Review 2015:
Kathleen Herzog on
The Empire Strikes Back.

Film My dad was an old-school science fiction fan who loved Star Trek and the Planet of the Apes films and was thrilled to have a kid to share it all with, even if I didn’t quite get the appeal of Star Trek beyond “The Trouble With Tribbles.” I was a Star Wars fanatic, having been so impressed by the first movie I ever saw in a theatre that I was the only girl Darth Vader in my kindergarten class’s Halloween parade. My dad was delighted.

When Stuart asked for film experiences for this year’s Review, there was one perfectly crystallized moment that came to mind. I was seven years old when The Empire Strikes Back was released in May 1980. The memory of that day is mostly a blur of childhood rapture, adrenaline and joy, and the reason I am, to this day, consumed with instant goosebumps when I hear the theme music. But that moment, maybe a single second long, is frozen: turning to my dad when the Millennium Falcon escaped Cloud City, his face illuminated by the light of the screen. He was grinning and aglow with joy, and time stopped. “I’ll always remember this day,” I thought, “When I saw The Empire Strikes Back with my dad. I’ll never forget this for as long as I live.”

And it’s true, I have never forgotten and I never will. I’m sure my seven-year-old self didn’t realize that someday memories would be all I had left of my dad, and just how precious that particular one would be. He died four years ago, a brutal departure he fought as hard as he could. Gallows humor being a family specialty, he joked about being pissed off about all the great movies he was going to miss. He wasn’t really kidding, and this was before we knew about the pending reboots of so many of our other favorite things – The X-Files! Twin Peaks! Mystery Science Theatre!! Come on!

The Force Awakens wasn’t even a twinkle in J.J. Abrams’ eye back then, at least as far as we knew, but my dad loved the Abrams Star Trek reboot and would have been ecstatic that he was handling such precious cargo as our Star Wars franchise. The release coincides with my nephew’s eighth birthday and his next-generation excitement for a “new Star Wars movie” thirty-five years after my own giddiness for Empire is wonderful anti-bittersweet balm. It does happen time and time again, though, the flare-up of quick, helpless anger – Dad should be here! It’s not fair! -- quelled with the resolution that, in his absence, I’ll strive to enjoy it enough for two.

I’ll close my eyes when that logo hits the screen and remember the glowing cinematic moment I told myself I’d never forget. And just like that, he’ll be there with me.

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