey and The Bandit was one of the choices.

When I asked my Dad what Star Wars was about, he said something along the lines of shooting bad guys out of the sky. Since most of my exposure to "bad guys" at the time was in the many Westerns I'd watched with my father over the years, I briefly imagined a bunch of cowboys in black hats floating in the air like some carnival duck gallery and the good guys shooting up at them and knocking them out of the sky. (I didn't bother to imagine them in planes or anything, just hanging there in the sky - perhaps an early indication of my leaning towards speculative literature?)

Little did I know what I was in for, of course. I can remember waiting in this huge line on a downtown Toronto street (no idea, of course, where it was), and bumping into some of Lisa's friends who had already seen the movie (I think they were coming out of an earlier screening of it) and telling us how awesome it was. I was, of course, blown away when I saw it. Other lingering memories of that night are going to a restaurant after the movie and sitting across from my cousin Lisa and watching her eat soup. I remember it as being the first time I recognized that, although it appeared her eyes were closed from my perspective, she was actually looking down at her food as she sipped. Funny that I remember that, but I recall trying to do the same thing, half closing my eyelids and wondering if it looked to others like my eyes were closed; because the next thing I knew, I had fallen asleep at the table.

Back then, movies tended to release in Toronto several months before they appeared in Sudbury theatres. So I saw this movie well in advance of my friends and that part of the experience wasn't fun at all. When I was excited about seeing the movie, there were no buddies back home to share that with. And when they saw the movie and got excited, I was already excited about other things. I know I wasn't imagining this trend in delayed movies releases, because even in the 90's when I was in University in Ottawa and my buddy John Ellis was at Lakehead in Thunder Bay (much farther north and west than Sudbury), John explained that movies opened several weeks, and sometimes months after they were released in places like Toronto, Ottawa and Sudbury.

Other fun Star Wars memories include going to Sudbury to see The Empire Strikes Back with Todd and Richard Brown, some friends from Levack, and laying on the floor in the front row, terrified whenever Darth Vader came on the screen, and giggling excitedly as our young hearts pounded madly whenever our main love interest, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia was present. I didn't see Return of the Jedi in theatres, but rented the VHS, where my infatuation for Princess Leia grew even more - a natural combination of teen hormones and that unforgettable gold costume she wore. Francine bought me the box set of the three movies on WHS when we were living in Ottawa, which we enjoyed together and we did go together to see Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Of course, my crush on Natalie Portman as Leia's mother, Padme is present today (though not throbbing with teenage hormones like it was with Leia), but my fear of Darth Vader is as strong as ever. Lucas has created such a recognizable icon of evil which has lingered in my imagination for decades, (right up there with F.W. Mernau's beautifully eerie images of Nosferatu), that I have to stand in awe.

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