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Star Wars ticket lines a tribute to George Lucas' creative genius


Why in the name of Luke Skywalker would anyone camp out in front of a theater for four months to buy movie tickets?

To find out what happens to the Jedi Knight who would become Luke’s father and then the scourge of the galaxy, of course.

The latest chapter of the Star Wars saga opens in theaters nationwide and around the world Thursday, May 16, and there are some devotees of the science fiction series who just can’t wait to get their tickets. Two Seattle-area men took up residence in a tent which they erected on the sidewalk in front of the Seattle Cinerama theatre, called by some one of the best theaters in the country in which to watch a Star Wars film because of its wide screens and dynamic sound system. They pitched their tent on January 1 and actually lived their lives there -- sleeping there, eating there, and even operating an Internet business, complete with television, VCR and wireless Internet connection. They endured the elements of a Seattle winter and spring, which any apprentice Jedi will tell you can be as cold and harsh as a storm on the rebel planet of Hoth.

Their dreams came true Friday when they were first in line to buy tickets for “Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones.” Many theaters around the country will welcome Star Wars fanatics in at 12:01 a.m. next Thursday -- the earliest moment possible on opening day. Many of those midnight shows will be sold out, or maybe already are.

Now who would have thought 25 years ago, when the first Star Wars film was released, that movie buffs the world over would turn opening day of a Star Wars film into almost an unofficial national holiday? We didn’t realize when we seated ourselves in theaters for that movie in 1977 that we were about to see a work of cinematography that would create an indelible impression on the national psyche.

Do you remember? Remember the opening scene, with the scrolling text that had a three-dimensional quality that few of us had ever seen, followed immediately by the battle cruiser flying into the frame with incredible detail that never seemed to end? We thought to ourselves, oh my gosh, how do they do that? If we weren’t ready for a memorable movie experience prior to that, our attention had been adequately seized.

Star Wars was the first movie with computer-generated special effects that didn’t look computer generated, and that was what kept us transfixed. We realized we were seeing something groundbreaking in the visual medium. And if that wasn’t enough, the David vs. Goliath storyline was one that has had universal appeal for centuries. Combine that with the outstanding character development and you had a creation that wove its way into the national fabric and stayed there.

The name of Darth Vader most certainly has more recognition among our populace than the names of the majority of our presidents. A certain slightly scratchy voice with unusual sentence construction is immediately identifiable as Yoda. The dark side is no longer only a reference to the portion of the moon blocked from sunlight.

Have you ever heard your dog growl and thought to yourself, gee, that sounds like Chewbacca? If so, you’re not alone.

The creative genius of George Lucas is so profound that he has audiences worldwide chomping at the bit to find out the adventures of the Star Wars characters in the light years leading up to the story which unfolded in the original. We care so much about these characters that we are, in effect, paying to read the first half of the proverbial book of which we already know the ending. Had we ever heard of a prequel prior to Star Wars?

But of course, each new Star Wars movie brings with it the promise of the absolute latest in cinematography and special effects. The buzz on Star Wars web sites is that this film will feature a computer-generated character in a leading role -- even more involved in the story than was Jar Jar Binks in Episode I.

As the art of creating films like “Shrek” and “Toy Story” that are completely computer generated evolves, it seems only a matter of time before “CG” characters that cannot be distinguished from live humans will be a part of the entertainment world. As next Thursday approaches, the media buzz will pick up, and perhaps hints of that aspect of the film will be part of the “teasers” that are leaked through the various media.

The lines outside theaters next Thursday will be a tribute to the creative genius of George Lucas. A quarter century after the original film, the nation is still intrigued by the outstanding combination of cutting-edge filmmaking technology and outstanding character development.

If you think the anticipation for this chapter is high, just wait two or three years for episode three -- the one in which we find out why Annakin Skywalker turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader.

They’re probably already buying their tents in Seattle.

This column was written May 4, 2002, and published in several print and web publications across the country.

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