BlogalongaStarWars: Memories of A New Hope
So here we are again. After hanging on for dear life to the coat-tails of The Incredible Suit throughout 2010 and 2011 – the glorious years of hivemind Bondage – it’s time for another Blogalonga. [What’s a Blogalonga?]
This time, the subject is Star Wars. However, I have absolutely no intention of revisiting the films. With James Bond, I hadn’t seen most of the films for years, so the project felt like a valuable attempt to get my thoughts on paper.
With Star Wars, I’ve already done it; all six films are reviewed here. So, instead, my plan is to offer memories of watching the films. This might go awry in future months (I don’t feel I have any interesting memories of Revenge Of The Sith whatsoever) but I’ll give it a go.
Our story begins a long time ago (the 1970s) in a galaxy far, far away – a joke that will only really resonate if you’ve ever been to Derby.
I was two years old when Star Wars opened in the UK, so the initial hype passed me by. To the best of my knowledge, I first saw A New Hope back-in-back with The Empire Strikes Back in a double-bill at (I think) the ABC in Derby, circa 1980/1. [So apologies in advance next month when I repeat that rather boring fact.]
I was certainly a seasoned cinemagoer by then, having caught Superman 2 on a snowy day in April 1980 and then Flash Gordon that Christmas. I remember having a Superman poster on my wall, and a collection of Flash Gordon picture cards from cereal packs but Star Wars only registered later, in ironic contrast to its merchandising ubiquity at the time.
Whether it was the double-whammy of seeing two Star Wars films together, or the fact that they’re obviously brilliant films for a five-year old, I was instantly hooked. The next few years saw my fandom go crazy, with plenty of toys to make up for lost time. That said, my parents didn’t spoil me, so new figures were limited and it took many long years to amass a decent collection.
I used to look forward to my dad going to America on a business trip, simply because he’d always bring back a new toy. The downside? My mother refused point-blank to allow me to have duplicate figures, so my Rebel army was a ragtag bunch of one Stormtrooper, a TIE Fighter Pilot, a Snowtrooper and (later) a Biker Scout.
In 1983 I moved to America (more of that to come in my entry on Return Of The Jedi), another huge childhood event. The two dovetailed in 1984 when A New Hope premiered on US TV, a mega-event – how crazy now that it’d take seven years to reach the small-screen. We didn’t have a video player in those days, so this was a rare opportunity to see the film again.
However, the broadcast started at 8pm and carried on for three hours thanks to ads. I was only allowed to watch half-an-hour, by which point the droids were still trudging across the deserts of Tatooine in search of something exciting. To this day, that sequence is a struggle to watch.
[As an aside, that lack of timeshift options is my generation’s equivalent of old-timers talking about playing their gramophone records. My 6-year-old son still cannot get his head around the notion of entertainment that can’t be paused, rewound and rewatched at will.]
Clearly, I must have seen the film in the interim but my next meaningful memory was buying the letterboxed VHS set in 1995 as a student and falling in love with the trilogy all over again – just in time to regard the 1997 edition as near-ruinous in its cluttered CGI additions and re-edited shooting contests.
Even so, there was palpable excitement that Spring, going to see A New Hope on the big-screen once more. We had tickets booked for opening evening, but my housemate – a bigger Star Wars fan, if I’m honest – actually snuck out to catch the first available screening at midnight at day. I don’t remember a precedent for cinemas opening late/early for such an event, so you can probably blame Star Wars for the Marvel marathons that are commonplace in the run-up to new franchise installments.
In recent years, of course, my Star Wars viewing has been a shared experience with my son. When he was 4, he was Star Wars mad and (naturally) I started his journey with A New Hope rather than The Phantom Menace. Sad to report that he’s pretty much over his Star Wars phase now, a jaded cynic at the age of 6 – it’s all Minecraft round these parts – but I’m quietly confident that the new film will reawaken the Force.
Come back next month for some equally dull reminiscences of watching The Empire Strikes Back.