A Grown Man Watches Star Wars for the First Time
Editor's Note: As anticipation for the new Star Wars film reaches a fever pitch around Camp Huckberry, one editor quietly held a secret he's carried with him for much of his adult life: that he had never seen any of the Star Wars films. Recognizing a particularly unique story opportunity to take this from him, we recently locked him in a room with all six movies and promised to throw away the key, should he attempt to emerge before the credits rolled on "Revenge of the Sith" without detailed notes of the experience.
I am an American male born in the 80s and, until this past weekend, I’d never seen Star Wars. None of ‘em. I’ve struggled to come up with a good reason for this. The best I can offer is that the franchise has seeped into every corner of popular culture so thoroughly that I felt like I'd already seen them all. I mean, I know all the important stuff. Yoda talks backwards, there are laser sword fights, Darth Vader is Luke’s father, and everyone’s favorite character is Jar Jar Binks, right? But with the entire Internet eagerly anticipating The Force Awakens, I began to wonder if I was missing out. Could my childhood have been filled with more stargazing wonder? Would I become the kind of guy who camps out on sidewalks in advance of the next theatrical release? I decided it was high time to find out. So, armed with plenty of booze and a cozy pair of sweatpants, I embarked on a 13 hour and 17 minute journey to a galaxy far, far away.
I may be the first person who ever wished Star Wars were
...And we're off. Right away, I'm wondering what the deal is with these humans. They couldn't have come from Earth. This is supposed to take place "a long time ago." But we didn't have interplanetary travel or holograms a long time ago. So plain-old humans exist on non-Earth planets? I'm trying to be objective, but maybe the fantasy genre is not my cup of tea.
Moving along, A New Hope is more campy than I expected. While the distinctly 70s brand of goofiness is entertaining, I found it difficult to get sucked into the film's world. It was tough not to laugh at how most of the technical jargon was basically gibberish. "Thersop ambulator?" Just call it a real-world mechanical thing. I may be the first person who ever wished Star Wars was more nerdy.
But I'm slowly becoming less cynical. I can understand young Luke's thirst for adventure and vengeance. Han's dialogue is pretty dorky but he hangs out in a rowdy dive bar filled with weirdos, which is something I can strongly co-sign. By the time the final scene rolls around, I'm feeling pretty good. There's just one problem. R2-D2 got totally snubbed at the award ceremony. He (he, right?) was critical to just about every positive thing that happened in the entire movie, and was even wounded in combat. R2, you're the real MVP.
(PS: RIP, Porkins. We hardly knew ya.)
Ok, ok, I'm starting to get pulled in. Visually, this episode is more impressive. Which is good because I often have no idea what's going on plot-wise. The Empire Strikes Back really turned up the volume on the coolest aspects of A New Hope. There are way more explosions and the fight choreography is hugely improved. Plus Darth Vader shows off some badass tricks like strangling a dude through FaceTime. We also get to meet Yoda in this one and he's pretty lovable. My only beef with this movie is Boba Fett. My entire life I've seen t-shirts bearing his likeness, and people dressing up as him for Halloween. I heard he was an intergalactic bounty hunter, which sounds awesome, so it came as a huge surprise to me that he was the lamest character of all time. He's barely in the movie, and when it's time to fight he gets his gun cut in half and thrown into the mouth of a giant sand-octopus. I honestly have no idea why anyone even remembers this character's name.
Oh, and the "twist." Everyone knows Darth Vader is Luke's dad, even me. It's been referenced about a billion times. Thanks a lot, pop culture. To replicate the shock I'll have to watch another paternity test episode on Maury.
At this point in the saga I'm officially enjoying myself. I don’t take many notes and I drink a few cocktails. Because I’m a grown-up. Anyway, a few genuine surprises hit me in Return of the Jedi. The fact that Leia is Luke’s sister totally caught me off-guard. The Ewoks are way cooler than Boba Fett. They’re vicious warriors, plus they’ve got sick treehouses in the redwoods. In this one we get a sense of Vader’s softer side. Darth Vader is the first dad ever that wished for his son to be goth. He also dies. I assumed he would be the villain in every episode of the franchise.
I’d rather not talk about it.
Quite frankly, I’d rather not talk about The Phantom Menace, and apparently I'm not alone. Every second of Jar Jar Binks’s faux Jamaican patois is pure agony. On top of the completely dumb way that he speaks, there’s the issue of the worst voice acting I’ve ever heard.
I came into Episode I super pumped because Liam Neeson is pretty much the greatest. But neither he nor Samuel L. can save me from this weird, cartoon wet-donkey-looking thing babbling in a ridiculous language for two hours and sixteen minutes.
I’m hoping to get excited again, but things have taken quite a turn. Attack of the Clones takes forever to warm up, no thanks to that giant stretch of absolutely no action that left me feeling like I was watching an intergalactic period piece, replete with a ton of painfully cheesy, romantic scene-setting in British accents. Then outta nowhere everyone is sentenced to death in a giant colosseum where pissed-off monsters are running amok, and just like that – I’m back, baby! Things quickly get back on the rails and go totally berserk, and thusly, thanks to all the action in the fourth quarter, I’ve decided Episode II is my favorite of the six.
Alright, last one. Revenge of the Sith. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve watched these all back-to-back (...to-back-to-back-to-back) but I’m longing for normal, boring, earthbound things at this point. As that famous John Williams' score blares, announcing the sixth and final roll of the "...long time ago..." credits, my mind drifts to stuff like which health insurance plan I need to choose. I am enjoying this one though. There’s very little out of Jar Jar’s mouth and I’m thankful. Once again, apparently I'm not alone in this sentiment. Episode III finds Anakin going 100 percent off the rails into truly evil behavior, like the time he wipes out an entire daycare center. General Grievous is sick with the lightsaber skills. This episode feels way longer than the rest. Unfortunately, there’s no tension in the fight scenes since I know Obi-wan won’t die and Vader won’t die. Probably the biggest surprise here is that Darth Vader gets all his limbs chopped off and set on fire. All things considered, though, I'd say the best thing about this one is that every loose end is satisfyingly tied in a bow by the end, leaving me very curious for what awaits in The Force Awakens.
Finally – a little time for reflection. What have I learned? Seeing as I'd already had a pretty solid grasp of the major references, I haven’t really gained any genuine water cooler conversation fodder, leaving me to wonder how this would’ve played out had I seen these films as a kid. It’s likely that I would have been more easily swept up by the fantasy. Or maybe I would’ve pursued a career in science or engineering in an attempt to bring the things that blew my mind as a child into the real world as an adult. When compared to the large, unexplored expanses of outer space, my interests seem so tiny: fashion, furniture, Young Thug lyrics. But I wouldn’t say that I missed out. If anything, there is balance in the Force: I can watch and enjoy these movies as an adult without spending all my free time building tiny Millennium Falcon replicas. [H]