Thursday, February 2, 2012

Return of the Jedi (Re-release) - Will our hero prevail?

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Movie and TV marathons are common these days. At a moment's notice you can pop in all the Bourne movies, or find Arrested Development Season 2 on Netflix and have yourself a happy bomb shelter weekend.
But there was a time when this wasn’t the case:  1985.

It was early in the year, and Return of the Jedi (1983) had been re-released in theaters. Thanks to Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980) being available on home video, I saw an opportunity to do something that nobody else I knew had done—watch all three Star Wars movies in one day.

I was 14, and this was my grand vision.

So I had my mom take me to Old West Video. It was the first video store around, and was doing such brisk business that it had already relocated to a larger space. The new spot happened to be in one of the oldest buildings in town, which, according to old photos, had started out as an opera house.

I say “according to” because I don’t trust those old photos. They overplay their hand a bit, depicting throngs of people out in the street (and all of whom, we're supposed to believe, decided to dress like the Wright brothers?)

Inside this booming establishment, I had no trouble acquiring the videos—which surprised me, given the monumental occasion at hand.

Mom drove me home.

Being the biggest Star Wars fan in the family by far, and never one to watch a movie alone, I decided to invite a friend over to share in the experience—a kid I’d like to refer to as "Germs," even though his name was Todd.  

(I always wanted a friend with a nickname. Theo on The Cosby Show had “Cockroach.” Teen Wolf had “Stiles.” Why should I miss out?)

Germs agreed to the proposal, even though I don’t think he thought it was quite the powerhouse idea that I did.

But Germs … fine, Todd … came over, and we began our matinee in state-of-the-art style for the era:  using a top-loading VCR, resting on a Zenith Space Command TV.

Read 'em and weap.

And our screening room:  my family’s enclosed, carpeted back porch. This added-on room was great in the summer, but bitterly cold in the winter, as the previous occupants hadn’t bothered with insulation.

It was the kind of home extension common at the time, featuring a ping pong table, grill, and a wet bar regularly stocked with Capri Suns and miniature bottles of Coca-Cola with twist-off sweepstakes caps that never tired of proclaiming, “You Are Not A Winner.”

Here, we readied some air-popped corn, and hit “Play.”

245 minutes of Industrial Light & Magic later, Todd and I had completed the home-based portion of the event, and prepared to head to the theater on foot.

Oddly enough, this would be the only occasion I can remember ever walking to the theater, even though, according to Mapquest, the journey was only 1.14 miles. I say “according to” because I don’t trust Mapquest, which has supremely hosed me on a number of occasions.

Along our route to see the movie, we passed a house that sat above a long drainage tunnel. This tunnel extended underneath the entire length of the sizable abode, including the backyard, front yard and driveway. Only after I had children of my own would my parents learn I had once crawled through the entire thing with two of my friends.

The sun was low in the sky, and the temperature hovered at near-perfect as we proceeded up the tree-lined brick streets.

Continuing northward, we approached a house where, as if on cue, two female classmates were stepping out the front door.

Todd approached and immediately greeted the young ladies.

“Hey, where are you going?” he asked.

“To the show,” they said.

"Return of the Jedi?” my friend eagerly inquired.

With this, the girls exchanged awkward glances.

To determine why, you’ll have to re-summon your full former junior high angst.

It was a critical age of development for us all. On our side, the opposite sex had already started to lap us in the maturity race. And if it was indeed a race, I didn't even have a pit crew.

One of the girls said, “Return of the … ? Nah, we’re going to see Gymkata!”


With this, Todd turned to me at whiplash speed. You wanna go?”

I was stunned.

“’You wanna go?’ What do you mean, ‘You wanna go!?’ Are you crazy? What about the four-and-a-half hour investment we just made? We’re on a mission here! We’re going to see ALL THREE Star Wars movies in one day! You want to ruin that with some C-level stupidly named goofus film about a martial arts gymnast that I didn’t even know existed until 6 seconds ago!?”

But this isn’t what I said. Instead I just replied with something like, “Nah. I really want to see Jedi.”

And there was a look of disappointment from my friend that he couldn’t entirely disguise. I got the feeling that he’d been developing a crush on one of the girls, possibly both.

I could understand that. But I was determined to stay the course.

And frankly, neither of the girls really did it for me.

If they had, this adventure might have ended much differently—where the decision to indulge on a nerdish quest was unexpectedly derailed by the age-old allure of the feminine form.

But it didn’t happen that way.

No, for just a little while longer, an all-too-brief season, I remained completely and unflinchingly ... a kid.

Score one for The Rebellion.


  1. Good one Tim! I desperately wanted to see Gymkata when it came out. I finally did. You made the right choice

    1. Thanks, Dirk! And good to know. I've often wondered.