It is a dark time for the Rebellion.
Although the Death
Star has been destroyed,
Imperial troops have driven the
Rebel forces from their hidden
base and pursued them across
the galaxy.Evading the dreaded Imperial
Starfleet, a group of freedom
fighters led by Luke Skywalker
have established a new secret
base on the remote ice world
The evil lord Darth Vader,
obsessed with finding young
Skywalker, has dispatched
thousands of remote probes into
the far reaches of space….
I remember I was in Melbourne (lived in the country). Maybe with the grandparents. We were staying at some flashy hotel. I’d spent the afternoon in one of the big department stores -likely Myer – where I’d managed to wrangle a few bucks out of “the olds” to pick up some new “Star Wars” action-figures for my now, rather immense collection (I kept them all in a huge case that was in the shape of Darth Vader’s upper torso). And if memory serves me right, it was that day that I picked up my ‘first’ Lando Calrissian. I didn’t know Lando yet – well, besides the glimpses of him that I’d seen on the TV spots (speaking of which, I remember it was always great going to Melbourne, or any big city for that matter, because TV was ‘so much better’ down there. Back in those days, we only one the one main commercial channel in the country – yes, one channel! – so to be staying in a hotel that offered up to 4 channels – yes, count ‘em, 4! – was always a treat.) but the packaging said he was one of the ‘rebels’, but besides, he had a cool flowing cape, he had to be cool.
But where was I?
Oh yes, ”Empire Strikes Back”.
It had started that Thursday nationally (and, I imagine, around the world).And, it wouldn’t at all surprise to me learn that the only reason we headed to Melbourne that weekend was so that I could see the film – being that our local country theatre probably wasn’t going to be screening it until a few weeks time (funnily enough, the same release pattern still exists). Just as they do with the “Twilight” films now, the cinemas in the city were also screening the other, earlier films in the series – in this case, “Star Wars” – in addition to the new sequel. Being that this was before the invasion of video (and the “Star Wars” series took years to come out on VHS anyway! I remember, I went in and asked our local retailer on a weekly basis when it was due), nobody much minded having to pay $5 to see a film that was now a couple of years old. So we did that – we started off by catching “Star Wars : A New Hope” again – my younger brother and I.
It was a Saturday evening. We had just washed down some pancakes at the newly-established ‘Pancake Parlour’. The cinema was next to the restaurant. And, from memory, it was packed – both the restaurant, and the cinema, for that matter. We were about ten minutes late to “A New Hope” because ‘the olds’ had to find themselves a film to go to whilst my brother and I got our Chewbacca on. They went with some little Australian film showing at an arthouse around the corner, I think.
But I digress, a couple of hours later, once Luke had blown that thing so they could “all go home”, we got our tickets for the most anticipated sequel of the year (“Grease 2″ was still a good 18 months away). Early evening it was – I assume about 6pm. And the theatre was packed with all ages, just as excited as I was to see… the next chapter.
I still remember when that rebel-beseeching droid popped out of the ice on Hoth. Magic.
I also remember sitting in awe as the rebels topped those AT-AT’s.
And the scenes between Luke Skywalker and ‘the Muppet’ (who we’d later know better as ‘Yoda’)? Gold!
I also have fond memories of seeing Cloud City for the first time. It was just terrific – helped, of course, by its star citizen, ‘Lando’ (just as cool as his action figure).
And Han Solo? Still the coolest (But give it a few months and the guy from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” would come a close second).
I likely saw “Empire Strikes Back” another three or four times before it finished its theatrical run – which, in those days, usually lasted about twelve months. It was just one of those movies that blew me away – and stayed with me, as you can tell by fond memory of that first viewing.
”Sir, the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to one!”
There were other movies that I fondly remember seeing for the first time at the cinema – “Gremlins”, “Ghostbusters” (I remember the audience bursting into singing the theme song; I also remember my brother jumping so far out of his seat when the ‘librarian turned around’ that he landed in the one in front of him!), “Poltergeist” (For a PG film, boy that scared the bejesus out of me!), “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (Will never forget my first glimpse of Freddy), “Footloose” (there was no stopping me from dancing afterwards!), “Urban Cowboy” (I was such a big fan of ‘Barbarino’ that I couldn’t wait to see it; I’d soon discover I should’ve at least waited till my voice dropped); “Two of a Kind” (I remember that first screening not because of how wonderful the film was, but how bad it was, and how disappointed I was in my ‘Livvy’ and – Barbarino, for that matter – for doing such drivel); “Romancing the Stone” (mud slide! Woo-hoo!); “The Last Starfighter” (I remember counting down the days to its release), and “The Breakfast Club” (Didn’t every ten-year-old want to be Judd Nelson!?) – but “Empire” is the one that likely made the biggest impression. And it’s a cliche, sure, but it’s likely true when I say it’s one of the film’s that pushed me into exploring my love of film (especially, ‘making them’) later on in life.
”Stopped they must be. On this all depends. Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor. If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.”
To celebrate the film’s 30th Anniversary, the Arclight in Hollywood hosted a special screening of “Empire Strikes Back” last week-and you’ll never believe who turned up to do the Q&A? None other than Mr ‘don’t talk to me about Star Wars’ Harrison Ford! Sure, Ewan McGregor, Billy Dee Williams, and a couple of other faces from TV and film were there too, but it was Ford that the crowd wanted to hear retell stories…. If only because, sans the odd DVD feature, he’d never done it before. He was typically shy, and typically awkward, but he still talked – and didn’t mind to (I’d prefer not to know how much he was paid to show up). Might Ford finally have warmed up to the series he so regularly shuns? I hope so. Also rapt that he stayed and watched “Empire Strikes Back” with the crowd – that proved he had an interest in seeing it again, commenting later that it was the first time he had seen it since it’s initial release. Anyway, quite the party!
”There is no escape! Don’t make me destroy you. Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You’ve only begun to discover your power! Join me, and I will complete your training! With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict, and bring order to the galaxy.”
Speaking of, all around the world, in celebration of the sequel’s ‘birthday’, fans are throwing huge ones – - they’re getting together to watch the film again on their big fat plasmas, dusting off the old board games so they can fight over who gets to play ‘Wedge’ again, and dusting off the old action figure collection (don’t ask me where mine is – it’s a sore spot) for a bit of a lounge room battle royale….shit, If you’ve got no plans tonight, maybe join in – at the very least, revisit one of the best sequels, let alone films, of all time “The Empire Strikes Back”. I promise, unlike many of today’s films, it’ll leave you completely satisfied.
Happy Birthday, Empire!
”Chewie, I’ll be looking for your signal. Take care you two and may the Force be with you.”