The movie Star Wars was released in May of 1977. I was 9 years old.
My mother and her best friend Phil went to see it together very soon after it opened. They came home absolutely raving about it. They told me they were going to take me to see it as soon as they could.
I asked them what it was about. But, when they started describing it — the big spaceships that feel like they are right on top of you, the ape-like creature that scares away the mouse-like robot in the corridor, the bad guy with the full helmet, heavy breathing, and deep voice — I could not picture it as "real".
I kept asking them, "Is this like a cartoon or, like, real things."
"Real!", they would exclaim.
"But, how can they do that stuff with real things?", I would say. I just could not imagine it. What they were describing sounded like a movie from some, until then, distant and impossible future. A dream, perhaps. It had to be animation I kept insisting. I even remember getting so angry and frustrated that they were tricking me and not confessing to it that I started to tear up.
I think we now forget just how far ahead, special effects wise, Star Wars was when it first came out. Almost every frame in the film contained something that no one else had done before. They, literally, were reinventing the technology of movie making at the same time they were making the movie. It instantly made every other sci-fi movie that came before it look like a relic of some distant past and raised the bar so high for everything after it that it took a couple of years before anything else came close. How could I, as a boy, have any reference point to imagine such things without seeing proof of their existence?
They took me a few days later. They insisted we had to sit in the front row in order to get the full effect of the opening shot. From the moment the Rebel ship flew over my head until the final scene, I was in absolute awe. I left the theater in a kind of shock — still not quite able to reconcile all I knew at age nine with what I had just seen.
I saw it several more times that summer and fall. I think it was the third or fourth time seeing it that I was able to simply sit back and enjoy the story. I was too busy having my mind blown on the viewings before then.
In the world of film technology and special effects, the marvels of Star Wars seem a long time ago now. But, at the time, they represented a future that was for most of Hollywood still far, far, away. And the level of possibility that taught my nine year old self and how much it changed me and contributed to my ability to embrace the unimaginable and believe beyond the impossible today is immeasurable.