This column originally ran in the Friday, May 14, 1999, edition of The Entertainer.
To: George Lucas, director, c/o Skywalker Ranch
From: Jennifer Moody, an all-around fan
Dear Mr. Lucas,
I don't want to sound ungrateful. I wouldn't want to criticize the man who directed my favorite movie of all time, the first "Star Wars" movie. And I know we're down to just a few days before "The Phantom Menace" opens. But I was wondering if you have time to issue one more decree to all the theaters out there who will be showing that film: Loyalty tests.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the younger generation learning about "Star Wars." If I were a teacher, I'd be assigning physics projects on light sabers and land speeders and essay questions on "The Inner Wookiee."
But if I'm going to spend a good portion of a weekend in the parking lot outside Regal Cinemas, I want to be sure I'm doing it with other True Fans who really deserve a ticket to see "TPM" on opening night.
I will admit I wasn't the most enthusiastic of fans from the get-go. I was 8 years old in 1977, the year "Star Wars" opened. When I saw it, we were visiting my grandparents in San Jose and my father wanted to take the family to the Capitol Drive-in.
I didn't want to go. My father loved historic war movies. I couldn't picture any movie called "Star Wars" as anything more than a two-hour yawnfest of men shooting tinfoil ray guns at each other from the protection of space-age trenches. I remember obstinately trying to watch the movies on the other drive-in screens through the back window of our Toyota station wagon instead.
I don't remember the exact moment I became mesmerized, but that's what happened. In all I saw "Star Wars" five times that year. I bought the novel from our Scholastic Book Fair. I nearly wore out my copy of the original soundtrack LP.
I now own two copies of the original trilogy (both pre- and post-Special Edition). I stood in line for opening night of the rerelease. Not long ago, I reigned supreme over all comers at a game of "Star Wars Trivial Pursuit."
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In essence, Mr. Lucas, I feel I've paid my dues. I've EARNED the right to that opening night ticket. I don't want to lose out to some Lando-come-lately who doesn't know a Jedi from a Jawa.
So what I propose is this: A short test to all of us who come out to the theater parking lots the day tickets go on sale. Nothing fancy. "Name the detention block where Princess Leia was held" could be one of the questions. Or, "What was Biggs Darklighter's X-wing call sign?" Extra credit could be given to people who have pictures of themselves in character costumes or who owned a copy of the Meco version of the Cantina Band song.
Or maybe there just be a sign at the entrance to each theater. "You must be this tall to watch 'The Phantom Menace' on opening night," or, "If you were born before May 25, 1977, come on in!"
In any case, Mr. Lucas, I plan to be there on opening day. I have to be, you see. That's what True Fans do.
Besides, I keep getting nasty flashbacks to the time when the baby-sitter told me Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father before I saw "The Empire Strikes Back" myself. Nobody's messing with my perception this time around.
May the Force be with you.
A lot of sandstorms have rolled through Beggar's Canyon since I wrote this column.
"The Phantom Menace" turned out to be most True Fans' worst nightmare: unsympathetic characters spouting wooden dialogue in ludicrous situations (Exhibit A: Genius slave kid has apparent access to unlimited time and materials and he builds ... a protocol droid? Seriously?).
But here's what "TPM" made possible: sequels. And one of those sequels eventually turned out to be "The Force Awakens," which quite literally re-awakened everything I had loved about the original trilogy, even if it sometimes resorted to pretty much lifting the dialogue and the stage settings from "A New Hope" to do so. And here's what "The Force Awakens" made possible: More sequels, an expansion of the film universe, new characters and creatures to love, and best of all, the answer to the question: "What happens next?"
So: Thanks, George. But do me a favor and stay out of the way when it's time to write dialogue. You've got laurels to rest on.