THE FORCE AWAKENS finally late Thursday night, December 17, 2015 and the Disney era of the STAR WARS phenomenon officially begins. I find it so fascinating in my late 40s to watch the clamor build toward this film premiere because I have strong memories of the original and all that followed. My interest lays equally in my desire to see where the story goes and my rubber-necking the global crowd chorus surrounding this monumental debut.
There are plenty of resources out there that can recount in minute detail every step of the production of the original STAR WARS and the succeeding films, cartoons, novels, and…yes, one stupefyingly horrible television holiday special. I want to focus specifically on my memories, as best and as accurately as I can be at this point, of the original STAR WARS. I will leave it to others to discuss the colossal impact of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and how that last-minute second-draft exclusion of Luke’s father and inclusion of a new revelation about his father is the “Big Bang” moment where the phenomenon of the STAR WARS universe actually began. I want to focus on this stand-alone movie that cookbooked itself along the structural path of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” monomyth and was a nostalgic attempt itself by George Lucas to capture the feelings he had as a child watching FLASH GORDON serials at the movie theater. He wanted to reproduce that feeling for modern children. It was also his attempt at upgrading science-fiction adventure film effects to a degree never seen before. And maybe more than anything else, Lucas recognized the importance of sound in the experience than anyone before him. Those of us who do have visceral memories of sitting down to see STAR WARS in the theater for the very first time will understand. From the bombastic John Williams score to the rumble of a seemingly endless giant space ship coming into view for the first time to Darth Vader’s wheezing and threatening voice to the hum of the light sabers and the “pew-pew” of the laser blasters (something that has now replaced “bang-bang” in the childhood playground lexicon). Lucas created more than just a movie, he created an experience—and with EMPIRE he gave birth to a phenomenon that has grown to maturity and moved on without him. And by all accounts—if the current 9.5 out of 10 rating on IMDB is any indication—has surpassed him with the advent of THE FORCE AWAKENS.