On Dec. 18, all our questions will be answered. Did J.J. Abrams deliver? Was the years’ worth of wait and hype worth it? Will Star Wars: The Force Awakens be among the best films of 2015? If Greedo shot first, does that really mean Han Solo didn’t act in cold blood? If that last sentence sounds like gibberish, this article is not for you.
For most fans of this series, the experience began on the big screen. I was born the year the first Star Wars movie was released and don’t recall a time in my life when I wasn’t aware and totally enamored with all things The Force. No joke, the oldest memory I have is of seeing Star Wars in a movie theater: with a little checking, I found out the memory is from 1981, seeing a revival of the first film in a Florida movie theater. The images sent me into a rapturous state and, even at a young age, forever sealed my love of cinema.
The original trilogy (Star Wars in 1977, The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and Return of the Jedi in 1983) played on Maui during their initial theatrical releases, except… all three opened four months late. That’s right, if you were a diehard fan of The Force living on Maui in the 1970’s and ’80s, you didn’t see these May/June releases in a movie theater until August. At least, with the internet being decades away, there were no spoilers readily available…unless some knucklehead from the mainland told you how they ended. Truly, the only thing more irritating than Jar Jar Binks is a smarty pants spoiler sport..
I’m far from alone in my love for these movies, particularly those that involves light sabers, droids and cocky pilots who brag about The Kessel Run. Here are some more voices from Maui, recalling their favorite memories and experiences of movies that began with A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…
• Alika Seki (owner of Maui Comics and Collectibles)
I was born in 1981, so I was too young to see the originals. My introduction to Star Wars was seeing the Ewoks and Droids cartoon shows. Later on, when I went to summer camp, we were shown the trilogy on videocassette tapes. Seeing it made me finally feel like a grownup.
• Greg Turner (radio personality/Nerdwatch podcast founder)
My wildest memory that I have about Star Wars is the very first one, It was playing in theaters long after it was released. I remember as a young boy, I was four or five, my grandmother took me to see it at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. I remember it fondly, watching when Ben Kenobi and Luke Skywalker are introduced and I looked over at my grandmother, who was sound asleep. For the running time of the movie, she was out like a light.
• Erin Smith (Honolulu Pulse columnist/former Throwdowns lead singer)
The early era of Star Wars and the memorabilia puts me in that early ’80s vibe. People were wearing bowl hair cuts and velour pants, so gigantic space bun hairdos seemed passable and cool. I think of my brother and sisters–we had a good childhood and it was just part of our pop culture mosaic. My brother had those Star Wars sheets. I currently have an ice cube tray that freezes water into small Han Solos frozen in carbonite. The legend lives on.
• Jason David (movie critic for MAUIWatch)
My very first theater experience was A New Hope. When my Mom told me this, I was terrified, because that would have made me about five or so months old, and I know how little ones tend to be at the movies. According to my mom, as soon as the opening crawl hit the silver screen, I fell silent and soaked it all in. I may not remember it myself but knowing that I gave something that had such an influence on my life such attention and respect, at such a young age, makes me proud to be the nerd that I’ve become.
• Chris Wong (Diehard Star Wars fan)
I remember watching Star Wars on Channel 4 as a movie special when I was a kid. I was captivated with the characters and vehicles. Luke in his black gear and Darth Vader were my favorites. My fond memory is that my mom would help me collect figures, vehicles, and play sets from Star Wars. We’d collect off of the figures’ cardboard backers picture checklist and the booklets inserted in the boxes (of Star Wars toys). I remember going to Long’s, Woolworth’s, Shirokiya, Ben Franklin, Craft Drugs and Valley Hardware for Star Wars stuff. We would also order from the Sears catalog. I’m still a Star Wars collector today, especially of Kylo Ren.
• Ricky Jones (“Buddy The Elf” in Maui OnStage’s Elf-The Musical)
My first Star Wars memory would have to be little toe-headed me, at the perfect age to be super excited after watching the previous two movies on VHS, standing in line for Return of the Jedi with my family, dressed up in an old white under shirt of my father’s, with a black ‘utility belt’ wrapped around my waist a couple times. And Adidas, of course, like a good little Jedi. All day I dreamt about Star Wars.
• Sarah Loney (Engineer, costumer)
• Edward Galarita III (Lifelong Star Wars fan)
Ever since I could remember, Star Wars has always been a big part of my life. I was always amazed by the story, visual effects and the unforgettable characters. As a young child, I had a vast imagination and that movie inspired me to be creative and got me interested in science, technology and mythology. I have an immeasurable love for the series and I’m very excited for The Force Awakens. I have nothing but high hopes.
• Ellen Peterson (Kit Kat Club Cabaret)
I remember seeing Star Wars when it first came out in the theater and thinking it was really scary. I remember wanting, very badly, hair like Princess Leia. I had a pink t-shirt with an image of Mark Hamill on the front and Star Wars written in some sort of glitter font. I wore it all the time. Those are my oldest and strongest memories of Star Wars.
• Jack Heller (10-year-old Star Wars fan)
Star Wars is awesome! I am a first time watcher of the series. I can relate to the characters, especially Luke, because he is quiet yet brave when the battle with the empire began. I liked that Chewbacca and Han were friends, too. Darth Vader was scary but I was glad to see his Death Star explode at the end. Hooray for the good guys!
• Tommy Russo (MauiTime publisher)
When Revenge of the Sith opened at the Maui Mall Megaplex, a radio station was doing a Chewbacca sound-alike contest. Half a dozen entries were horrible–not even serious. Now, I’ve got a pretty decent Chewbacca growl. So I did it for the crowd–they needed to hear a good Chewbacca growl. There are better Chewbaccas than mine, but mine will get you in the game. I think I won movie tickets to the next showing.
•Ilima Loomis (Science writer/reporter)
Star Wars has been part of my life for so long, I literally can’t remember the first time I saw it. We had the movies on VHS when I was growing up, and I watched them over and over. They inspired my early love of sci-fi, and I actually think it was my voracious consumption of science fiction in my early teens that started me on the path to becoming a writer. In recent years, introducing my daughter to Star Wars and watching it with her for the first time has been a major highlight of the parenting experience so far.
• Shaggy Jenkins (Program Director KAKU-FM)
Unlike Star Trek, which taught people about a utopian society, Star Wars was the wild west, in space. It wasn’t up to people to “follow the rules” so much as it was that everyone had to choose a side, good or evil…Light or Dark. It taught that being a good person and doing good things is a choice we all have to make, and keep making, to defeat the Dark Side no matter where it is. And who didn’t want to be a Jedi?
• Gannon Gilmore (band member of The Minorities)
When Return of the Jedi came out, I asked my mom to take me to see it. I was crying to her, “please take me to see it.” It’s the only movie I saw seven times in the theater.
• Ben Lowenthal (Attorney)
The Phantom Menace came out when I was in high school. I stayed up all night in line with a bunch of friends and classmates. It was like a big party. Then we watched the movie. The party was over after that.
• Sarah “Sassin” Gray (Maui Roller Girls co-founder)
Return of the Jedi was my first memory of bondage/submission. I learned that the woman as a slave was a hot thing. I knew, even as a kid, that that held currency. Makes sense that I would remember the woman’s role. Sheesh, what year did that one come out? 1983? Right–seven-year-old me having a this experience in outer space. Otherwise, not too memorable.
• Chilltown’s own DJ Blast
Star Wars made me fall in love with cinema. It was a physical reaction. It was a film in 2-D that became real. It inspired me across the board in everything in do.
• Brian Kohne (Director of Get A Job and the forthcoming Kuleana)
I saw The Exorcist at age 10 in 1974, Jaws in 1975, then Star Wars in 1977 at Village Cinema in the Ka`ahumanu Center between Party Pantry and the Gnu Haven restaurant (now Koho’s). Like other dumb kids, my brother and I watched the space epic repeatedly; movies were cheaper than baby sitters at the time, so our parents were happy to ditch us at the theater so they could party. Today, I’m not afraid of sharks, and am at complete ease dating women who levitate, swivel their head, and vomit in my face. But I am deathly afraid of seeing another George Lucas movie, so thankfully he’s got little to do with The Force Awakens.