By Hal Hickey
On Thursday night at 10pm, I attended opening night in a packed theatre to witness a movie I thought would never be made, Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens.
After Episode III, George Lucas declared he would never make the last three episodes in the storyline as the life commitment to do so, was just too much. After my somewhat disappointment with Episodes I, II and III, I thought that was the end of this storied franchise. The first three episodes in the Star Wars timeline, while beautiful to look at, were saddled with corny dialogue, mediocre acting and a weak storyline. They never matched the pure thrill of the first three episodes, IV, V and VI, which still hold up today in every way imaginable.
Thankfully we had great stories over the years in the comic books, novels and action figures to imagine with and keep the Star Wars universe alive.
But then the news that Disney had set George Lucas up in his retirement by purchasing Lucasfilm and all of it’s properties, including Star Wars, the most popular movie franchise of all time. All of a sudden episodes VII, VIII and IX were on…Wow!
So, sitting in a sold out theatre last night, 3D glasses in hand, while 20 minutes of advertisements played, I realized how fortunate I am that I was going to watch a seventh movie in the Star Wars franchise, each one in it’s opening week.
I have seen episodes IV, V and VI at least 20 times each and tolerated Episodes I, II and III a couple of times. Now with the promise of JJ Abrams to take us back to the franchise roots, I waited. The movie begins as every other Star Wars movie and then…
Something seems eerily familiar…No, not the original cast which was to come at various times in the movie, but that first set, the theme, that feeling of something gone before…I shook it off. The feeling came back shortly after, and again, and again. I didn’t know what was happening. Meanwhile this new story was unfolding before me, with building tension, strangely familiar, but not, simultaneously. It was riveting, tense and exhausting all at the same time. The sold out audience seemed not to breathe but for sparely scattered moments of cheeky and clever dialogue that allowed us collectively, to momentarily catch our breath.
The seemingly familiar nagged at my subconscious while the story, acting and dialogue sucked me in completely. The whole movie seemed like it lasted a mere 25 minutes instead of the 2 hours and 16 minutes runtime. When it ended, I sat back in my seat exhausted and silent while the credits rolled by. I pondered, what did I just experience? It was at once exciting, new, tragic, sad and exhilarating all at the same time, but the feeling of sameness crept back in.
This morning I woke up and it hit me. Genius!! JJ Abrams paid homage to all six of the previous Star Wars movies by capturing the mood and key scenes from each, all interwoven in a new story. I haven’t been able to shake the memory of the experience all day. What a treat and gift for all Star Wars fans. Thank you!