The Empire Strikes Back…30 years ago…

30 years.

Three decades.

Man, do I feel old.

Many of you weren’t even born in 1980.  That is a scary thought.  Me, I was 6 years old and a Star Wars fanatic from the first moment I saw the opening scene of the original movie.  My generation didn’t play cowboys-and-indians, or soldiers on a battlefield…we were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and the rest of the characters from “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away“…

I begged and pleaded to go see Empire on its opening weekend.  My parents were never the type to go see many movies, let alone movies on opening weekends.  It was unheard of in my household.  But after months of simply annoying my parents to the breaking point, they agreed…as long as I promised to shut up.

I actually went to see it on Sunday…and purposely ignored all of my friends on Saturday, knowing they would leak the story to me.  I was ‘in the bunker’, as we now say…incommunicado.

The opening minutes of Empire simply astounded me.  In the original Star Wars, George Lucas created a barren starscape on which the epic war was taking place.  But now, we were seeing new environments:  the ice planet of Hoth, the jungle planet of Dagobah, the cloud city of Bespin.  Lucas was filling the Star Wars universe with character, feel, and background.  He was building his own little universe.

And new characters!  Lando Calrissian (hey, a cool non-White Guy in space!), our first view of the Emperor…and of course, the beloved Jedi Master Yoda.  Even with the limited technology of the time, Lucas was able to bring Yoda to life…simply with Jim Henson-developed muppet gear.  Incredible.

Then, what many of us had been dreaming of.  The lightsaber battle between our ultimate hero, Luke Skywalker and the face of evil, Darth Vader.  It was everything we had dreamed about for three years.

And of course, the amazing and shocking ending.  One of the most misquoted lines in movie history, as James Earl Jones never uttered the words, “Luke, I am your father.”  But the shocking truth (that I would deny to myself until Return of the Jedi proved it as a fact…) was what left viewers with their jaws dropping.

I know, I know….George Lucas destroyed your childhood with the prequels.  He is evil incarnate.  I generally agree the prequels were bad…though I am less harsh than many, who were ready to lynch Lucas for is blasphemy.  And I still wish Lucas would allow someone else to take over the helm of the Star Wars franchise…he clearly doesn’t have the touch anymore, and hasn’t for a long time.  But those are simply unachievable dreams.

But set apart, the original trilogy is a masterpiece.  I still watch the original trilogy every year or so, at least once, just to remind myself what it is like.  My four year old, more than three decades after the original was made, is enthralled and fascinated by these characters and the story line.  How many movies can you name that envelope you three decades later?  I can really think of none whatsoever.

My son has only really watched the original Star Wars (I did show him The Phantom Menace when he was 2, but figured he would like Jar Jar because that is about the level of maturity it takes to enjoy that movie…)…but I haven’t shown him Empire yet.  I wanted him to be able to understand the enormity of the final scenes.  Maybe he is old enough now.

Maybe this weekend…a fitting end to the circle.