In honor of the tenth anniversary of Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace, here is my best Star Wars story.
As you know by now, I’m a movie guy. I have been as long as I can remember. Very little sneaks past me. Ninety-eight percent of all the books I own are either comic books or about film. You can’t grow up a boy in America in the seventies and escape Star Wars. I was probably the last generation that saw Star Wars in a theatre before home video (probably in a rerelease in the late seventies before Empire Strikes Back in 1980). Rumors of a new trilogy had been around for decades and the last serious talk was after Jurassic Park when George Lucas finally felt special effects had reached a place where his vision could be realized. When the film was officially announced, I made a decision.
I was going to into the new Star Wars cold. I was going to create a media blackout around me. I wouldn’t read anything. I wouldn’t listen to anything. I wanted this to be fresh and spoiler-free.
For the following years I avoided everything. Websites would print rumors, I’d never click the links. Magazines would show up at my house and I would read them skipping anything I thought would even mention the word “Star Wars” and then promptly throw them away. I let everyone know this. On occasion at the comic store someone would fuck with me.
You know Obi Wan is going to die.
At which point I would freak out and realize he does die… in Star Wars – Episode IV… that was released in 1977.
What I knew was George Lucas was writing and directing. Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Samuel L Jackson and Ewan MacGregor were in it and MacGregor was playing Obi Wan Kenobi. Passing through a grocery store I saw a Time magazine cover with Darth Maul, his name and the words “The Face Of Evil.”
One more surprise lost.
People would call me and specifically tell me not to look at the tracks on the soundtrack because it gave away a key sequence (and why the hell would you name a track that and release it two weeks before the movie). I gave myself one treat and the day the teaser trailer was released I downloaded it on my dialup connection over forty-five minutes and watched it in a window slightly larger than a postage stamp. The image was so small the final image of Darth Maul I thought was Samuel Jackson. That’s what streaming video looked like in 1997.
The week the film is released I take vacation. The entire week. Tuesday morning I go to the theatre at 7:00a to buy my tickets which go on sale at 2:00p. I am the third in line. I bide my time until the line wraps around the building. The theatre, being the douches they are, bring drinks out to the people who are in sun around the building even though I have been there since 7:00a.
I’m not one for lines. I am not one to defend those people who put tents out three months before a movie to be the first in line to see it. Really you’re just the first there. If you were the first in the world or the first country maybe I could get behind that. Hell, you probably aren’t going to be the first in that city. More than likely there is another idiot four blocks away doing the same thing.
But one day… I could do that. People do it for sporting events and concerts. We’re allotted ten tickets to avoid scalping. I’m given instructions of who I am buying tickets for. Ironically, I won’t be seeing the midnight show because I want to see this with my brother and he’d never go to a public midnight show of Star Wars with a bunch of grown men dressed as Jedi lightsaber dueling in the aisles when his military training tells him he should kill them all before they breed and weaken America even more.
Don’t worry, Bobby… they won’t be breeding.
I’ll be seeing the movie at 10:00a the day after it opens. I saw Star Wars with my brother and not only seeing the new one with him is a bonding return to my childhood, it also ensures I’ll be able to talk about it without him saying, “Hey hey hey, I haven’t seen that yet,” while I wait the six months it takes him to see it.
I buy my tickets and head to the comic store where I have to deliver Ray his ticket. With months of hesitation I finally give into it and I am excited. It’s obvious. At the comic store is Ken, a middle-aged teacher and regular.
KEN: What have you got there?
RAY: Jimmy’s been in line since 7:00a to get our tickets to the Phantom Menace.
KEN: What for? Everybody knows how it ends.
JIM: What are you talking about? Nobody knows how it ends.
KEN: Sure they do. Qui Gon Jin dies in the end.
JIM: How do you know that?
I say thinking he’s just read another unsubstantiated rumor on the internet.
KEN: Because I read the novelization that came out last week.
I stop moving. I am pretty sure my blood stopped flowing for a second. Then this happened.
JIM: (Having completely lost it) What… the… fuck? Did you just not hear him say I have been in a line since 7:00a? Did you just not hear me say I have no idea how ends? Why the FUCK would you tell someone how a movie that people have been waiting sixteen FUCKING years for, the most anticipated movie in history, would end ten hours before its release. You stupid, stupid fucking prick. Give me my books, Ray. I got to get the fuck out of here.
As Ray hands me my books Ken gathers his things and exits the store before me.
To this day, that (The Star Wars Rant) is one of the many things I have done that has been passed down to newcomers as legend.
I saw the movie the next morning with my brother and Heather Parker. After the Lucasfilm logo and opening theme, pretty much everything was a disappointment. I still have it the benefit of the doubt for three years until Attack Of The Clones sealed its fate and I’ve written the prequels off as great examples of being happy with what you have. To this day I’ll never forget leaving the theatre and the usher asking me what I thought I and I just shrugged my shoulders with indifference.
Star Wars has never been perfect but when you’re a kid there is something magical there that doesn’t come along often and it’s a lost cause for adults trying to recapture that.
And finally, if you’re one of the ones who defends Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace, click here and I’ll fix that.