Star Wars fans use the Force

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2005

To say goodbye to the &uot;Star Wars&uot; saga for the last time when its final chapter, &uot;Revenge of the Sith,&uot; hit theaters early Thursday morning, Michael Estep did more than just buy a ticket and wait in line.

For just one night, he actually stepped into the film. He was a part of one of the world’s most well-known cinematic franchises. He became the man who would become Darth Vader.

With the help of some convenient around-the-house clothes, Estep transformed into Anakin Skywalker. Wearing a dark cape, a dark glove to simulate the hand that Skywalker lost in &uot;Attack of the Clones,&uot; and other unusual garments, Estep headed to the Harbor View theater to bid farewell to the George Lucas series that has entertained film fans for nearly three decades.

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&uot;I never got a chance to do this before,&uot; he said. &uot;I’ve seen all the promo pics, and I think this is going to be a pretty cool movie.&uot;

And where would any Anakin impersonator be without his true love, Padme Amidala? Estep’s own female companion, Victoria Pendleton, put on the dress she wore to the Nansemond River High prom and became Luke and Leia’s mother.

&uot;(Michael) was being Anakin, so I wanted to be Amidala,&uot; said Pendleton, who loaned her Paul D. Camp graduation gown to Estep for his costume. &uot;I have every newspaper article from ‘Phantom Menace’ taped to my wall at home.&uot;

Tyler Espinosa and his little brother Easton represented both sides of Anakin; Tyler went all black to play Vader, while Easton put on a white robe and racing helmet to imitate the child Anakin was in &uot;Phantom Menace.&uot;

&uot;(Vader) has always been my favorite since I was little,&uot; Tyler said.

&uot;He’s the chosen one!&uot; Easton said of Skywalker. &uot;He goes back to the good side at the end.&uot;

He’s right; though it came out in 1983, &uot;Return of the Jedi&uot; was actually the final chapter of the series, and it ended with Vader

going back to the good side and saving his son from the evil Emperor Palpatine.

Just before 11 p.m., the theater opened its doors to the more than

700 local Star Wars fans who’d showed up to say goodbye; the film actually began at 12:01 Thursday morning. Three theaters were filled with fans.

&uot;I’ve been waiting 22 years for this to finish up,&uot; said Ben Gutierrez. &uot;There’s a large backstory and all sorts of plot twists and turns. I’ve gone through all the others, and I have to be here for the end.&uot;

Just after Thursday arrived, the film kicked off. Two and a half hours later, the flick and the saga were done.

&uot;It completely topped (&uot;Me-nace&uot; and &uot;Clones&uot;),&uot; Estep said.

&uot;It was much more human. There weren’t a lot of cartoony things. It was a tragedy, but it had a sense of hope.&uot;

&uot;It got more serious instead of commercial,&uot; Gutierrez said. &uot;It was more focused. It tied well into the others. It was a good way to end it.&uot;