Star Wars Memories: The Empire Strikes Back

From 1977-1980, I lived and breathed Star Wars. I have no idea how many times I read the giant size Marvel comic book, Remember when you could buy comics at Rexall Drugs? Probably not. I loved Star Wars so much, I even watched the Star Wars Holiday Special. I had no clue, and only three channels. I’m still waiting on the Bea Arthur and Art Carney action figures. Where are they, George? Hmm….

I wasn’t the last person to see The Empire Strikes Back; but it felt like it. As most of you know, the novel was released prior to the film. I started reading it before I saw the film, but I didn’t care. I hadn’t gotten to the big spoiler, and boy was I glad I didn’t.

I saw Empire on the Saturday of opening weekend at the oddly named Blue Ridge Cinemas in Gainsville, Georgia. Oddly named since it it is nowhere near Blue Ridge, Georgia, or the Blue Ridge Mountains. The shopping center where the theatre was located was also home to Turtle’s Records and Tapes, which is where I spent my time and allowance when I wasn’t at the theatre. There, or B. Dalton Booksellers at Lakeshore Mall, which is not on the shore of Lake Lanier.

I was one of the first ten or so people in line to see Empire; I was never good at math. One of the people ahead of me in line was the band teacher from my school. It’s always weird to see a teacher out of context. If my math and science teachers had been Star Wars fans, I might have learned something.

My favorite part of the Star Wars films is all the stuff on Hoth. Why? I’ve been trying to figure that out for a very long time. Maybe, the theme and opening crawl gave me flashbacks to one of my favorite times in life. That still doesn’t explain why every time I watch Empire, I love the Hoth part just as much as I did in 1980. Or does it?

Hoth was a genius idea, both in terms of story and visuals. It seems that so many sci-fi movies and TV shows were filmed in a desert, a quarry, or by that big rock where the Lone Ranger had a shootout every week. Hoth, being an ice planet, was the polar opposite of Tattooine. No pun intended.

When I saw Star Wars, I hated Darth Vader. With Empire, I had a different feeling–I was affraid of Vader. It wasn’t cool for a twelve year old to be in fear of a fictional character, but I was. This time around, I knew what he was capable of, and every time he appeared on screen, I was petrified. That is, when I wasn’t shaking. Case in point: Dagobah.

To this day, there those who have forgotten more about the Star Wars galaxy than I will ever know, who still don’t understand the scene where Luke enters the cave. This is an oversimplifacation: Yoda tells Luke that the cave only contains what he brings with him, and that he won’t need his weapon. So of course, Luke takes his lightsabre. As soon as he activates it, Vader appears. By bringing his weapon, feared the worst and found it. Luke’s face in Vader’s helmet shows that he is on the path to the Dark Side if he doesn’t check his emotions at the door. I was only twelve and I figured that out on my own, because I listened to Master Yoda, like a good Padawan should.

However, I didn’t foresee things going the way they did. For the longest time, and by “the longest time” I mean three years, I thought Vader was lying about being Luke’s father. Now I had to wait out those aforementioned three years to see how this all played out. And those weren’t three normal years–they were three school years. Return of the Jedi wouldn’t be released until I completed freshman year of high school, and we all know that’s the worst year ever. May the Force be with me.


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