The Force

New Star Wars movie awakens memories for a life-long fangirl

Seeing Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the first film in that original series, is one of my first memories. I was 2 years old and lived in San Jose. My parents had actually taken me to see Pete’s Dragon, but that children’s movie was sold out. So they opted for the space epic. What I remember specifically is being in awe of Darth Vader. And so began a life-long appreciation of the Star Wars franchise.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen those films over the years. I watched them all in the theater and later the VHS versions were a staple in my house, after-school entertainment on many days for me, a latch-key kid. I know most of the dialogue by heart, especially that of the first two films. The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite, but I enjoyed the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. I was 8, after all, when that one hit the big screen.

In 1999, some friends and I lined up all day for the first showing of the first film of the prequels, The Phantom Menace. By then I lived in Chico, but I traveled to Roseville for the occasion. There may have been Princess Leia buns involved in that affair. Fortunately, cellphones with cameras weren’t a thing back then. In 2002, I was at the first showing of the second film in that trilogy, this time right here at Chico’s Cinemark 14.

I had a good time, but the films didn’t capture my imagination like the first series did, so I gave up on them by the time the last one premiered in 2005. By then I was a seasoned reporter. Instead of heading to the theater to watch the film, I convinced my editors that Star Wars was enough of a cultural phenomenon to warrant a story. I interviewed the die-hard fans who, like me years earlier, had been there all day to get the best seats in the house.

If you’ve never gone to the opening day of a big film (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc.), I highly recommend it. There’s something magical about sharing the experience with a bunch of strangers who are likewise excited and spent way too much time waiting in line. I’m too busy being a working mom these days to plan such an excursion.

But the stars, ahem, aligned for me last Thursday. I lucked into a pair of opening-night tickets for the newest film in the franchise, The Force Awakens. My husband got them from a colleague who couldn’t make it. Turns out they were tickets to the first local showing.

We had another event to attend that evening, so we got to the theater just in time. The only downside was getting stuck in the third row. It didn’t matter. We both loved the movie. I especially liked that the protagonist is a strong and resourceful woman. The entire audience cheered several times during pivotal plot points, and also at the beginning, during the moment John Williams’ iconic musical score rang out as the intro scrolled up the screen. Tingles.

I’ll definitely be back within the week for a second round.