In the mid-1990s, one man’s idea launched a group that has become an international force for good in the community. At Cons, charity events and public events, stormtroopers, Darth Vaders, and other imperial officers can be seen in full costume – seeming to have come directly from the movies.
Fans of Star Wars have been collecting props, action figures, comics and other paraphernalia for many decades. Albin Johnson, as mentioned in the film Heart of an Empire, had an idea that he wanted to dress up as a stormtrooper. With support of his friends and fellow Star Wars fans, Albin’s dream has become a reality. Chapters of the 501st Legion can be found all over the world, which is more than Albin could have dreamed of.
This past weekend, Albin’s dream-turned-reality made its way into my line of sight. At ConCarolinas in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was formally introduced to the Carolina Garrison of the 501st and the whole 501st through Jay Thompson’s documentary, Heart of an Empire. Don’t get me wrong, I had heard of the group before, but I had no idea just how big and well-known the group is.
And let me tell you, as a life-long fan of the Star Wars trilogies and EU (Expanded Universe), the fact that the 501st group exists excites me.
Not only are these groups active fans of the franchise, they are also active in their communities as individuals that want to have a positive influence on the people around them. In fact, Heart of an Empire focuses on the influence these men and women have had on other people.
I refuse to give anything away…so, PLEASE watch the film! It will change your life with its beautiful story.
In addition to seeing the film, I was able to sit in on an interesting panel on Saturday morning at ConCarolinas: Star Wars.
One thing that I knew would be discussed is the fact that Disney now owns LucasFilm and what that will entail for the upcoming sequel trilogies. Just among the four panelists, the tension was running high. They even went into the lengthy argument over the prequel trilogies and whether or not they are good or necessary for the Star Wars saga.
Now, say what you will, but I loved the prequel trilogy, but because I was a kid and saw the appeal. I was a member of the generation that saw the release of these films, and that is part of my individual experience with Star Wars. I, now, believe that the original films (without the additional edits that were made in the 1990s and 2000s) are far superior (Am I getting the Star Wars stamp of approval, now?)
However, I believe that the most important point from the panel is that the upcoming trilogy should not be judged harshly before it is released. I believe fans of the saga should take the “innocent until proven guilty” approach. Be excited for the films! Be hopeful that the stories will be great! Have faith that JJ Abrams and the entire cast and crew will do well with the films!
Now, if the films come out and are a success, YAY!!!! You had faith and you are being rewarded accordingly. If the films are terrible, well that’s okay too. Once that happens, go to town criticizing and analyzing and complaining – you deserve to. But we should not set ourselves up with great expectations of what the films will be when we have no true idea of what is coming! That’s just my simple opinion.
For more information about the amazing Con that is ConCarolinas, check out their website!
Photos courtesy of the official websites of the 501st Legion, Star Wars, and ConCarolinas.