The first movie I remember seeing. Two years after it’s released, still running in the movie house, my dad finally schleps out with me to go see it. I’m seven years old.
My dad and I stop for cheeseburgers before we head into the theater. He hates the concession prices, but we get popcorn anyway. We talk like fathers and sons talk. The typical dialogue. What I want to be when I grow up.
“I want to draw comic books!” I tell him.
He smiles. “We’ll see,” he says.
I’m already reading Spider-Man and Batman. My mom won’t let me read Ghost Rider, so I have to sneak those under my bed. And Vampirella.
Sitting in the dark theater, we talk. About what I’m reading. About school. About hockey. He’s coaching a hockey team and I’m one of the players. We can say it now, but we couldn’t then. I sucked. I sucked at everything physical. I know this and my dad knows this. I want to impress him, want to make him proud of me, but the only thing I’m good at is being smart. I get great grades. The teachers move me up in the class so I can sit with the older kids. My reading level is through the roof.
“You’re smart,” my dad assures me. “I’d rather that you be smart than strong.”
The lights go dim and the movie begins. The first movie I remember seeing. Sitting with my dad, the dark theater. I’m seven years old.
I still remember hearing the music for the first time. I’m enchanted. I had never heard anything like it before. The credits open like a storybook, and there, on the screen before me, are characters larger than life.
For the two hours I sit there, I’m enraptured. I barely understand the language, but I watch the action and I’m completely enthralled. I can’t stop watching. I see what’s happening and I want to be a part of it. Want to be them.
The first five minutes of the movie were the most important five minutes of my life. Shaped everything I’d want to be forever. Taught me something important. Something I’d never forget.
And as the story moves to its close, and all looks bleak and dark, I squeeze my father’s hand. I remember crying a little. But then, at the last moment, a wicked grin. The good guys win. And the audience nearly cheers.
I’ve heard people stood and cheered when seeing the ending before. I’ve never been in an audience where that was the case for me.
The movie is over. The music rolls again. And we get one last look at our friends as the screen goes dark. I squeeze my father’s hand again and my whole life is changed. My world is different now. And the conversation I had with my father is even more present in my mind.
In the bright light of the afternoon, I walk out of the theater and I look up at my dad. I say, “I want to be that when I grow up.”
My dad laughs. “We’ll see,” he says.
Five minutes. In the span of a seven year old, that isn’t much. Enough to make a mark. A mark that has lasted even to this very day. This very second.
I was seven years old. And I’d never seen anything like it. And since that moment on, I’ve been practicing. Rehearsing. Reading. Learning.
Because in the end, the good guys didn’t win because they were stronger or faster or had kung fu or even light sabers.
In the end, the good guys won because they were smarter.
And when all my friends who were ranting and raving about Star Wars, I laughed and nodded and said, “Hell yeah!”
But in my heart of hearts, the movie that changed me most was not that one. It was this one.
Just the first five minutes.