Off-Ramp commentator Dale Hoppert sat on Hollywood Boulevard for a week to be first in line for the first-ever screening of the first Star Wars trilogy in 1985. Now he's ready for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," opening Dec. 17 at a theater near you.
Gather close now, younglings, for here is wisdom. Soon you will join a war among the stars that has been raging for generations, a war of dark against light, and many of you have never known a galaxy without it. But some few of us who remain and have survived. We recall how it all began: It was a long time ago, in a decade now far away... the 1970s. Before the dark time that was the prequel trilogy... even before "Empire."
Don't worry, I'm not going to keep that up the whole time. It's just, you see, I've finally figured out my place in the Star Wars universe. I'm 50 and have been a Star Wars fan since I was 12. I now finally know which of those wonderful characters is me and is the perfect metaphor for my journey through the Star Wars universe, and it's hard not to adopt the appropriate tone and cadence. Just count yourselves lucky I'm not talking like Yoda.
You see, after almost 40 years, I've finally figured out: I'm Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Let me explain. Obi-Wan Kenobi is the old Jedi Knight played in the '70s and the '80s by the late Sir Alec Guinness. He's the one in the first movie who recognized what was going on and sent Luke off on his quest. In the prequel films, we see a young Obi-Wan played by Ewan McGregor having all the adventures he'll later use as stories to inspire young Luke Skywalker.
You're probably not going to see Obi-Wan in "The Force Awakens" because, well, he's dead. When the story — which began when I was 12 and had a six-year flashback starting when I was 35 — finally resumes, Obi-Wan will have been dead for a movie-and-a-half. Out of the game, one with the Force.
When I was very young, I had a remarkable adventure. I saw a movie unlike anything that had ever been seen before, and I saw it at 12, which was the perfect age. Suddenly the strange vistas and wild science-fiction adventures I'd spent my youth reading about were splashed on the big screen before my eyes. I was drawn readily and completely into it all.
It was called "Star Wars" and it was the only thing in the whole universe back then that was. It played for a solid year and longer in the theaters, and it was the only movie I've ever seen that had its own special first birthday poster. That first holiday season in 1977, there were no toys. We had the movie and we had our imaginations. Uphill both ways in the snow. Our cap guns became blasters and we all taped paper tubes to flashlights. And I'll tell you what: we Star Warsed just fine, we Star Warsed it up good. Dark side, light side, we fought the fight.
Then came the other two original films — "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" — and all the toys and games and bed sheets and clothing lines. Then the prequel trilogy and all the CGI and green-screen and finding out that the scariest villain of all time used to be a whiny little brat who was friends with Goofy.
Like Obi-Wan Kenobi had done before me a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I grew up, grew older and withdrew from the battle more and more, waiting for my moment to come around again. Heck, I even moved out into the desert like he did.
Now, on the cusp of the release of this new Star Wars movie by J.J. Abrams, I can feel the Force Awakening in me. Look! There's the Millennium Falcon! I haven't seen her in action since I was a kid! Han Solo is looking a bit weathered, but he's still a scoundrel!
And Leia is a princess no more; she's a general now! Hey, there are my old robot pals! And that new robot who looks like a soccer ball is so cute!
Oooh! There's a new bad guy in a dark helmet. Lightsabers look fiercer than ever and I hear the First Order has a weapon that will make the Empire's old Death Stars look like firecrackers. Even Luke Skywalker himself is... well... he's around here somewhere. This is gonna be great.
And me? I hung up my lightsaber a long time ago, but today I feel like maybe I could get back into the wars. Like I've got one more good fight in me. An elegant weapon, from a more civilized age.
Disney has announced plans upon plans for the future of the Star Wars universe, and it is suddenly becoming clear to me — as it must have to Obi-Wan at some point as he followed Luke onto the Death Star — that I probably won't live to see the end of this story.
But like Obi-Wan Kenobi, I'm OK with that. I played my part in the wars and when I became old and wise, I passed on my memories of the time before. A new generation has been inspired — not by me directly, but stick with the metaphor just a moment longer. And whether I stand or fall, the Star Wars will go on long after I've become one with the Force.
It's a big galaxy, younglings. So many battles to fight. Off you go! I'll keep up with you as long as I can.