Wednesday night I had a dinner with a couple of people. It was nice, but as soon as it was polite to leave, I rushed to the bus stop so I could be on my way to the movie theatre ASAP.
I was, of course, going to the midnight screening of the new Star Wars film.
Now, Star Wars and I have sort of an odd relationship. I spent my childhood in Colombia, and wasn’t exposed to Star Wars until I was maybe 12 or 13. I remember picking the movies out at Blockbusters and then watching through them (starting at Phantom Menace and ending at Return of the Jedi) in a day or two.
I can remember exactly nothing from my experience marathoning it then. I had vague memories of major plot points and names of characters, enough to understand references and jokes about Star Wars years later, but I still have absolutely no idea whether I enjoyed them or not, or what I thought about anything.
In fact, most of my Star Wars knowledge has come from playing Lego Star Wars. I recognised the major events from my marathon, but details about the story I only knew from seeing adorable little legos acting it all out.
Maybe I’ll lose some nerd points from people for that. Eh.
Anyways, it’s been odd growing up like this, because Star Wars is ever-present. It’s such an overwhelming pop culture icon, you can’t not know or think about it. I felt a little intimidated growing up, because I was afraid I would be disappointed by the movies, and I was a little resentful at feeling the inescapable pressure to watch them (again). Because of this, I had a disconnect from Star Wars. It was to some degree a part of my life, I’d seen the movies, but I’d never made any sort of emotional connection with anything. If aliens came and wiped any evidence of the saga from the planet, it would have barely affected me.
You might have noticed the past tense there. Yes, I do care more about the Star Wars saga now. We’ll get to that in a minute.
As I was saying, I had no connection to, and very limited memories of, Star Wars. I still bought tickets to The Force Awakens though, because it felt big, like something I had to do. I imagined passing up the chance to watch the midnight screening would make me like the people who passed up on opportunities to watch the Beatles live in the 60s.
So I bought my ticket, watched the original trilogy in the days leading up to the release (they were okay, I thought) and got ready to watch the new movie.
I was not ready
I got to the theatre around 10:15pm. I’d tried to readjust my sleep cycle the night before, but it backfired, and I was having trouble keeping my eyes open.
Luckily there was a coffee shop still open at the mall, so I bought myself a moka, picked up the tickets I’d bought online, and sat on a sofa on the mall hallway and passed the time listening to music and taking selfies.
I started doing some people watching after a while, and got my first big smile of the night when I saw two middle aged men, in their 40s at the very least, meet at the entrance to the theatre wielding a light saber each, and engage in a mock duel.
I don’t know whether I’m doing a good job of painting the scene, but these were two very respectable looking gentlemen. The kind that give you serious disapproving looks if you break minor social etiquette in public. These two grown men were laughing like kids playing with their light sabers. It was so much fun to see.
With that image still in my mind, I walked into the theatre and lined up to buy my popcorn. I was surprised at how many people were there. The image above doesn’t do it justice… it was really overwhelming to see so many people there. I think there were three or four screenings. At one theatre. In a city with over two dozen large movie theatres.
One of the most striking things for me was seeing 40, 50 year old men in full Jedi costumes next to 6 year olds sporting Vader masks. There was a moment while I was in line when I just felt completely overwhelmed. There was such a strong feeling of belonging to something bigger than myself. Seeing kids there alongside adults who were their age when A New Hope came out was a little mind-blowing.
It was then that I finally felt an emotional connection to Star Wars. Across time and space, I felt like part of the first première in a way. Maybe I wasn’t there, but seeing the wide generational range in the audience bridged the original trilogy across the generations to the current day.
I hadn’t seen a single frame of the film yet, but I already felt like I belonged, and like I was part of a long history and tradition. I’ve only felt that one other time in my life, and that was at a Paul McCartney concert (which will be a blog post for another time.)
Enough about unquantifiables and moods and ‘generational bridges,’ what about the movie itself?
It was incredible.
Everything people said about the originals I felt about this. There was a wonderful sense of adventure and drama and excitement. I felt giddy and I could hardly wait for the next scene to come, to see what happened next. The whole movie was packed with action, and was interesting and very moving.
I was also lucky enough to experience it with a good crowd. The first time I saw Guardians of the Galaxy I took great enjoyment from how easygoing the audience was, how we all laughed at the same bits and reacted the same way to everything. It made it feel like watching it with other people and less like I was sitting by myself in a darkened room.
The same happened with this movie. As soon as the famous STAR WARS appeared on top of a starry background everyone cheered, and we all relaxed and joined in the fun. I let out a loud “Whoo!!” and smiled as the familiar rolling text with the plot introduction started appearing from the bottom up.
I was struck with a sense of awe. That text scroll is mythical and here I was seeing it happen right in front of me!
Throughout the movie, the crowd kept up the good cheer. Some moments had more subtle laughter, like little references I would have never gotten if I hadn’t just rewatched the originals, to roaring joy and applause when beloved characters first appeared on screen.
When things were moving and sad, they felt more moving and sad because I knew others felt the same way, when they were funny they were hilarious because I wasn’t afraid of laughing out loud since I knew I wouldn’t be the only one.
There was one moment in the end where people had an inappropriate reaction to a dramatic scene, but they were quickly hushed and that bit aside, the audience was perfect. Once again, I felt a sense of community, and my enjoyment was increased for having others around me.
This next section is going to include more specific thoughts on the story. They won’t be spoilers, but they’ll be vague and you might not like them.
For example, if I were talking about Empire Strikes Back, I would write “there was one moment in the film that stands out, and I loved it. It gives context for a lot of the story, and gives certain characters room for growth” if I wanted to talk about the famous Vader – Luke scene.
I’ll have a picture of Rey with BB-8 at the end of this series of thoughts, so if you want to avoid even the vaguest of spoilers, don’t read anything above the picture.
I have a lot of thoughts about this film story-wise. First off, the movie definitely borrowed a lot from the original trilogy. It’s understandable seeing how people received the prequels and their more ambitious scope, but it’s worth noting.
I should clarify I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you’ve read or seen other reviews you might have noticed a few other complaints about the movie, but apart from the parallels to the original trilogy, I thought every one of those other foibles weren’t actually problems at all, and in fact made sense and contributed to the story. I will not go into detail, but I’ll just say I was very happy with how everything was handled.
I might have the wrong impression being (by my own lengthy admission) disconnected from and relatively new to Star Wars, but I feel like the movies are much more driven by their characters than by their plot. In this sense, The Force Awakens does not disappoint in the slightest.
All of the characters, from returning stars to ‘the new kids,’ were excellent. The writing and dialogue were good, and the portrayals were excellent. Everyone from Harrison Ford to Daisy Ridley (more on her in a minute) were absolutely top-notch.
One last comment: You might have seen a certain spoiler online. If you’ve been unfortunate to have had it spoiled, let me just say I had it spoiled too and it didn’t take anything away from my experience. Like I said, I feel like Star Wars is more about the characters than about a series of events. The context and the way it’s portrayed is what is really important.
Here are a few character-specific thoughts:
Han Solo and Chewie: Felt just like the characters I’d seen just a few days earlier in the older movies. Older and more world-weary, but the same roguish charm and fun in the two (respectively) were still there. Han in particular had some great interactions with the new characters.
C3PO: I don’t think he’s very high on most people’s list of favourite characters, but he is such a joy. I don’t know why I love him so much, but he was the returning character I enjoyed seeing the most. Every one of his lines was pure gold.
BB-8: Oh BB-8. She was hilarious and wonderful and I fell in love with her completely. 10/10, definitely the droid I was looking for. I won’t say anything more than that.
Kylo Ren: Excellent. An unique villain, with similarities that brought two names to mind. Not what I expected, but very very good regardless. There’s a lot of potential about this character. He could really go anywhere and it would make sense narratively. That’s a surprising luxury that will give the next two films a LOT of room, story and character wise. I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Finn: First off, let me say his “official playlist” on Spotify is amazing. There’s a silly little link where you can find out which character matches your musical taste best and listen to their playlist. I was matched to Finn and have been listening to it while writing this blog post. So good.
Anyways. Finn was delightful. He’s funny and dramatic and brave, and I was very happy with him. John Boyega was delightful and charming. His acting was great, and I’m incredibly happy that he’s one of the main characters. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.
Storm Troopers: I was surprised at how much more human they made everyone’s favourite misfiring soldiers. It was the first time I ever felt a sense of humanity about them, and there’s a particular scene that made me connect to them in an unexpected way.
Rey: I saved the very best for last. Rey absolutely steals the show. Daisy is STELLAR and I can tell her portrayal of Rey is going to be legendary. She can hold her own, and is the absolutely perfect choice to lead the new trilogy.
What can I say about Rey? I love her to bits, and she is doubtlessly going into my Top Ten portrayals of women characters in films. She is so strong and likeable. Her character is an amalgamate of some of my favourite traits from Leia, Han, and Luke, plus a bit of her own special charm.
She is the lead lady of Star Wars and a kickass heroine, and at no point in the movie did anyone make a big deal about her being a woman. I know she is going to be looked up to by nearly every little girl (and boy!) who watches this movie, and I’m incredibly proud of her.
What else is there to say?
I should mention that the very first thing I did when I got home at 3am was buy a ticket to watch it again on Sunday.
Watch this movie. It really is a special experience. After the final scene closed and the credits appeared on the screen, I started to cry. I looked around and saw a couple other people doing the same. I still don’t know quite why. I think just emotional overload at the hugeness of what had just happened. I sat there for 2 or 3 full minutes in tears, and finally got up and went to the bathroom to finish crying and clean up a bit. Luckily I hadn’t put on any mascara today 😛
I don’t know if the feeling will transfer over to regular screenings, but being part of the midnight screening of a Star Wars movie was one of the most special experiences of my life. My words really can’t do it justice, it was a nearly spiritual experience, and that is not hyperbole.
I now have a strong connection to Star Wars that I never had before, and feel like the torch has been passed down in a way, so I can appreciate this cultural tradition the way those middle aged men in the hallway with the light sabers did. The Force has definitely awakened something in me.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think of it? How did your experience compare to mine? Are you planning on watching it?
PS- If you’re wondering why this post came a day early, I just felt a need to write all my feelings down. I’m still trying to process what I experienced, and this helped.