I’m a bad geek. Somehow I was not aware that May 4th is considered Star Wars Day. It wasn’t until Leslie Poston IMed me to wish me a happy Star Wars Day that I was even aware of it, and even then we couldn’t figure out why it was today. The biggest day of the year to Star Wars fans is May 25th, the anniversary of the first film being released in 1977. Finally someone let us in on the May the Force be with you/May the Fourth be with you joke, and we finally got it.
It’s hard to believe I have lived for 32 years with this film and its subsequent sequels and prequels. I can easily say the night I saw it in September 1977 (yes, I didn’t see it for four months) changed my life. I can remember sitting outside the theater with my parents as we waited to get in, and even with four months of showings out of the way, we still didn’t get in until the midnight showing. To entertain his 6-year-old son, my father went into the theater and bought a program book, which I still have, to let me flip through while we waited. I was immediately enraptured with the imagery of the film, and was all that more anxious to get inside and see what it held for me.
As my mother tells the story, she knew she was in trouble when she looked over at my father and I, and we were both sitting there through out the whole movie with our jaws dropped. There was something magical about what was on the screen, although I still can’t tell you exactly what it was. Sure, George Lucas just followed the ancient plot devices of the hero’s quest, but it didn’t matter… it was in space… with lightsabers! Who cared if we had seen the basic plotline before… IT HAD SWORDS MADE OF LIGHT!
I can easily say that night ended up setting the direction of my life for years to come. I know it was led me to opening a comic book store, and it is also what led me to being considered an expert in 1970’s and 1980’s action figures. (it also led me to owning a painting that George Lucas wants for his personal collection, but I got it legally and I’m not letting go of it! Sorry, George, you were too slow!) It was my “geek birth” if you would. It didn’t help that my uncle on my dad’s side somehow obtained a bootleg video cassette copy of the first movie in late 1977 (to this day I have no clue how he did that), and I watched it until it wore out. I would watch it as much as three times a day, to the point I knew ever line of dialog, and could even act out the saber fights. I stopped counting how many times I had seen the movie at 485 times, although I can assure you I have seen it several hundred times since.
I think for just about anyone who was a child during that time period, Star Wars holds a place in our hearts, bit if you ask any two fans, each of us will tell you it means something different to us. It resonated with each person in its own way, and while many people say The Empire Strikes Back was the best of all six films (it was from a filmmaking perspective), it just can’t take the place in my heart where I hold that first movie.
So, whatever Star Wars Day means to you, or whatever your love for the movies is… May the Fourth be with you.