I made a dangerous confession to my boss a few weeks ago: I, a features editor in charge of entertainment coverage, have never seen “Star Wars.”
Not the first three (which I think are really the second three), nor the original trilogy (which are not technically the first three). None of it. But I’ve seen enough clips throughout the years that I know all the characters, some of the plots and that Jar Jar Binks is universally despised.
For a moment, though, I thought I might be getting fired.
The confession sparked great interest from those within earshot. “Why?!” “How?!” “Not even when it came out on VHS?!” “Not even in all the years since?!”
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Nope, nope, nope and nope. One photographer seemed particularly agitated.
I’m not exactly sure how it happened – that someone who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s has never seen the most iconic film franchise of that era; a truly enduring cinematic phenomenon that has now spawned seven movies and which has made approximately one gazillion dollars from merchandising alone. The plot and even dialogue from “Star Wars” movies are deeply embedded in popular culture.
Surrounded by a bevy of puzzled faces, I attempted to explain.
I grew up in a very small town in Eastern North Carolina that didn’t have a movie theater. There was a theater in a nearby town, but it wasn’t like we could ride our bikes to a Saturday matinee. Going to the movies took some effort. It also involved a fairly considerable expenditure, when that was not something to be taken for granted, and convincing someone (our mom) to drive us to the next town. And since we were kids, she’d likely accompany us, which meant she’d have to want to see it also.
Right there are several strikes against me seeing “Star Wars” as a kid.
But mostly, I just don’t remember my brother nor I being particularly keen on seeing it. And I don’t remember it being that big of a deal at my school, the way my coworkers recall competitions to determine not just who had seen it, but who had seen it the most times.
Maybe there were more, but I remember going to four movies in the theater before I was old enough to go on dates: “Benji,” “9 to 5,” “E.T.” and “Smokey and the Bandit.” (“Benji” and “E.T” I saw with my cousin; “9 to 5” my mom wanted to see; and my brother begged to see “Smokey and the Bandit” and I tagged along.)
Several years ago I considered borrowing the “Star Wars” DVDs to fill my yawning pop culture gap. Someone – I can’t remember who – told me not to do it; that I’d likely be disappointed by the special effects and that at this point in life, I should just keep the streak going.
I took that advice. Until this week. I caved on Tuesday and attended an advance media screening of the biggest movie event of the year: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Armed with a fantastic cheat sheet from colleague Josh Shaffer, I sat through all 135 minutes of the film and never lost interest for a minute. I was confused only once, and it was only for a short time, proving that even newbies can enjoy J.J. Abrams’ offering to the Disney overlords – if they have Josh’s cheat sheet.
Like a little kid, I was immediately enamored of BB-8, the adorable droid destined to become the hottest action figure from the new films. And like the adult woman I am, I appreciated the fact that Harrison Ford still looks damn fine as Han Solo.
Back at the office after the screening, everyone wanted to know one thing: Will I go back now and watch the original three? “Probably not.” I said. But there’s a lot of Harrison Ford in his prime, I was reminded. “OK, maybe.”
I guess you could say the force has awakened.
If you go
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ has already broken pre-sales ticket records and is expected to be one of the top-grossing movies ever. It officially opens Friday at theaters across the Triangle, but many are having special preview showings Thursday night. Check with individual theaters. Critic Lawrence Toppman says the force is strong with the film. See his review early at nando.com/entertainment