A few weeks ago, my oldest son and I drove to the movie theater and bought our tickets for today. As we walked into the theater together, he said to me, “I’ve been waiting for this for half my life.” I looked down at him and smiled. As we walked to the ticket booth, I remembered the first time that I had taken him to the theater. Back when he was three and a half, I took him to the theater to watch Toy Story 3. I admit that I shed some tears at the end of the movie as Andy gave his toys away to the little girl, a sign that he was growing up.
Today, I get to share something with him and his brother that I never ever thought I would get to share with them: we all get to see Star Wars together in the theater. Not the original trilogy that came out when I was only four years old. Not the prequel trilogy that I saw in the theater 16 years ago with my wife (girlfriend at the time). This is different though, a new director, a new trilogy, a new generation experiencing Star Wars afresh and anew.
Is it all hype? Will it be a downer? From the first wave of reviews coming through social media and news outlets, it’s not disappointing too many people (there’s always at least that one). Still, you don’t want to get too excited, do you?
When moments like these come in life, moments that feel bigger than maybe they should, it’s hard to take it all in. You try to remember every look, every feeling, every moment as it passes by. When it’s over, you want to roll the tape back and experience it again because you forgot to capture something, but you know you can’t.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….
A little boy went to see “The Empire Strikes Back” in the movie theater with his mom and his brother. That same little boy would ask for Star Wars figures as rewards for good report cards. That same little boy would collect all the trading cards, would read all the comics, would play with all the figures. That same little boy went to the theater again a few years later when “Return of the Jedi” came out. I didn’t experience any of these films with my dad. He was around, but that just wasn’t his thing.
The hype built up as the time came for the prequels. I bought into it and remembered back to all of my old figures, more than gently used, sitting in a case somewhere. I went to the store and bought the new figures, I left them in their packages, I hung them on my walls.
Now those figures lie in boxes in the garage, still unopened in their packages. The books lie on the shelves. The movies have been purchased, first on VHS, then on DVD, then in special editions, then in anniversary editions, and finally in HD (high definition). They’ve been watched and watched and watched again and today, the generation that has seen it all from afar will finally get to experience a movie first in the Star Wars universe. They’ve seen Disney take over the franchise, they’ve seen it all cartoonized, they’ve seen it LEGO-ized, they’ve seen it Disney-ized.
By the end of this day, I’ll either be waiting for the moment that I get in line again for a second viewing of this film, calculating just when I think the movie will be released to Blu Ray, and smiling at what I experienced. Or else, I’ll realize that it was just hype, but I’m having a hard time thinking that’s going to happen.
We’ve gone into this Christmas season with expectation of what we’re really celebrating, but also expectation of what this day will hold. There’s no “Elf on the Shelf” in our house, there’s a “Tinsel Trooper” whose Star Wars themed antics have at least garnered the attention of two little boys, captured by the wonder of this cultural phenomenon that’s been around for nearly as long as their dad has. When they wake up, this is what they will see that their beloved Tinsel Trooper has been up to, and when they lay their heads on their pillows tonight, instead of sugar plums and presents, they’ll be dreaming of a galaxy far, far away and wondering when they can escape to it once again.