For those of us of a certain age, it’s hard to describe what the release of Return of the Jedi (1983) was like for those who weren’t there. There was no internet to drip out constant spoilers or updates on the film. There were no sneak peeks or new trailers dropping. The movie was the thing.
The excitement was palpable for me and all Star Wars fans. Think about the way that The Empire Strikes Back ended. Han Solo had been frozen; Luke lost his hand and discovered Darth Vader was his father. Evil won. It was an amazing concept at the time. This was way before movies brought us the idea of the anti-hero. There were clear-cut good guys and bad guys.
There were no Star Wars shows to hold us over in the three years between movies: just our toys and our imaginations.
I was only five years old. This was the first time I would get to see a movie in a theater. I did get to see E.T. (1982) at a drive-in (ask your grandparents about them).
You actually had to go to the movie theater to get tickets for later that day. We got in line at the Old Saybrook Cinemas around 8 in the morning. Those cinemas are now closed and have become the Katherine Hepburn Theater. That is entirely irrelevant to the story; I just wanted to name-drop.
Now, remember, I’m five years old and standing at the end of a 200-yard line with my father, waiting for tickets. Not to get into the movie but to return later to see Return of the Jedi.
And then, I see him. Chewbacca. My absolute favorite character. I leave my dad’s side to run and hug Chewbacca. Admittedly, in retrospect, probably not the best idea to hug the grown man dressed in a Chewbacca costume, but I was young and believed that was the real thing. My father successfully pried me away from the man, but I did cry a little.
When we finally got our tickets, they were for 9 p.m. Remember when you were a kid, and staying awake to 9 was like two in the morning now. That was the feeling I had. It was an adventure. My favorite movie late at night; this was going to be a great day.
I spent the day playing with my toys, trying to recreate what I thought the movie would be.
We arrived about five minutes before Return of the Jedi started. We arrived five minutes early for everything. We got the last seats in the house, which happened to be right in front.
When that scroll came down the screen, it changed everything. It opened my imagination and creativity and a wonderful world of possibilities. At the time, the movie was a blur. I was tired but enthralled with that screen.
I fell asleep on the way home from the theater that night, dreaming of Ewoks and Princess Leia. I had a thing for Princess Leia.
There hasn’t been anything like that at the movies since. I wouldn’t wait two hours just for tickets to a movie, and there hasn’t been anything that’s come out in the last four decades that has captured my heart in such a way. When people ask me why I’m a Star Wars fan, I tell them it was my childhood.
But the reality is, I’m a Star Wars fan because it represents a moment in my life. A moment when my dad and I got to meet Chewbacca and spent a day waiting for that scroll to come down the screen. It was a perfect childhood memory, and I have Return of the Jedi to thank for it.
I’ll take my kids to see the 40th Anniversary release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi this week on the big screen, whether they want to go or not. It won’t be the same, but I’ll still feel like I’m five years old again.
Disclaimer: The opinions addressed in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.