May the force
be with you--again!

Luke, Lea and Han
are even better the second
time around

By Burl Burlingame

Mikhail Ponce, 18, of Punahou School, and Chris Lipman, 17, of Kalani High, were debating the relative merits of a "Star Wars" collectible at Sharper Image at Ala Moana.

It was a reproduction of a pre-production sketch; in the high-priced world of Hollywood talent, it was the equivalent of a doodle on a legal pad. Studios have trashed thousands, millions, of such sketches in the past.

But this is "Star Wars." These rough sketches are glimpses into the creative groundwork of the grand mythology of the last quarter of the 20th century, a cross-section of the public subconscious, the primal drives of the human animal as illuminated by the lightning of the movie screen.

"And look! It has (artist Ralph) McQuarrie's number and signature!" said Ponce. "It's really his signature!"

"Whoa - that's what makes it real," breathed Lipman. "How much is it?"

Both Ponce and Lipman were born after the initial release of "Star Wars" during the summer of 1977, and they have no recollection of the long lines around the block at the Cinerama Theater, or of the way the film swept out of nowhere to capture the world's imagination. Nope. They grew up in a world where "Star Wars" existed.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Chris Lipman of Kalani High, left, and Mikhail Ponce of
Punahou School check out the Star Wars memorabilia at the
Sharper Image store at Ala Moana Center. As for seeing the
released film, Ponce said, "It's totally different
seeing it in the theater. It's huge!"

What's available at Sharper Image are essentially high-end toys, and they're warp-driving out of the store. According to Rodney Mau of the Ala Moana site, items like the life-size Darth Vader ($5,750) have a two-month waiting period, and the life-size Yoda (much smaller) forced a price doubling, to nearly $800. How about reproduction light sabers ($350), Darth Vader headpieces ($1,200) or masks ($79.95).

"The only toys I had as a kid were 'Star Wars' toys," said Ponce. "We even had the green milk."

"Me too," said Lipman. "Tasted terrible, but it said 'Star Wars' on the box. And the first movie I ever remember seeing was 'Return of the Jedi.'"

"Me too!"

World has changed

The world has changed since then. When these films were originally released, there were far fewer screens available, and videotape and laser discs were rich man's toys. In the early 1980s, Consolidated Amusements controlled the local movie market so thoroughly that the Hawaii debut of "Jedi" was delayed for a month. Anyone who has worked in a corporation will recognize echoes of Darth Vader's evil empire in the "Dilbert" comic strip. Even the phrase "Star Wars" was co-opted by the Reagan White House.

But the recent revamping, fine-tuning and re-release of the middle trilogy of George Lucas' grand space opera has struck a national nerve, and ticket sales have pushed the films into the top position of most popular films of all time. Release of the third installment has been pushed back by a week so as not to compete with "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back."

Jean Burrell, administrative assistant at Consolidated, and Brett Havlik, general manager at Wallace Theatres, confirmed that Hawaii attendance records echo those of the mainland.

No package deal planned

Neither wanted to speculate on screenings a few weeks away, but there are no plans to show all three films as a package deal.

"When you devote three screens to product by a single distributor (Fox distributes the trilogy), the other distributors get annoyed," said Havlik.

While most of Hollywood thought "Star Wars" would do OK, this unprecedented success has Hollywood scrambling to do what it does best - copy the concept without understanding the core. Other old films will reappear soon at your local multiplex.

"2001: A Space Odyssey" was re-released last year, and did minor business, even though the audience that showed up for that was in many ways the same as for "Star Wars" - boomers bringing their kids. But "2001" is an intellectual conundrum while "Star Wars" goes right for the heart.

"It's totally different seeing it in the theater," said Ponce. "It's huge! It ... fills your world. You're totally caught up in it."

"With the big screen and sound, it's overwhelming, a spectacle," said Lipman. "A gestalt imagery of good and evil. It's such a PURE fantasy."

We random-sampled some midday moviegoers in Waikiki to get their responses.

Special effects bonanza

Tyler Tokioka, 32, a property manager, wanted to see what has been added in the way of special effects. "I remember seeing it at the Cinerama, and was so blown away by the effects, and the way they added to the story. 'Star Wars' spawned so many of the science fiction and fantasy movies since," he said.

Chris Kneeskern, 22, a security guard, said he was "too young to see it when it first came out, but my family loved it, and they kept telling me it was the best science fiction movie of all time. I've heard so much hype over the years that I have to see it for myself."

Bernard Colter, 68, a Navy retiree, said he also is fascinated by the special effects, and wanted to see what was added. When it first came out, he took his grandchildren. Now they're taking their children.

Never seen the film

Sher Watson, 30, a flight attendant based in London, had never seen the film. "But if it has anything to do with flying or space travel, then I'm interested," she said.

A couple of people declined to give their full names because they were playing hooky from work.

"I have to see it!" said "Margaret," 40. "When it first came out, I took my babies, and now my son, who's 25, says: Go for it, Mom! It's marvelous - the everyman struggle against good and evil, and the philosophical bent that says the struggle is within us."

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