I hadn’t been to the cinema for a while and then a new Star Wars film comes out, so you just have to, don’t you?
I am of that fortunate generation that was growing up in the 1970s when the original film made its big screen debut, and I can still remember the thrill of queuing up with mum outside the Odeon in Bradford waiting to get in. The anticipation was immense, not even dampened by the bewildering ‘short’ film about American bikers that preceded the main event, which seemed to go on for ages, even though it was probably only about twenty minutes. Then, before the curtain went up (yes, the Bradford Odeon screen had a curtain back then) all the house lights went out, a mirror ball descended from the ceiling and dazzled us all in a fantastical starscape (I was 11, ok, cut me some slack) before the iconic 20th Century Fox flashed up in front of us, the now familiar fanfare parping into my ears for the first time, and then: A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far Far Away…
It was the best thing I’d ever seen at the time. So good, I went to see it three more times at the Odeon, and I’m sure I won’t be the only Bradfordian whose emotional attachment to that magnificent building, now long closed and in a sad state of disrepair, held up by scaffolding while politicians and bean counters debate its future, can be traced back to the unforgettable experience of seeing George Lucas’ masterwork for the first time in 1978.
And now here I am, almost forty years later, watching the latest instalment of a saga that shows no signs of ever ending, and thank goodness for that.
Not at the Odeon, no screen curtain or mirrorball at Cineworld either (though no interminable short about American bikers to sit through beforehand, so not everything about modern life is rubbish) but still that same sense of childlike excitement as the film gets underway as they always do.
20th Century Fox logo – check. Parping fanfare – check.
A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far Far Away…
These most recent instalments have undoubtedly given the franchise a new lease of life after the trio of underwhelming prequels. The Force Awakens was a glorious homage to the original, reintroducing iconic characters we probably all thought we’d never get to see on screen again, played by the actors who first gave them life. Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) were back!
Except, in the case of Mark Hamill, he wasn’t. We had to wait another two years for The Last Jedi to see him in action, as The Force Awakens focused on Han’s story, his part in bequeathing us the new villain of the piece, Kylo Ren, and the gut-punch ending where, just as it was forty years ago, one of our beloved heroes fails to make it to the final credits.
But he’s here now, all grizzly and grumpy and seemingly rejecting all the efforts of Daisy Ridley’s character Rey to coax him out of self-imposed exile and save the Rebel Alliance with his mastery of the Force.
Speaking of which, they don’t half take a pounding in this instalment, those rebels. And we almost lose Princess Leia herself at one point, as her ship takes a direct hit and she floats out into the vacuum of space.
At that moment I though, ‘ah, so this is how they’re going to write Carrie Fisher out,’ but no, Leia does make it to the final credits after all, leader of what’s left of the rebel forces, which at this stage would seem to be small enough to fit in a Tatooine land speeder rather that an Imperial Star Destroyer.
Of course Luke turned up to save the day at the end. Does that count as a spoiler? I doubt it. It’s a Star Wars movie. You basically know what you’re getting before you buy your ticket. Good guys gotta do what good guys gotta do.
And that’s why we love them, isn’t it?
Roll on the next instalment. Can’t wait. Who knows, maybe it’ll even be on at the Odeon in Bradford.