“A LONG TIME AGO, IN A THEATER THIRTY-FIVE MILES AWAY”
by Rick Jones, Husband of the Minister's Wife
I have a bad memory. I'm pretty sure this problem started when I was a teenager, but I really can't recall. Sometimes it's actually a blessing, because it's harder to hold grudges against people if you don't remember what they did to you – or, for that matter, who they are.
I have a bad memory. Oh, wait, I told you that already, didn't I? But I do recall where I was on the afternoon of May 25, 1977. A buddy and me had driven to a theater 35 miles away to see a movie on its opening day. A film called “Star Wars”. I already knew the first half of the story. Marvel Comics had released the first three issues of their six issue adaptation of the movie before the premiere. If I had known how popular Star Wars would be, I'd still have those comics, and they'd be worth about $350 – not a bad payoff for the less than $2 cover price of all six together.
Star Wars has succeeded beyond even the dreams of its creator, George Lucas. And it started off with some loyal fans. The guy behind me in the ticket line said it was an excellent film. He'd seen it at a midnight show in Indianapolis, and was taking a break to see it again during his drive to Michigan. Then he'd finish his trip and join up with friends to watch it again that evening.
Italicized Divergence #1: Even though I have relocated several times since 1977, the town I now live in, like the one I lived in as a teen, is 35 miles from the theater where I first saw Star Wars.
Even though Star Wars premiered on May 25, many of its fans celebrate the Star Wars phenomenon three weeks earlier. Why? Just say out loud, “May the fourth”. Now say the Star Wars benediction, “May the Force be with you”. Now say, “May the fourth be with you”. As Jeff Foxworthy might put it, “if you can say that without feeling silly, you might be a Star Wars fan”.
Italicized Divergence #2: Another movie considered to be a science fiction classic, “Alien”, premiered exactly two years later, on May 25, 1979. And the first installment of another popular sci-fi movie franchise, “Terminator”, premiered on May 25, 1981
Our sons [“our” refers to Lois and me, not me and Jeff Foxworthy] are Star Wars fans. After watching a trailer for the newest Star Wars movie, in theaters soon, I joked with one of them, “Couldn't they get Harrison Ford for the film? There's some old guy playing Han Solo”. Actually, it is Harrison Ford. He was only 36 years old when the first film was made, and the years have taken their toll. The difference is even more apparent with Mark Hamill, who was just 25 when he first played Luke Skywalker. These actors are 73 and 64 years old now.
Italicized Divergence #3: Actually, “Terminator” opened in theaters on October 26, 1984, but it sounded more amazing to say three blockbuster beginnings of science fiction movie series premiered in exact two-year intervals. And since the Terminator series involves shifting timelines, I can claim I was referring to a different history in which the movie came out around 3 ½ years earlier.
Then I realized that Star Wars has been around longer than either of our boys! I was 18 when I saw the movie, and now I'm able to order from the senior menu when I go to Denny's! That realization made me feel very, very old. But thanks to the enduring Star Wars phenomenon, I realized something that takes the edge off of my depression. If dudes like Han Solo and Luke Skywalker can get old – and look old -- but still have some adventure left in them, maybe I'm not washed up yet. As one of the Terminators says in this year's “Terminator: Genisys”, “Old, but not obsolete”. Still, the years have taken their toll, and I am quite jealous of Chewbacca the Wookie. He doesn't look like he's aged a day, much less 38 years . . . and unlike the rest of us guys, he still has all his hair. I hope he gets fleas.
Italicized Divergence #4: While Terminator, Star Wars, and Alien are all popularly classified as science fiction, only the first belongs solidly in that genre. Alien is a horror film which happens to be set in a space ship, and Star Wars was originally described by its makers as a “space fantasy” which happened “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, an obvious variation of “Long ago, in a far away land . . .”.