When asked if I wanted to see the new Star Wars movie, I thought of several reasons why I simply didn’t have time for it. I wondered if I could take a few hours to see something I was sure would be a bit slow with an overly simple plot. But to make several people happy, I left my typing and found myself in a movie theater on a Saturday afternoon.
We pre-purchased our tickets (Day 2 after release), arrived at the theater an hour early to ensure good seats (I thought I was being overly cautious), found a long line, took a place at the back, and waited. Around me, others were there and I listened as they told stories of their Star Wars experiences. One man told his group that he’d already heard that “you’ve got to see the movie more than once”.
Then the groups began to mingle, to talk to each other, about where they were when the first Star Wars movie was released, about the experiences of their kids, about whether or not Hans kissed Princess Leia in any of the films, yes, once, but not until the third film when Leia unfroze him from the carbonite. It was only in the second film that Leia said “I love you” and he said “I know”. I marveled that those lines had so touched the people around me that they were still remembered thirty-five years later.
Thinking back, speaking to the people around me in line, I was reminded of the first time I saw the first film at the Coronet Theater in San Francisco. We were living in the East Bay when Star Wars could only be seen in ONE movie theater in the nation. Not many (any) theaters were up for taking a chance on innovation in art. On the day it was about 105 degrees in Orinda, we went to the Coronet and a comfortable 70 degree San Francisco. We couldn’t get in to the first movie, but we’d been warned. We brought chairs, a cooler, and made friends in line as we waited for the first available show. My god-daughter reminded me that we had to wait for the third movie that day.
Once into the Coronet Theater, a whole new world came to life–not simply space ships and extra-terrestrial worlds, but a world of multi-species co-existence in a galaxy far, far away. Most importantly, the Force was a powerful idea representing the Light, an energy running through all things, and if you were strong enough and wise enough, you could learn to use the Force.
On this December afternoon in 2015, thirty-eight years later, we settled into our chairs with popcorn and drinks to watch Star Wars Episode VII, The Force Awakens. As soon as the film began, I knew we had a good group in the theater. There was a sense that we were on a journey together, not only one of memory, but one of renewal. As characters were introduced into the story, there was spontaneous applause. With each poignant scene, the audience was there with the story–gasping, crying, laughing.
Most remarkable, they wanted to be there.
At one point it occurred to me that attending this movie was a spiritual experience. We were reminded of things that are important to remember–that there is good in the world, sometimes it does not come easy, but we always have a choice, whether to choose the Dark side or the Light.
As I watched this marvelous multi-racial-gender-age-species film, it became so clear that the producers and directors had brought to life an extraordinary message. At a time when we are desperately in need of good in the world, when there is evil abroad and intolerance, racial stereotyping, and xenophobia at home, director Jeffrey Abrams has given us a world where we are reminded that it is the soul, intention, and ability of a man that is important–not his race, religion, age, or gender. Everything else is illusion.
For the many children who saw Episode VII today, I hope the message of the Force becomes a touchstone for who they are and who they may become.
May the Force be with you.