With the annoucement of the upcoming Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I felt is was a good time to look back up one of the most intense movie experiences I have ever gone through: the Star Wars seven movie marathon that took place on Thursday, December 17, 2015.
The day of the marathon started with a buzz. It was 2:30AM, and I was to be getting up to get ready to go to the marathon, which started at 4AM. Outside of red eye flights, I do not recall ever having to get up before 5AM for anything. However, between the ticket, which I had bought 2 months earlier when tickets went on sale, already taking a day off from work and, like many fans across generations, waiting for this film to be made (well, a film titled Episode VII to be made), I knew I did not want to wait another day longer and I wanted to do something that was unique. Many months previous, with Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron movie marathon and I remember thinking how crazy it is that Marvel/Disney had done it and that people actually went to this. I would never do all those Marvel movies leading up to the new film; however, Star Wars was only six movies, leading into Episode VII.
This was something that I think I could actually do.
Wait, why would I want sit there, in a theater with other sweaty Star Wars geeks and nerds and watch all six previous films, which I already own on the Blu-Ray set that came out a few years ago, in the comfort of my home and then go see Episode VII in the theater?
Because it is Star Wars.
And some movies and some films, no matter how big a TV someone owns (and I have a new 50 inch TV (no, I have not watched the movies yet on it yet)), or how pristine that home theater system is, some movies are meant for a big screen and are meant to be seen in a theater with that bag of popcorn, an oversized soda, and in a room with other nerds and geeks who all love Star Wars and be a part of this shared popular culture experience.
So, when that alarm went off at 2:30AM…. I hit the snooze button.
I love Star Wars but please, ten minutes.
Ten minutes later, I got up and got ready and called an Uber at around 3:20AM, wearing one of my Star Wars t-shirts, shorts, and my Jedi bath robe. I also grabbed my backpack which was filled with about 8 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a lunchbox with about 5 yogurts and string cheeses (with those ice packs that keeps its contents cool) and a few more snacks, and slowly made my way to my local Regal theater.
It was now about 3:55AM and I sprinted from the Uber car once we arrived at the theater because I am a completionist and did not want to miss a minute of the marathon. Yes, it was the prequels and yes, to some it was only Episode I: The Phantom Menace, a film some have argued was the weakest in the franchise, but it is Star Wars! I was lucky and got my lanyard (it was too early for popcorn and soda), ran with this backpack of food and snacks (thankfully, the theater did not ask to look in the bag. I guess they figured no one can survive on a diet of soda and popcorn for the 15+ hours I would be there), was lucky enough to find a set a few rows up with no one sitting next to me on my right. Once I was settled, and that familiar 20th Century Fox fanfare started up, and…. we all cheered.I was home.
Some things that I learned as we watched the prequel movies (Episode I-III aka “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” and “Revenge of the Sith”):
- I was 12 when I saw Episode I and remember thinking how cool Jar-Jar binks was. I have seen Episode I on the Blu-Ray and thinking how funny he was. Now, seeing him on the screen, he was kinda annoying (I can already hear some people saying “You realized this NOW?!”), but I still appreciate him.
- Episode II was the weakest of the films. Hayden Christensen really tried to do his best to show a young Anakin Skywalker struggling with his emotions, but the scene where he is talking to Padme after slaughtering the Tusken Raiders after the death of his mother was the worst piece of acting I had seen. I do not know if it is the worst acting I had seen, but it is in the running. I mean, it made many of the long pauses Hayden took when he was talking with Padme seem watchable, when compared with that scene.
- Episode III was the strongest of the three films, and that where Hayden Christiensen failed as Anakin in Episode II, he succeeded in Episode III. He was finally able to show us how much love he had for Padme and for who he was, but struggling with where he wanted to be and how to deal with the Force vision he was having of Padme’s death.
Some notable moments from the marathon during the prequels:
- I slept through Episode I. I was awake for the the opening crawl, fell asleep, then podracing, then sleep, then the Duel of the Fates scene battle between Qui Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul, and then the end scene aka “PEACE!”
- I am sure that about half the theater was asleep during Episode II. I know this because a quarter of the theater was snoring and various points during the movie.
- Once Episode III ended, I am sure a few more people walked into the theater for the marathon who had paid to be there and decided to skip the prequels. I have no issue if one does not want to watch the prequels, but in my opinion if you paid the $50 to watch all previous six Star Wars films in Episode order, you should be there with the rest of us at 4AM!
Then, the original trilogy began (Episode IV-VI aka “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Return of the Jedi”). Some things I learned watching these films:
- The pace of these movies felt different. I felt that some moments were rushed through, while the parts that were key seemed to slow down in pace, but only for a moment. Something that I did not fully notice until that screening.
- I know many fans feel that Episode V is the best of the original trilogy. I still maintain that Episode VI is the best, but I felt a newfound respect and admiration for Episode V. Perhaps as I got older, the emotional impact of those big moments in Episode V hit me harder and helped me develop a deeper connection to the characters that made them richer both as the character in the story and the actors portraying them.
- I loved it when in Episode V that Princess Leia kisses Luke to make Han Solo jealous, the entire theater went “Ewwwww!!!!” I decided torespond to this when the theater calmed down a little… I yelled “spoilers!”
- Ewoks rule!
And, finally, after many hours and a near false start (whoever was in the booth ready to play Episode VII (The Force Awakens) hit start when half the theater was still in line for popcorn/soda/whatever and in the bathroom. Those of us in the theater went “hey!” and the guy paused the movie. Thankfully, we only saw the star field before the scroll started so no harm done), the Force was awoken. If, for whatever reason, you are one of the few who were waiting for a home/digital release of the film, I won’t spoil it for you, but watching the six previous films created an emotion of joy, love and happiness that I do not recall experiencing for any movie. Ever. What I will tell you was after so many moments that made me do a mini-jump in my seat for certain moments and at least 3 moments that left me a little misty eyed, I left that theater feeling elated. In small part, because it was great that I would now be able to go home and
get some sleep, but primarily because I had survived the marathon and found myself
more emotionally connected to this piece of popular
culture that is beloved by many across the galaxy.
With the influx of new books, TV shows like “StarWars Rebels,” and other related media, I look forward to writing and
discussing Star Wars with you, as well as various other aspects of popular culture that we love and unite us.
May the Force be with you.