This week’s opening of the next installment in the Star Wars phenomenon can’t come soon enough for Joshua Miller of Escalon.
The local resident, who has an extensive collection of figurines and memorabilia from everything Star Wars, will be at the Thursday showing of the film, which was directed by JJ Abrams and came in with a $200 million budget.
‘Star Wars – the Force Awakens’ is Episode VII, picking up where Return of the Jedi (Episode VI) left off.
“I started collecting in 1978, they were toys for me then,” said Miller, who got his first figurines the Christmas after the original Star Wars movie was released.
“Growing up, my father owned a sports memorabilia business,” Miller added, explaining that he realized the value that popular, iconic items could have.
As he entered his teen years, he continued to collect but then boxed all his Star Wars items up, storing them in his parent’s attic. They stayed safe there until, at 18, he hauled them down and decided to begin adding new items.
The original movie became Episode IV as the filmmakers did ‘prequels’ – setting up the entire battle between good and evil, between the dark side of the force and the Jedi.
“The collecting market hit a frenzy again because they came out with all new figures,” Miller said of the first three episodes reinvigorating the franchise.
“Some collect just vintage pieces, others do vintage and modern,” he added.
Miller said he likes pieces from both worlds, the original film era when he was barely in kindergarten, to the later movies.
He was quick to get his tickets for the latest film and said he and his family will make a day of it, getting in line early morning Thursday “like old times” and being there to get the best seats when the theater opens.
“Some people are skeptical about George Lucas not doing it,” he said of the upcoming installment, nothing that early talk in Star Wars circles is split 50-50 about whether it will be well received. “With JJ Abrams as the director, I think it will be good, I am very excited about it.”
One room in Miller’s home is dedicated to memorabilia but the room is also functional, serving as the family game room in addition to the display area. He changes out pieces from time to time, buying, selling and trading to keep his collection fluent.
Of course, there are the pieces that he won’t part with and he does have his favorite characters from the space saga.
“As far as from when I was a kid, the coolest looking characters to me were the Storm Troopers, one wall is dedicated to them,” Miller said. “My favorite character was either Darth Vader or Yoda, both good and evil, but I have one wall that is almost all Darth Vader so I guess it would have to be him … the bad guys look cool.”
Miller has come a long way from seeing the original Star Wars movie in the drive in theater and he said while Episodes I, II and III relied on a lot of CGI, computer generated images, he is looking forward to a return of more costume-driven characters and ‘real life’ action in this one.
The plethora of items will also be passed down from generation to generation, he said, with his 10-year-old son now as much a Star Wars fan as he is. Even his 13-year-old daughter has started to show some interest in all the hoopla, he said.
Select theaters will show the film on Thursday, Dec. 17 with a countrywide release set for Friday, Dec. 18.
Some of Miller’s items are in storage and he said he has a part of his collection specifically designed for buy-sell-trade and another part that is strictly for display.
He recently bought 32 more figures and though he doesn’t have any items from the new movie yet, those will likely join the family collection shortly.
“I work with wood,” said the handyman/caretaker for a former area almond grower. “I can always build more shelves.”