Sometimes you can be in on the start of something without realising it. That happened to me in 1977, when I went with a posse of friends to see a new film called Star Wars. There’d been a bit of talk about it, but none of us were science-fiction fans; simply curious. A couple of hours later I was underwhelmed. The vaunted special effects didn’t move me. When there were close-ups of spacecraft, so huge they filled the whole screen, I imagined a camera with a macro lens placed next to one of those little plastic toys I used to hunt in packets of Corn Flakes. We would have been incredulous if someone had said there would be many more movies, zig-zagging back and forth in time, and a legion of fans around the globe to whom the Star Wars world, and its characters, is much richer – and somehow more real – than anything closer to home.
Almost 20 years after that first viewing, I was sucked in again by the now-legendary Star Wars Force. With a son, not quite 10, who was a budding movie buff, I saw all three of the original films. I suspect I bored him to sleep after the second one, The Empire Strikes Back, by explaining how the Darth Vader–Luke relationship fitted in with Greek mythology and the quest for a father. By the third one, Return of the Jedi, I was doing a lot more cinema snoozing and the three that followed, in the next decade, left me cold. I suspect I also saw those ones with my younger son – another fan, unaffected by his father’s indifference. Somewhere along the way one of the boys gave me a Star Wars mug, partly to acknowledge those movie dates. “Galaxy’s Greatest Dad”, it says, alongside a cheesy picture of Luke arm-in-arm with Darth Vader: the former mortal enemies are now pals. Like several of the contributors to this edition, my younger son – now in his early twenties – has already booked midnight-screening tickets to the latest instalment in the series – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which premieres in mid-December. Officially, it’s episode seven. That’s easier to understand than the notion that the first one, the movie I saw before everything got out of hand, is supposedly episode four.
It’s all rather silly, but there’s also something wonderful about an imagined world that has become so cool to so many people. Because 38 years will have elapsed between the first and latest movie, people have grown up (or just grown older) with Star Wars. Much of the interest in the new one lies with the return of original stars, Harrison Ford (Han), Carrie Fisher (Leia) and Mark Hamill (Luke). So as not to single any one of them out for derision, or a comfy chair, let’s say that their combined age is 196. While we’re at it, let’s also hope they’re not trying to do their own stunts.
Then again, in this movie universe anything is possible. I seem to recall Sir Alec Guinness, who managed to hide his bemusement as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first film, reappearing as a kind of apparition after his character had died. It has been claimed that Guinness wanted to be killed off so he wouldn’t have to do any sequels – and nobody knew in 1977 how many there would be. Nor did people know then what lay ahead in the world of special effects and movie-making.
Speaking of special, you will see – in small numerals on the cover and bigger ones on the Contents page – that this is Edition#499. Which means that our next one is…well worth celebrating. Especially as it is also our Christmas edition, in which we feature messages from, and photos of, vendors from all around the country. The Force will be with us.
Alan Attwood, Editor