The journey comes to a (Temporary) end
1982-We had returned from North Wales and had made Kent our new home. the love affair with the welsh countryside had come to an end,mainly due to the lack of work in Wales at the time. Again,we loaded up the moving van and made the 6 hour trek back down to the “Big smoke”. I was fast approaching hitting my teenage years (HELP!) and my outlook on life was changing. However, my love of Star Wars was just as strong if not stronger than ever.
By this time I already knew the new films title, Revenge of the Jedi. I should have seen the title as being wrong from the start but my excitement kind of blinded me to this fact. Still, it was now September 1982 and I knew the new film was coming out in 1983 and again was so close I could almost touch it. Luckily for me, we moved to a town where there was a cinema about 10 minutes walk from my home. So I had no worries of not getting in to see the new film. In fact, on my first visit to the cinema in the town, they had the classic teaser poster proudly up, giving me the now familiar goosebumps on setting my eyes on it.
1982 gave way to 1983 and my first thought of this new year? Star Wars is just a few months away! The children at my new school were talking about it and were as excited for it as I was. People were coming out with outlandish statements about what was going to be in the film and how they had read that every one of the beloved characters were going to die in the film. I ignored these people. There always has to be some out there who wanted to spoil everyone’s enjoyment of the film. I made sure I didn’t listen to any of these rumours or spoilers the national press were reporting on the film. I wanted to see it clean and without the big reveal being spoiled for me, was Darth Vader REALLY Luke’s father? I wanted to know, but not until the film came out and I saw it for myself with an audience.
I went to the cinema on my own one Saturday afternoon to see some film I can barely remember now. Sitting in my seat with around 8 other people waiting for the programme to start, I was planning on seeing the film and then going home and watch T.V. with my family like every Saturday night, good old fashioned family time. When the lights went down, I settled in to watch the usual trailers and then the film. Of course, they showed the new Star Wars trailer. I was hooked. It was my first time seeing ANY footage of the new film and was over the moon. Then the bombshell hit….
It was called RETURN of the Jedi and not Revenge as the posters had stated. I was amazed. I had already seen merchandise with the Revenge of the Jedi logo on the package. Why did they change the title now so close to release? The fact that the new title suited the film more didn’t register at the time. I was just confused the title had changed, but was ecstatic that I had seen my first footage of the film. Afterwards, I ran home to tell my brother, Phil about the trailer I saw. He was as excited as me that the film was coming and was amazed at my description of the footage I had seen. I told my parents about it that night and was astounded when my father suggested that we book up to see the film in LONDON!
Are you kidding me? London! The best screens, the best sound, the real deal. I slept badly that night as I was exhilarated that we would be going uptown to see the movie. And when I found out what Cinema we would be going to when the film came out, it got worse. The film was scheduled to open at The Dominion, Tottenham Court Road, the biggest screen in the entire country. The screen curved around and was outstanding. Think IMAX, but on a much larger scale. It was the best thing my parents could have done.
The months went past and then, FINALLY, the day was here. We would be seeing Return of the Jedi that evening. My brother and I were so excited. We were so close to seeing the “Final” Star Wars film! Of course, there would be others later that no one knew about at that time, but to me, this was it! This was the final chapter of the greatest movie series in history.
It was going to be an emotional time, on one hand I would get to see what finally would happen to my heroes and get the answer to the question that was burning in my mind and millions of others since 1980. On the other, this was it, the end. Star Wars was ending. I knew I would end up in tears by the end of the film. I just hoped that it would again be an enjoyable ride and the series went out on a high.
Then the unthinkable happened. My brother decided to run out of the house and go face first into a hedge trimmer my father was carrying, smashing his teeth in and his mouth pouring of blood. It was a hospital trip for him, no doubt about that. He was rushed up to the local accident and emergency department of the nearest hospital and got himself stitched up and cleaned up. This took time and the unfortunately the time to get up to London and into the film was quickly ticking away. Of course, Phil was more important than seeing the film, but we were both worried we wouldn’t make it. Amazingly, he managed to convince my parents that seeing Star Wars would make him feel better and he wanted to go. It was a rush to get ready and to get the train up to London in time to see the film, but to my amazement, we made it.
We entered into the screen and immediately, I was stunned at the size of the screen I would soon be seeing Jedi on. It was MASSIVE! I couldn’t wait for the film to start and to see it on this huge screen right in front of me. We found our seats and as soon as Phil and I were seated, I turned to him and said “Are you ready for this? Do you think the screen is big enough to see Star Wars on?” to which the reply was “Of course I’m ready! Are you stupid?”.
The trailers were mixed in alongside the normal adverts in this cinema. I watched as trailers for upcoming films Superman III, Wargames and Octopussy were shown in between adverts for Coca-Cola, Cars and other things. Finally, the house lights went down and the film geared up to start.
I’ve never seen a Star Wars film in such a way ever since that night. The sound was astounding, the fanfare blared out all around the audience, the film had to be seen from one side of the cinema to another. It was an experience that can not and probably will not ever be repeated. I state now it was the best Star Wars film I’ve ever seen at the cinema and that includes the IMAX screenings I now regularly attend. It was an experience that will always stick in my mind.
The roar of the T.I.E. Fighters accompanying Vader’s shuttle, the reveal of Leia as the bounty hunter, Boussh,the return of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo,the sail barge battle over the Sarlaac pit, the death of Boba Fett (VERY POOR,GEORGE!), the Emperor’s entrance, the death of Yoda (Yes, I cried) and the answer we fans had been waiting three years for, the Speeder bike chase, the Ewoks, Luke’s surrender to Vader, the battle of Endor, the 2nd Death Star assault…
All of these moments assaulted my senses and I loved every minute of it.
Then Luke and Vader began their epic Lightsaber battle. This time, Luke held the upper hand from the start. Vader may have been trying not to destroy his son but Luke had already made his decision. He had to stop Vader once and for all, even if it meant killing his father. He would try and save him and restore him to the light, but if he failed, he would destroy him.
I remember sitting in my seat transfixed as Vader baited Luke with the statement of trying to coax his sister to the dark side. I never expected Luke to make the final turn he did. He came at Vader with pure unconcealed hatred and anger that I thought he would kill him and become the Emperor’s new right hand. Vader was the all powerful Sith, he couldn’t be beaten by his own son surely? But Luke’s power was now greater than his fathers and Vader succumbed to his son’s vicious attack, losing his robotic hand in the process and yielding at his sons feet.
The whole audience was cheering as Vader was finally beaten. All of us were on tenterhooks as we waited to see what Luke was going to do. The Emperor’s goading looked like it would sway Luke to embrace the dark side,we all sat and waited. When Luke looked at his own mechanical hand and stared down at the remnants of his fathers and realised he was on the same path his father had trodden for years, we breathed a sigh of relief as he threw his weapon down and confronted the Emperor, stating he was a Jedi, like his father before him.
We sat shocked as Palpatine violently attacked Luke with force lightening with the intention to kill him. We saw Vader rise to his feet and watch his son writhe in agony, saw him look at his master, then his son and then finally back to his master again before making his final decision…grabbing the Emperor and throwing him down a shaft to his death while also being assaulted by force lightening at close range that caused irreversible damage to him.
We saw Luke pull him into his arms afterwards. We all sat silently as Vader told his son to remove his mask, knowing that the greatest villain in cinema history was dying in front of our eyes. I admit both my brother and I were in tears as the helmet was removed and Anakin Skywalker was finally revealed to us. This wasn’t a monster inside the suit, it was a man, a human being, a flawed human being at that, but a man nonetheless.
This was a story about family and human frailty all wrapped up in a sprawling space opera. Anakin saving of his son was a sacrifice any father would make. This was indeed the RETURN of the Jedi as the title referred to. Finally, we watched with tears in our eyes as Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker, father of both Luke and Leia and the most feared man in the galaxy, die.
We cheered as Wedge and Lando destroyed the power regulator and started the chain reaction that would destroy the 2nd Death Star, We held our breath as the Millennium Falcon raced to outrun the fire wave behind it in its attempt to flee before the Death Star exploded. We roared our approval as the Falcon made it out in time as behind it,The Death Star went up in a glorious explosion,ending the Empire finally and giving the Rebellion their victory. We sat in silence again as Luke lit his father’s funeral pyre and watched as Darth Vader went up in flames. We enjoyed seeing the celebrations on Endor as our heroes rejoined each other. We saw Obi Wan, Yoda and Anakin as force ghosts appearing before Luke. And finally we clapped and cheered as the film ended, signalling what we thought was the end of the Star Wars saga. To me, the greatest saga in cinema history had now passed into legend. It was an honour to have been around when it was. My sadness at the end of the saga was balanced with the joy of having been part of the universe from the start.
Of course, we now have SEVEN films in the saga and an 8th on the way this year with a 9th due in 2019. If we had known that back in 1983, maybe we wouldn’t have flocked to the cinemas to see Jedi. However, somehow, I think we would still be packed in to the cinemas watching it. It is like a rite of passage, when and where did you see your first Star Wars film? Who did you go with? Did you enjoy it? Have you bought any of the merchandise?
When The Phantom Menace opened in 1999, I was at the very first screening with Phil,who had queued up for over 16 hours, months earlier to get the tickets. We both cheered as the Fanfare exploded. However, even though we enjoyed it, it didn’t feel the same way as back in 1983. Maybe it was because we were now 16 years older and adults. Maybe it was because it didn’t have the same heart as the previous trilogy. It doesn’t matter in reality. Phil and I love all things Star Wars and love ALL the films. Of course, we have our favourites and our least enjoyable bits, but that’s in all of us. We can’t all like the same things, that’s human nature. I still get excited when a new film comes out and love the anticipation of it.
I will write about the prequel trilogy sometime in the future as well as Episodes 7 and 8. I look forward to sharing my feelings and experiences with you all and I’d love to hear your own recollections of seeing a Star Wars film on the big screen. As an adult, things feel different now, but part of me yearns for those days long gone when the anticipation of seeing a new Star Wars film overwhelmed me. But even though those days are forever in the past, I still enjoy my trips to a galaxy far, far away.
Until we meet again….
May the force be with you….always!