Long ago and far, far away


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



At some point in our lives, we all have experienced a serendipity. A serendipity is defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as, “finding interesting or valuable things by chance.”

I was reminded of this definition last week when the movie-trailer that introduced “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” was introduced. The movie will be released just before Christmas this year.

The original Star Wars movie, that introduced us to Luke Skywalker, was released in May 1977.

Star Wars fans have been waiting for 42 years to find out how this epic story about good versus evil will end. The mysteries surrounding the Skywalker family are going to be explained this December. I hope.

My introduction to the saga was a true serendipity.

I bought my first brand-new car in 1976. Not exactly a status car — it was a brown, Ford Pinto station wagon. After six months, I was told to bring the car back to Salem Ford in Dayton for some needed work. So, I took a day off and drove from Wilmington to Salem Avenue in Dayton to get the Pinto into the shop.

They told me it would take a few hours. Instead of staying in their waiting room, they offered to take me to the Salem Mall. I jumped at the opportunity. After getting a cup of coffee and strolling the concourse for a few minutes, I saw that their cinema was about to start showing a new movie.

I figured a few hours in a movie theater was better than a few hours roaming a mall, so I bought a ticket, got my bucket of popcorn, a medium Dr. Pepper and found a seat near the middle of their half-empty theater.

I had no idea what the movie was going to be about. There had not been much hype about this new movie called “Star Wars,” but I had time to waste. So, why not waste it in a comfortable theater seat.

After the previews of coming movies, the room darkened. The amazing music of John Williams started to pound the theater.

Words started to crawl up the screen. “It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….”

I had no idea who Princess Leia was or what any of that meant, but I was intrigued.

Then, the only light within the Salem Mall Cinema came from the twinkling stars on the movie screen.

It was quiet, then I heard something behind me. Like every other person in the theater, I turned around and looked up. This was my first experience with Dolby sound. The roar of engines moved from the back of the theater to above our heads.

As the sound started coming from the front of the theater, a huge spacecraft appeared. As it filled the screen, I remember thinking, “Oh, this is gonna be good.”

Within no time, I was hooked.

In 1977, George Lucas had no idea whether people would like his movie about the space adventures that happened long, long ago in a galaxy far, far way. His first film ended with the heroes receiving medals and the bad guys on the run. There was no hint of a sequel.

There was no hint that Lucas was already planning on a series of films that would follow the Skywalkers for three generations. That first film became a phenomenon.

It has taken him over 40 years to bring the story to an end. It has been a spectacular journey. We were able to see the young Anakin Skywalker as he finished building C3PO. The two droids, C3PO and R2D2, are the only two characters to appear in all nine films. George Lucas planned it that way in 1977.

Later, we were told that the Skywalker Saga would be a trilogy.

Then, we found out that the entire story would be composed of three trilogies. The first would deal with Luke and Leia’s parents. The second would be the story of Luke’s development into a Jedi Knight. The final three would be about their children; the third generation who were committed to saving the galaxy from evil.

When “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” comes out in December, I’m planning on reserving an entire row of seats in a big theater so that three generations of the Riley family can sit and discover the end of the Skywalker saga that started when I was only 26 years old.

It will come to an end when I’m 69 years old.

Thank you, George Lucas. We have enjoyed the adventure.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist