North Texas Daily

Watch ‘Empire Strikes Back,’ fans did

Watch ‘Empire Strikes Back,’ fans did

November 19
03:28 2015

Matt Payne | Senior Staff Writer


A battalion of Stormtroopers, jarring Wookiee cries and the distinctive whooshing of lightsabers aren’t the usual sights and sounds Cross Timbers Community Church on West McKinney Street is accustomed to.

With just under a month until “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” premiers in theaters nationwide on Dec. 18, more than 1,000 Jedis, Sith Lords and bounty hunters congregated in the ministry’s parking lot as “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” was projected onto a screen—not unlike a drive-in movie.

The excitement among the legion of fans was evident, but even stronger was the Force of charitable spirit.

Cross Timbers has put together several of these community movie nights in partnership with First Refuge Ministries and Giving HOPE Inc. of Denton County, including an event more than two weeks ago on “Back to the Future Day,” Oct. 21. “Star Wars” night was the fifth event of its kind, and youth pastor Nick Person said the movie nights serve two purposes.

“Why not put on a community event that also has a good cause behind it?” Person said. “It’s a good way to engage people and also help people.”

At the event, attendees who participated in a costume contest were awarded gift cards from sponsors, including West Oak Coffee Bar and More Fun and Games Comics. A photo booth, created by “People of Denton” Facebook page organizer Wesley Kirk, allowed guests to pose with lightsabers and display their savvy of the Jedi Code.

“I just think everyone knows what “Star Wars” is,” Person said. “If you can use something that everybody is at least a little familiar with, put on a fun event and also do some good, I think you’ve got a really good thing going.”

Although the original “Star Wars” franchise attracted its fanbase in the 70s with Episodes IV through VI, several younger Dentonites were eager to show off their affinity for the Rebel Alliance and all things intergalactic.

The costume contest victor, Ansel Close, was dressed up as a Jawa – a rodent-like native of Anakin Skywalker’s desert-like home planet Tatooine. His costume was complete with a brown cloak and a black mask featuring bright orange, flashing lights to represent the signature piercing eyes of the Jawa race.

Close’s father, Casey Close, said the preparation for the costume took over a month, and every feature of the Jawa costume was Ansel’s idea.

“I’ve been into ‘Star Wars’ since 1973, and he’s probably been into ‘Star Wars’ for about four years now,” Close said. “It took him a while to really get into the series, but with all the hype surrounding the franchise lately, he’s really clung onto everything.”

Kristen Cogswell, right, battles Mawlins' son as Darth Vader at the Star Wars movie night at Cross Timbers Church. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor

Kristen Cogswell, right, battles Mawlins’ son as Darth Vader at the Star Wars movie night at Cross Timbers Church. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor

Close and his son both said they are eager to see how events will unfold in the series’ seventh installment. For Close, it’s a matter of whether or not new director J.J. Abrams will be able to execute a seamless transition. Ansel said he is more concerned about the return of Luke Skywalker and what sort of role the Jedi will play.

“We’re just a tad nervous, but we couldn’t be more excited,” Close said.

Also in the crowd were veritable veterans to the franchise. Joined by his wife and two children, Shawn Malins and his family came dressed as Jedi warriors.

Malins’ passion for “Star Wars,” he said, dates back to the 70s. Now 37 years old, the enthusiast is a self-acclaimed “Sabersmith.” He runs his own business, the Force Foundry, creating custom lightsabers that glow and even feature the classic cracking sound effect when unsheathed.

“Mostly for me, it’s a way to reminisce of my childhood,” Malins said. “Every time I work on a lightsaber, it’s a way for me to remember those happy days first watching the films.”

After mentioning the fast-approaching “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” the lightsaber-wielding family was ecstatic to express their curiosity for the growing franchise, which could potentially take on a new vision.

“I’m really curious, nervous but mostly excited to see how everything plays out with a movie from Disney coming out every year,” Malins said. “I have a feeling it’s all going to be great.”

Malin’s love of “Star Wars” and his independent career have influenced his wife and children to develop an admiration like his own. Beyond the several Comic Cons and conventions the family frequents, they have a shared excitement for alternate universes and charity.

“This is a lot of fun seeing all the costumes and creativity,” Malins said. “And all the effort the ministry has toward channeling the excitement for a good cause is just awesome.”

Featured Image: A young boy and his sister, dressed as Darth Maul and Leia, before the Star Wars movie night at Cross Timbers Church. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor

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