Somethings are just too good to share
‘“Are you psyched?’”
I’m talking to the guy next to me in the popcorn line, a dude about my age with a wedding band and a weariness around the corners of his eyes that suggests the presence in his life of young children. More than one of them.
I know that weariness. It greets me every morning in the fog-free shaving mirror I’ve installed in my shower.
‘“Yeah, I’m psyched,’” he says. ‘“I was gonna bring the kids but’…’” he trails off.
I finish his sentence for him.
‘“Why would you want to do that?’” I say.
I know how he feels. I, too, chose to see the new Star Wars movie alone, in the middle of the day and after the light saber battles in the aisles, ton ton rides in the parking lots, the dramatic readings of Lando Calrissian’s betrayal speech to Han Solo and all the other opening night nonsense had gone away. And I too left the little ones at home.
It’s not that I don’t want to share this experience with my kids ‘— I do, particularly with my oldest, who will turn five in just a couple of weeks and is perfectly ripe for introduction to the Star Wars universe: the good guys and bad guys, the ‘droids, the weapons and spaceships, Jabba the Hut, the pod racing scene, the wookies ‘— oh man, he’s gonna love the wookies.
But not today. Today is personal.
At the risk of losing a slew of cool points, I’ll admit to being a pretty big Star Wars fan. I don’t have a stormtrooper uniform in my closet and I have never had unnatural thoughts about Han Solo, but I’m still a fan of the series. And I know that this episode, the third installment, is perhaps the most important of them all. It’s the link between the original three films and the modern era, an answer to many of the questions that fans have been asking since the Carter administration. It’s the birth of Darth Vader, for crying out loud, and I’m not gonna miss it because I’ve got to explain five films’ worth of backstory to a pre-schooler and advise a two year old that when he pukes it’s time to stop eating popcorn. I won’t put myself in that position. It’s too important.
I got the shaft when Star Wars came around the first time, back in the summer of ’77. I spent that week at my grandparents’ house in New Jersey and my family had seen it while I was gone. And because my father would sooner have eaten raw fish than pay to see a movie twice, I didn’t catch Star Wars in its entirety for another five years, on cable and long after the release of The Empire Strikes Back. My dad has since come around on raw fish, but I’ll never forget that I never experienced that first episode as it was meant to be.
I bought the comic books and the action figures and learned enough by osmosis to participate in the playground debates (light saber vs. blaster, tie fighters vs. the x-wing and the like), but it wasn’t the same.
By the time Return of the Jedi came out in ’83 I was old enough to go to the movies by myself and I saw that installment three times before opening weekend was done.
‘“Never again,’” I said to my young self.
So here I am today, a grown man living in the past.
I get my bag of corn ‘— which I won’t be sharing with anybody, by the way ‘— and take a seat in the theater with the rest of the geeks. As the lights dim the guy next to me rubs his hands together expectantly. I myself feel a growing sensation in my belly: enthusiasm, excitement, a formidable sugar and caffeine buzz ‘— I’m not sure exactly what it is. All I know is that I’m seriously humming. People, I’m pumped.
And I’m not disappointed. While shoveling greasy popcorn into my mouth all my questions are answered. I see with my own eyes the planet of the wookies. I understand the full extent of Yoda’s powers (and even see him play a scene with Chewbacca, hot damn). I learn how Jimmy Smits got to be Princess Leia’s dad and I fall in love with R2-D2 all over again.
This movie is awesome. And I’ll bring the kids to see it’… one of these days. I’m sure of it. And my boys will get caught up in the whole thing and I’ll probably end up spending a piece of their inheritance on the action figures, the costumes, the weapons and comic books, and we’ll sit on their bedroom floor and play with the toys while I lecture them on the subtleties of the Force and why the Death Star is vulnerable in just that one tiny place.
But for the next few days, in my house anyway, this most recent episode of Star Wars is mine and mine alone.