Friday, May 20, 2005

"Episode III" marks the end of a long journey

When "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" opened across the country at midnight Thursday, it marked the end of a 30-year journey for filmmaker George Lucas. It also marked the end of an almost as long journey for me.

To this day, I remember the first time I saw the words, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …" on the theater screen. It was 1977, and I was a 5-year-old, sitting in the old Rose Theatre in Bastrop, back when it was a movie theater. It may or may not have been the first movie I saw in the theater, but it was certainly the first movie that I remember seeing.

I was captivated by the Star Wars mythology. I had the books, the toys, everything I could talk my parents and grandparents into getting for me.

I remember a few years later when "The Empire Strikes Back" hit theaters. I was disappointed when my family arrived at the old Twin City Mall theater to find the line stretching back around the corner of Montgomery Ward. I didn't get to see the movie that day, but I did eventually get to see it when the line shortened.

I remember fondly my father grumbling about the cost when we saw "Return of the Jedi" at Twin City Mall. With popcorn, it cost about $25 for my mom, dad, myself and my brother to see the movie. By today's standards, that seems like one heck of a deal.

At the age of 32, "Star Wars" still has a hold on me. In my office at home, you'll find a light saber (a plastic one unfortunately, but a real one is still on my all-time wish list as soon as it's invented), a number of Star Wars action figures and a photo of me in full Darth Maul regalia during Halloween 1999. (That's not a rubber mask either; it's full makeup.)

I relived the wonder of the series in 1997 when I introduced my wife to the movies. Despite having been around me for quite a few years at that point, she had never seen the movies. It was almost as much fun watching her discover the secrets of the movies as it was watching them again myself. Her reaction even lessened my grumbling about the changes Lucas had made in the movies.

I look forward to that experience again in a few years with my son, and I hope he one day gets to see all six movies on the big screen. (And to answer your next question, yes I did like "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones." Perhaps not as much as the others, but I did like them.)

Over the years, rumors have swirled about "Star Wars" possibly being a nine-movie series. Lucas has been adamant in saying he thinks "Star Wars" is the story of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. It's now been fully told, so he insists he's done. But even he has hedged his bets a bit in recent interviews.

While I'd love to see a few more "Star Wars" movies in the future, I'm more than happy with the six I have. The closing chapter in the "Star Wars" saga arrives at an appropriate time for me, as a new chapter is opening in my own life. Here's looking forward to the next chapter.

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