Imagine a world where Star Wars never arrived in theaters.
It’s difficult, right? But that’s the world that the Shanghai International Film Festival aims to correct this week: The organization will show all six Star Wars films this week, which purport to be the first screenings of the original trilogy in mainland China.
When the first film in the original trilogy (now designated as the sixth installment of the story, and appropriately labeled “Episode VI”) appeared in theaters stateside in 1977, China’s Cultural Revolution had just finished, making the film’s journey to Chinese theaters a difficult one.
That’s not to say Chinese citizens were never exposed to the Star Wars universe: Bootlegs and illegal downloading gave rise to a thriving fan base. But seeing them in the theater still holds a special charm. “It looks better on the big screen,” Joy Han, a sales assistant who took the day off for the viewing, told AFP. “This is the first time for China.”
Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the original films, commented on a Reddit thread, discussing the reissue. “Wonderful news. I hope they enjoy the experience,” he wrote.
But at least one person wasn’t particularly blown away by seeing Star Wars for the first time. Xiaosi Buxiang, posting on the Chinese website Douban, wrote that “the character design is weak, the leading actress not beautiful, the leading actor not handsome and the action parts like children fighting.”
These critical comments did allow for one concession, though: “Placed in 1977, the visual effects are amazing.”