Robb, my 21-year-old son, invited my husband and me to attend the opening of “Star Wars” at the Mann Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I was skeptical, thinking about spending an evening with wild teenagers and disruptive young adults. What I witnessed instead was a phenomenon. Several hundred men and women stood patiently in line for three or more hours, holding tickets they bought weeks earlier to see the re-release of one of the first movies they’d ever seen: “Star Wars.”
We arrived at the theater at 8 p.m. and wandered down the line of twentysomethings. The atmosphere was festive as we watched costumed characters stage mock battles and journalists talked with the Lukes, Darths, Leahs and Hans. Halfway down the line, we spotted Robb. He sat on the retaining wall where he’d planted himself at 7:30 p.m. for the 10:30 p.m. show.
I held a photo of Robb, at age 4, from Christmas morning in 1979, wearing his blue “Star Wars” T-shirt. I remember taking him to see “Star Wars” in 1978. As the years rolled by, we also saw “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” not just once, but many times. Here we were, in line 19 years later, with some of the same kids with whom he’d shared his action figures and space ships, to see “Stars Wars” once again.
Theater security ushered us inside. Once in, there was a seating frenzy, how close to the screen should we be and who sits where. People had too much energy to sit, so they stood and talked animatedly. The young man behind me observed that it was just like an all-school assembly. He was right. Ushers found seats for those last in line. The theater was full.
When the lights flashed, a cheer went up from the audience. You couldn’t hear any of the dialogue for the previews of coming attractions and only “boos” during the ads, and shouts of “commercialism.” When the 20th Century Fox logo came on the screen, the crowd cheered louder. When the words, Star Wars appeared on the screen, the sound was deafening.
I thought that I probably would not be able to hear the movie. But that was not the case. These 400 or so people loved this movie and were intent on seeing it. They clapped at the introduction of each character. Once or twice someone shouted out dialogue an instant before it came on the screen and the audience laughed.
Despite all the horrible movies that are out and the fears about Gen-X’s values, I remain hopeful. The story of “Star Wars” and the trilogy is positive: Believe in yourself; good wins over evil; even those lost can be forgiven; and love conquers all.
Joseph Campbell was right. We all need myths to believe in as a backbone of our existence. “Star Wars” provides that, at least in part, to this generation.