Friday, July 13, 2007

Star Wars Three Decades After
By Miko Santos/

LOS ANGELES – “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” Thus opened thirty years ago on May 25, 1977 in what would be one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, “Star Wars”

Little did “Star War” creator George Lucas know that the movie franchise would spawn a huge fanbase bordering on cult status and a multi-billion dollar merchandising phenomenon.

“Star Wars” quickly became a monster hit, and Lucas released two enormously successful sequels: "The Empire Strikes Back" in 1980, and "Return of the Jedi" in 1983.
After a 16-year break he produced and released three "prequels": "The Phantom Menace" in 1999, "Attack of the Clones" in 2002, and "Revenge of the Sith" in 2005, all recounting the story leading up to the original movies.
The movies broke new ground in film special effects, but are best known for being the first to rake in a fortune in movie-related merchandise products.
"Star Wars" spawned a cottage industry of spin-off television series, books, comics, video games, toys and other merchandise. Forbes magazine estimated in 2005 the franchise has generated as much as 20 billion dollars in revenues over the past three decades.

Fast forward to 2007 in Los Angeles Convention Center to be exact, as thousands of fans worldwide converged in Downtown Los Angeles last May 24-28, 2007 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Star Wars”.

White-armored Stormtroopers, Jedi Knights, Sith lords, bounty hunters and twin-bun Princess Leias, prowled the convention halls along with die-hard Star Wars fanboys and fangirls to watch all six films, scour the latest merchandise, learn belly dancing lessons, and to play out their movie fantasies.

“The Force is strong in this one …”

Joining the celebration this year were nine Pinoy fans from the 501st Philippine Outpost who also participated in the Rose Bowl Parade early this year dressed as Imperial Stormtroopers and Biker Scouts.

Proudly displaying a stylized 501st Legion patch with the colors of the Philippine Flag, the troopers gamely posed for a barrage of photos before lining up for the Legion’s group photo.

“We started out as a group that enjoys costuming and later found out that there was a much bigger organization and decided why not join them and create our own outpost,” said Manny Mendoza, CO of the 501st Philippine Outpost.

The 501st Legion is an international fan-based organization created by Albin Johnson in 1997 to promote and celebrate the Star Wars mythology thru highly detailed costumes based primarily on the “bad guys” of the Star Wars universe.

Oneal Rosero, XO of the 501st Philippine Outpost, got hooked early on Star Wars and was costuming as a Jedi Knight before joining the “dark side.” He likens it to role-playing as an action figure. “The costumes are much more dramatic and it reminds you of an action figure, I mean how cool is it to dress up as one,” said Rosero.

The costumes that they are wearing are often hand-made and can cost anywhere from $700 for an Imperial Stormtrooper to about $4,000 for a full Darth Vader outfit according to Dr. Ron Rosero.

Regina Layug, the only female member of the Philippine Outpost and a participant of the Rose Bowl Parade, said although the costumes cost a lot it pays off in the end. “It was a great experience meeting George Lucas during the Rose Bowl and the friends we have gained thru the Legion.”

“These are not the droids you are looking for…”

Among the 501st Philippine Outpost’s members are former Identity Crisis band member Buddy Arceo and Spongecola drummer Chris Cantada.

Arceo remembers watching the movie at Harrison Plaza and seeing some moviegoers in cardboard costumes. “It got me hooked.” said Arceo.

For Cantada, the “Star Wars” phenomenon is a great equalizer. “Geeks, jocks, old, and young all think Star Wars is cool,” said Cantada

“Star Wars was the only movie I chose to remember,” said Dr. Rosero reminiscing on the first time he saw the movie.

Three decades has passed and the “Star Wars” franchise has no signs of slowing down. From graphic novels, books, video games, and a soon to be released TV series in 2008, the “Star Wars” phenomenon continues to thrill fans and bring them to a galaxy far, far away. (AJ)

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