My son as a young jedi fighting the evil Darth Vader at . . . Disneyland

My son as a young jedi fighting the evil Darth Vader at . . . Disneyland

By Jennifer Vander Klipp

I was nine when the first Star Wars movie came out. I distinctly remember kids talking about it on the playground at school before I got to see it. I wasn’t sure I would get to see, it as movies were a luxury our family rarely indulged in. The line snaked around the two-screen movie house, many people sitting in fold-up aluminum lawn chairs with plastic webbing that would scratch the back of your legs when it started to fray. Most of the chatter was about the existence of the line itself, a first for all of us. Waves of heat rolled off the asphalt, and I couldn’t wait to get inside to the air conditioning.

I remember all that, but I don’t actually remember seeing the movie. I do remember countless hours spent re-enacting it with my brothers and creating new storylines. As I moved into junior high, my friends and I would dissect any info we could find on the upcoming installment. We became big fans of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, watching anything of theirs we could, a hard thing to do without Netflix or even video stores.

By the time the “modern” trilogy came out, my passion had fizzled. I had little kids and craved sleep more than anything. I saw Episode I in the theater. The rest I watched with my kids as they got older. At home, on the VCR.

So I wasn’t terribly excited about the newest installment of Star Wars. It was cool that the old characters were back, and I was mildly curious as to what their roles would be and how that would work out. But my kids were very excited. My daughter got online and bought tickets, reserving a seat for herself and her brother for opening night. Apparently, the magic of the force brings out generosity and sibling goodwill.

I heard ravings about the movie from my kids and even Kathie Lee and Hoda on the Today Show. I read interviews with Carrie Fisher and cheered her blunt honesty. Now my curiosity was piqued. I asked my kids if they wanted to go see it again. “Yes!” Once again, the force is bringing out harmony in my family, even if it doesn’t for the characters in the movie.

This time I didn’t have to wait in line for the movie with scratchy lawn chairs. I got to watch it from a comfy recliner in a movie theater that has 20 screens. But the differences ended there.

I wasn’t prepared for the emotional tidal wave that hit me the moment the movie opened with those gold, receding words and that triumphant John Williams score. Suddenly, I was nine again, eagerly anticipating everything I’d heard on the playground.

It was the perfect movie for my generation. I could sum it up simply as more Star Wars. There’s an orphan on the verge of adulthood on a desert planet with some amazing talents. There’s a cute little robot. There are stormtroopers, still as scary looking as ever. The evil guy in black with breathing problems. There’s a capture and an escape. There are strange family dynamics that affect the whole universe.

While you could make the point that the writers of this movie were lazy, resurrecting old themes, I would make the case they knew my generation would feel the way I did: like I’d come home in a way that rarely happens anymore. Which is exactly what we wanted. We didn’t want a new plot line with confusing characters (Episodes I-III proved that). We wanted our old friends back. We wanted those same themes that pulled in George Lucas when he was a boy watching matinee westerns, the same themes all good stories have.

I was happy to see my old friends on the screen, they having aged as much as I have, but still out there doing their thing. And if you’ve seen the movie, you know the “No! That can’t be happening!” moment I’m talking about that still makes my chest hurt to think about. Regardless, I think I’ll be looking forward to seeing what my old friends are doing in three years. And time-travelling back to when I was nine, sitting in an air-conditioned movie theater that was a nice reprieve from our un-air-conditioned home, waiting to see what new magic would appear out of the dark that I could relive over and over.