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Star Wars superfans out in force

Faithful followers pass lightsaber to next generation

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Terry Chui was a six-year-old boy sitting in a darkened movie theatre.

It was 1977, and his family had taken him to see Star Wars, the new science fiction/fantasy epic taking theatres by storm. From the moment the first words scrolled up the screen and the epic space battle erupted, “I was riveted,” said Chui.

As a child, Star Wars was a huge influence in firing his imagination, said Chui. He later went on to study graphic design at both North Vancouver’s Capilano University and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design and work for video gaming companies.

Chui’s love of Star Wars never left him. Jump to hyperspace – today he’s the commanding officer of the Outer Rim Garrison – a group of Star Wars superfans who specialize in dressing up as stormtroopers and other Star Wars “bad guys” at charity events.

This week, Chui and super fans on the North Shore have been on the edge of their seats awaiting the newest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, which opens today in theatres.

Dale Wentland is another superfan from North Vancouver who planned to head to the theatre for a Thursday late-night screening – this time with his nine-year-old son.

Star Wars is “huge for me” said Wentland, who remembers watching the original trilogy on a boxed VHS set.

He was backpacking through India when Revenge of the Sith came out – and made it a movie theatre in Bangalore to see it.

For The Force Awakens, “I got my tickets a month ago,” said Wentland, “the minute they were out.”

Fans point to Star Wars’ ability to transport audiences to richly imagined and detailed other worlds combined with a classic storyline as key to its enduring appeal.

“It’s that classic battle between good and evil,” said Pete Turcotte, owner of Big Pete’s Collectibles in Lower Lonsdale, where Star Wars figures have long been popular. “There are so many good lessons to be learned from the movies. They’re full of values.”

Not to mention fun.

Wentland admits that he and his kids enjoy turning out all the lights in the house and having lightsaber battles with their extensive collection. They’ve also got a giant Lego star destroyer made up of 1,500 pieces. “It took us six hours to build together,” he said.

Favourite characters vary among Star Wars fans – Chui is partial to protocol droid C-3PO while Turcotte points to Jedi master Yoda.

But the dark side has a surprisingly enduring appeal.

The 501 Legion – the worldwide group of costumed superfans that the Outer Rim Garrison belongs to – are usually those who’ve followed in the menacing footsteps of Sith lords.

Steve Davie and Yves Ho are two North Vancouver members of the Outer Rim Garrison who have felt the tractor beam pull of the dark side – at least when it comes to costumes. Ho’s alter ego is a sand trooper from the first Star Wars movie while Davie has spent years sourcing and perfecting his set of Stormtrooper armor – including cutting, shaping, sanding and gluing the various parts.

“Everyone likes the bad guys,” he said.

Most diehard Star Wars fans agree the original movies are considered the best ones. But local fans said they have high hopes for new movie – rumoured to combine old-school elements with a new storyline.

One of the cool things about The Force Awakens is that fans of the original movies are now taking their kids to the latest Star Wars, said Turcotte.

“You don’t realize you lose the magic until you see it again in kids,” said Wentland. “If I can look over and see that wide-eyed sense of wonder...”