Delaware Star Wars fans discuss their love of the franchise as the 40th anniversary approaches.
Raeann Dunn was 10. David Hall was 8. And Dan Betters was 2 when he saw the original “Star Wars” film in 1977.
“It was like nothing we’d seen before,” said Dunn of Smyrna. “Probably because of the special effects and all the characters like Darth Vader. He was like the boogieman with his breathing. He was so menacing.”
Delaware’s first generation of “Star Wars” fans – and enthusiasts across the globe – will celebrate May 25 in honor of the 40th anniversary of the day “Star Wars” hit theaters.
Betters, of Middletown, said he was too young to remember much of anything about seeing the space opera in the theater.
He does, however, recall an embarrassing story his parents told him about their first impressions of the film.
“My mom and dad went to the original showing in 1977, and they were proofing it for us kids,” said Betters, 37. “They heard about this great movie and actually came into the theater late during the famous Cantina scene: and it’s just a bunch of puppet aliens and everything with silly music.
“They didn’t get in there for the jaw-dropping opening. They got in there for the crazy Cantina scene. They looked at each other and started laughing and said, ‘What’s the big deal with this movie?’ Of course, the movie developed and ended up taking off.”
Dunn said the movie stood out to her because of the special effects and the beloved droids, C-3PO and R2-D2.
“They were robots, but they had personalities like people,” the 50-year-old Smyrna resident said. “It wasn’t like when you watched ‘Lost in Space’ where you had ‘danger, danger.’ But C-3PO and R2-D2 were sassy.”
She mentioned it was a big deal the film didn’t feature any period clothing or vehicles that looked like it came from the ‘70s, because it made the movie feel futuristic.
Milford resident David Hall is now 48. His 19-year-old twin sons, Andrew and Nick, have inherited his “Star Wars” gene.
The second generation fans respect the original film, but it’s not their favorite in the saga. In fact, Andrew Hall most enjoys the latest, “Rogue One,” from 2016.
“It went all the way back to the beginning of ‘Star Wars’ and it takes place right before [the original] happens. It makes sense and it fits with everything,” he said.
His brother said his favorite is “Revenge of the Sith” from 2005, the third in the prequel trilogy, because “it told the origin story of Darth Vader.”
Their dad, meanwhile, said the first film holds the most special place in his heart. The flick’s upcoming anniversary boggles his mind.
“It’s amazing, because when I was growing up we had ‘Gone with the Wind,’ ‘Wizard of Oz’ and other classics. And now there’s the fact I’m a part of a classic,” said Hall, whose hometown is Hockessin.
Families ‘bonding’ with cosplay
The Halls don’t stop at watching the films. They're also into cosplaying as the characters.
“It’s a great bonding experience,” Nick Hall said.
His brother cosplays as a crimson royal guard, who first appeared in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.”
His dad cosplays as a shadow trooper – a more advanced storm trooper clad in a black suit. Shadow troopers never made it into the movies, yet they’re featured in video games and comic books.
Nick Hall dresses as Ponda Baba, a two-bit thug from the first film.
“He’s the alien who shoved Luke Skywalker in the Cantina – he got his arm cut off in the movie, because he pulled a gun out on Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Nick Hall said.
“I’m a really big fan of the obscure background characters in ‘Star Wars’ and of the fact that a lot of people haven’t cosplayed that character,” he said.
Betters and his five children also cosplay.
“We have light sabers around the house,” Betters said. “If someone picks one up and then somebody else runs and picks one up, the next thing you know we’re running around the house battling each other, laughing and having a good time. It’s just a way we really connect.”
Betters is a member of the 501st Legion, a worldwide Star Wars group for cosplayers. The outfit has more than 761,000 Facebook likes.
His kids aren’t part of the 501st, because they’re not 18. His children are ages 8 to 14.
A pastor at Stone’s Throw Church in Middletown, Betters knows he can’t get past the irony that he cosplays as the villainous Darth Vader.
“What it comes down to is, he’s cool,” he said. “Plus there’s the whole story of redemption and everything. I think that might be part of it as well. You can also see an outline of the character and you know who it is.”
The force is still strong
The “Star Wars” train began in 1977 and it's not looking to slow down anytime soon. The franchise is still creating new films.
Next to hit theaters will be “The Last Jedi” in December. It'll be the eighth numbered film in the saga.
Nick Hall said the release of “The Force Awakens” (2015) – the seventh and last numbered film since 2005's “Revenge of the Sith” – has helped to make the franchise “a lot more popular, ” because it's attracted a new generation of fans.
He, his twin brother and dad are stoked to see “The Last Jedi.”
Betters is also geeked. He and his kids will be there for that, too, like when they stormed the theater for “The Force Awakens.”
Reflecting on the popularity of the 1977 “Star Wars” film, Betters explained how that movie paved the way for the franchise’s success today.
“That movie was at the right place at the right time,” he said. “Just think about if ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ came out in 1977. It would’ve blown everybody away. But today those types of movies are a dime a dozen.”