Ready to reunite with The Force once more

Published 10:54 am Thursday, December 14, 2017

I haven’t pre-purchased any tickets, which may be a big mistake, but some time this weekend I hope to be sitting in a movie theater reveling in the latest “Star Wars” movie – “The Last Jedi.”

I vividly remember seeing the original when it came out in 1977 at the Town and Country Drive-In near the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Jackson. I was awestruck by the effects (moreso the visual than the sound from the little box you stuck on your car window) and by the realistic views of this galaxy far,  far away.

I was never an all-out “Star Wars” geek – as they were called in my youth. I never dressed up as a stormtrooper for Halloween or developed some overwhelming crush for Princess Leia, but I absolutely loved the movie. So much so, that when the successors, “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” came out years later, I was quick in line to relive the experience.

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I wasn’t as infatuated with the prequel trilogy from George Lucas released in the early 2000s, perhaps because it was so removed from my youth, but when the first trailer leaked for “The Force Awakens” in 2015 featuring Hans Solo and Chewbacca stepping back on to the Millennium Falcon and uttering, “We’re home,” I knew I was going to see it.

It was a smashing success in my eyes, as was “Rogue One” – released last year.

There was a fantastic scene in “Rogue One,” where Darth Vader uses his Jedi mind skills to strangle a commander who had disappointed him and delivers the line, right after one of those deep Vader breaths, “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations.”

That instantly recognizable music begins and he marches off into the fog as the poor commander lies on the floor clutching his throat.

It reminded me of a similar scene from the original “Star Wars” when he said, “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” just before another failed commander met his end.

Darth Vader has to be the most famous, most loved villain in movie history. He’s not as terrifying today as I remember him from nearly 40 years ago. That scene from The Empire Strikes Back when Vader is in his chamber and his helmet is lowered onto his badly scarred head was the talk of the school for weeks in 1980.

I even recall a few kids getting called “nerf herders” for a while that year, even though we had no idea what that was. It was from Princess Leia’s insult directed at Han Solo –  “Why, you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder!”

Speaking of Solo, he had a great line in “Empire” that came up often on the soccer teams I played on when we appeared overmatched.

“Never tell me the odds!” the always confident Solo shouted.

The best “Star Wars” quotes, however, always came from Yoda. They are some of the most quoted movie lines in history. My personal favorite – “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Yoda’s message to a young Luke Skywalker sounded like something my father would have told me, in a slightly different vernacular.

Another great Yoda line came from “The Phantom Menace” when he said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.”

In today’s world, that quote is powerfully realistic.

Skywalker didn’t have as many great lines as the rest of the cast, but his best for my money was in “Return of the Jedi” when he shouts at the emperor – “I’ll never turn to the dark side. You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”

The Dark Side and the Force – it’s what made the series so powerful to multiple generations. Good and evil were so clearly defined, unlike the blurriness of today’s world.

There’s a great scene at the end of “Rogue One” when a package is delivered to Princess Leia and the young soldier, not knowing it’s the map of how to destroy the Death Star, asks what it is.

“Hope,” Leia simply responds with a smile.

Indeed, hope. Everyone needs hope and “Star Wars” has a way of delivering that message like no movie series in history.

It’s why I’ll be in a dark theater this weekend anxiously awaiting the first booming note of that incredible theme song by John Williams.

In the immortal words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, “May the Force be with you.”

Joel McNeece is publisher of the Calhoun County Journal.