Since this is a movie that is bound to get a lot of thoughts already, I want to make this one a bit more of a personal journey. The first page of this post will be the setup for that; the second page will be my spoiler free thoughts and the third page will be the full review.
Like many people, I worked today. Like less people than I thought but still more people than a lot think, I worked until a very late time tonight. I don’t consider it a very late time – it’s not one that I would ever consider sleeping at – but most businesses do. In fact, I have never seen my theatre (before today) offer a showing of a movie I was interested in after I get out of work.
Actually, my journey should start before this. In some ways, it starts nearly a year ago. Because around that time, LucasFilm Ltd began describing some of the things in this film. And among those things were “we don’t really care about established fans and are producing this story in a completely separate universe from established stories”. If not for the fact that the members of the story team, such as Abel Pena and Pablo Hidalgo, are such strong members of the fan community, that might have killed my interest right there. But because they were smart enough to keep people like this in essential places, I held on.
But I could never be as enthusiastic about this movie as I would have been five years ago. Star Wars and I have been through too many rough patches – and I’m not counting the prequels among them. I never had any problem with the prequels; they were just flawed movies that were still better than Highlander: The Quickening and a not-insignificant number of other film sequels. Still, they had distanced themselves from the Star Wars that I know, and essentially announced that that story would only be carried on via The Old Republic.
So while I could not relate to the angry posts demanding that this film had better be better than the sequels, nor could I in honesty feel the same way as the people who were extremely excited for this movie. As far as I could convince myself, this movie was Star Wars in the same way that Star Trek Beyond is going to be Star Trek: that is to say, not really. But then again, I’m a fan, and when I watched Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness, the vast majority of what I was able to do was geek out at small moments. In the end, I’m always going to find it very difficult to hate this movies, and the things that will excite me are not always predictable.
Back to work, then. For the first time in my personal experience, AMC Theatre in Danbury aired a 2am showing. This may be because of the IMAX; I discovered after the fact that when I had clicked the “pre-order” option it was showing me only the 3 IMAX showings opening night, while I had mistakenly believed there would be 3 showings today and that all others would be on the official release date. Instead, the IMAX were only 3 of approximately 20 showings today.
Still, I was happy to get a 2am showing. It was one I could go to after work. It was one that probably wouldn’t sell out and probably wouldn’t require lining up in advance to see. I saw people talking about lining up hours or days in advance for seats and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not for this movie; not with Star Wars’ recently speckled past. Note that I’ve said things like that in the past. I could not understand why people would wait overnight for a panel that was being livestreamed across the world at Celebration Anaheim. I later corrected that: if not for the fact that I was spending the time with my two best friends and hundreds of excited fans, I would not have seen the point. And, well, my two best friends are across the country right now, so that takes away about 70-80% of my patience for lines on its own.
In this case, I got out of work, came home, and took a shower (because nobody wants to go to an action movie surrounded by people smelling like my job) and made the decision to charge my phone for 15 minutes instead of getting in line 15 minutes early. This is because I was more interested in having my phone available in case I decided to go out for french toast after the movie than I was in having the best seat. (Spoiler: I did not go out for french toast, because I figured I could make some at home. Then I discovered I did not have any bread at home.) The group was filled with two groups of people: people who, like me, had just finished a long shift, and people who really wanted to see the film on IMAX but were sold out on earlier periods of time. Nobody was really talking about Star Wars in my section of the line (I made a joke about the Force awakening when the line started moving and nobody laughed).
Ironically, the fun part of the night started when the computer running the projector screen failed. Jokes started cropping up when the pre-movie commercials were interrupted by “Windows XP is shutting down”. It then proceeded to “Your active desktop has failed to load”. Several members of the audience made jokes about whether all of the IT professionals in the audience should come help. Others, closer to the projector, made shadow puppets for us.
This is probably enough information to know how the audience experience was. It was nothing like my horrid experience with PG-13 horror movies (I came home from The Woman in Black ready to punch the first teenager I saw with intact vocal cords), nor was it anything like the insanely excited audience at Celebration Anaheim (and likely many other showings today – er, yesterday). Still, the audience was not completely sedate. Mild applause broke out two times – at the beginning of the major scene from the April trailer (I didn’t start clapping until they actually said the lines, but by then the audience had mostly moved on) and earlier, when the main theme began to play. I tried to start an applause when another major character showed up, one I had been waiting for, but nobody joined me.