The Force will be with you… always

31-Jan-07 11:56 AM by
Filed under Star Wars; 4 comments.

Up until ten years ago today, I, along with my friends Peter, Pelun, and our entire generation, had experienced Star Wars the only way it'd been possible: on the TV screen.

But if we'd only seen it that way, we hadn't seen it at all — not until Friday, January 31st, 1997, at 10:20 PM EST, when we witnessed the premiere of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope: Special Edition.

Despite the original trilogy being constantly rerun on TV, I'd seen it in its entirety only once. It was one night when the house was empty that I rented them on VHS, determined to complete this gap in my cultural education. Even that isolated viewing was many years before their cinematic re-release, so seeing them on the silver screen was all the more energizing. Not just because it was a new experience, but because it was a common, shared experience. Fans wrapped around the block waiting for tickets. Jedi Knights (or padawans) numbered among the throngs. Lightsabers and blasters were wielded throughout the lobby. The seats were packed for a film that would excite in both its familiarity and originality. And we all collectively mocked the petulant Skywalker when he bemoaned his unfulfilled intention to visit Toshi Station.

You don't create a memory like that from popping a DVD into your home entertainment system. It's true that movie theaters are expensive, as are their concessions, and that the theaters are often populated with babies, cell phones, and other noisy inconsiderations. But films themselves are a vehicle of social interaction. Each year that I taught a film studies course, I opened the first day of class by explaining to my students that the movies they were about to watch were a venue through which people of diverse eras and geographies could relate by sharing common experiences. Nowhere is that goal better achieved than in the communal consumption of film.

(more…)