12 years ago to the day, I was a Sophomore in High School and absolutely dying with anticipation. After months of count-down, my best friend Madeleine and I were finally going to see Return of the King. My dad picked us up after school and drove us to the AMC Southdale in Edina for the 3:45 showing. I remember so crisply racing down the hall to the theater. When we got our seats, I went to use the bathroom and passed the 3 o clock showing and caught a whiff of Howard Shore’s magical score and I was buzzing. Just beside myself with excitement.
Lord of the Rings was kind of my Star Wars, even though Star Wars is my Star Wars.
I was exactly the right age when the original Star Wars trilogy was re-released in theaters for the 20 year anniversary (holy shit. 20 years? And now it’s nearly 40 years old). I was the same age that a lot of Gen-Xers were when they first saw it in 1977. Star Wars was probably my first favorite movie. I barely remember how I watched it, or what it was like, but I got the video box set for Christmas (and my copy of Empire Strikes Back was damaged, but we were unable to make an exchange because Lucasfilm had already obliterated the original cuts from history and the Special Edition VHS were now all that was available. I wouldn’t see the movie again until 2005!). One thing that separates me from the Gen-Xers though is probably my lack of real disdain for The Phantom Menace. It came out when I was 11! Prime demo for the silliness and nonsense and garbage CGI. I didn’t know better. Even now, I watched it again a few weeks ago, and I still have the tiniest soft spot in my heart for it. I didn’t see Attack of the Clones until it was well out of theaters. I was 16, and I really hated it.
I wonder what makes us hold on so dearly to Star Wars as adults. I also wonder if you saw Star Wars for the first time as an adult, would it be as great? I’m saying no. One of the things I discovered about myself recently is that I find it hard to hang onto cozy or special moments while they’re happening, but I always miss them when they’re gone. Why don’t things feel as tangible and special to me anymore? Because I’m not a kid anymore, and I can never get that back. 10-15 years ago, I would be counting down the seconds to Christmas, instead of caught off guard by how quickly it’s approaching (I still have so many gifts to buy! I have to send out cards!).
It reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode “Walking Distance,” in which a man finds himself going back in time and seeing his younger self play and revel in the summer time. It’s the most profound Twilight Zone episode I’ve ever watched, and I find it difficult to think about, because of how close it hits to home.
Martin Sloan, age thirty-six, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives – trying to go home again. And also like all men perhaps there’ll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he’ll look up from what he’s doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past.
Interesting piece of trivia: This episode happens to also be a favorite of JJ Abrams. And that brings us to The Force Awakens, which I’m seeing tonight, and I’ve done an alright job of sitting back and letting it take its time in coming. I mean, I never asked for another Star Wars. However I think the hype and anticipation is more exciting than the movie will be. It feels like being a kid again. Knowing that something is coming that I haven’t experienced yet. That’s a feeling I so rarely get to feel anymore. However good the movie ends up being, I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling a little more empty, knowing that that anticipation is now gone.
I wish I could go back in time sometimes, and just be more present in my body, and look around and remember everything I can. That’s why I’m grateful for the medium of film, that I’ll always have this little thing that’s stuck in time and will always be the same (except for Star Wars which we’ll probably never see in its original form again — I can barely remember it). We might have a slightly unhealthy obsession with nostalgia, but it’s how we connect with our younger selves… Back when we were more optimistic, more raw, more impressionable. Every December 17 I take a minute to remember that afternoon, which is the least I can do for my younger self, to keep a memory alive of when I was so emotionally present and seeing my favorite movie franchise come to a close.
Tonight I look forward to a new beginning.