“Do you remember the exact moment when you realized that Episode I was complete crap?” the doc asked me.
We had a lot of time to discuss Star Wars this time. In almost every way available, our experience (or rather my experience) was the opposite of the Coalfire Experience from the week before. We had to wait a long time to be seated. Also, the Pequod is the ship in Moby Dick, and I despise Moby Dick. Also, in contrast to Coalfire’s 90 second pizza delivery time, you could read Moby Dick in the amount of time it took to get our food. I really don’t want to write a bad review on this blog, so let’s just say that I ordered the wrong thing. Pequod’s is known for their deep dish pizza, and I do not like deep dish pizza, and I ordered the damn deep dish pizza. So, my bad.
I want to add that I have eaten great pizza at Pequod’s in the past, so I’ll just chalk this up to a bad pizza night for me.
The good pizza news is: 1) the doc loved his special broccoli/lima bean/brussels sprout/beet/Dandelion root/radish/bonsai tree pizza (his review will be more pizza-based). 2) our mozzarella sticks appetizer was amazing, 3) I ordered a slice of think crust cheese which was delicious.
But getting back to Star Wars, it was an interesting question. Star Wars, not unlike pizza, is all about managing expectations. Realizing that Episode I sucked was officially the bitter end of my childhood and even the end of adulthood. Realizing that something you loved so dearly could be so thoroughly betrayed. And its not like George Lucas intentionally destroyed my childhood. I’m sure he had wonderful intentions. I’m sure he thought he was helping. But he was just too convinced of his own rightness, and nobody would tell him that the psychotic flaming horse was headed right towards the barn full of fireworks.
So when did I realize that Episode I was a steaming pile? Hmm. It definitely wasn’t when I waited in line a full day to buy tickets. A day filled with realizing just how much of a Star Wars fan I was, and wasn’t. Was because I skipped a day of grad school class to wait in line just to buy tickets to a movie. Wasn’t because I had my culo handed to me by a bunch of Star Wars geeks who were “playing” Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. I say “playing” because they were just boringly reading the cards to each other and giving off answers before the questions were even finished. I bowed out after I missed the question: “how many times did Han Solo shoot his laser when he was in the Exogorth in Empire Strikes Back?” (uhh, what’s an Exogorth? and uhh. 2?) The Star Wars Geeks looked at me with such contempt that I went back to doing homework.
It also wasn’t when I was standing in line for the premiere at 11:00 P.M. in my rented Darth Vader costume. Can you believe that I was the only person in line in Framingham MA that had a rented costume? Sure, people were reenacting light saber duels with choregraphic perfection, and continuing to phone it in on bouts of Trivial Pursuit, and everybody had some kind of T-shirt, but NOBODY else had a costume.
It absolutely wasn’t when we were in an electrically charged movie theater, the lights dimming down, and the screen quietly flashed:
And Oh, My, GOD, it certainly wasn’t during the cymbal crash and orchestral scream of John Williams’s greatest work, accompanied by the iconic:
And if I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t at all during the 3+ hour crap fest that is The Phantom Menace. There were enough interesting things going on that my attention was kept. My stomach did drop several times. Pretty much whenever Anakin Skywalker or Jar Jar Binks was on the screen. But at the same time, every time Darth Maul was on the screen, my excitement and expectations skyrocketed.
I didn’t realize just how terrible it was during the 4 or 5 times more that I saw it within the first week of opening.
In fact, it wasn’t until I was in Italy, and I watched it with some American and some Italian friends (dubbed) in the theater that I realized “Good Lord, this is terrible. All this work, for nothing.”
It was the greatest case of deep denial that I had experienced in my life up until that point. It was so embittering, so thorough, that by the time Episode II came around, I gleefully hated it in the theater (weeks after its release) with a bunch of friends. I remember exactly 1 thing from Episode II, the ridiculous Yoda lightsaber duel, which comically murdered Yoda’s unspoken “substance over style” motto.
I saw Episode III in a theater in Charleston, and was so ready to hate it, that I didn’t completely, fully, Episode I-II-ey hate it.
And the experience of Episode I kind of made me grow up and temper my movie going expectations. When I was a kid, I loved pretty much every movie, no matter how bad. Hellraiser? Excellent movie. Poltergeist 2? Loved it! Goonies? one of my faves.
Seeing these movies again with the experience of Episode I, I realize now, just how bad they are.
But if it made me a more critical moviegoer, it also made truly great movies that much more impressive when I finally did see them. And when I found out that one of my favorite childhood books, the Lord of the Rings, was being made into a series of movies, I was extremely wary. But seeing them (especially the first one), they were everything I hoped to be.
it was kind of touch and go with childhood favorites. I hated the first three Spiderman movies, but loved the reboot (I only saw the first one). I felt both Hulk movies were disastrous, but Iron Man was of course brilliant.
So where am I with The Force Awakens? Not sure yet. Cautiously optimistic? Kind of where I am with Libby Larsen’s Opera of “A Wrinkle in Time.” I know the material is in competent hands now, and my expectations are probably too high.
I won’t be seeing The Force Awakens on opening night. I’ll probably wait til around Christmas so I can see it with family, but I also want to read the reviews and ask non-Star Wars fans their sober opinion of the work, and maybe watch and see if my Star Wars friends exhibit the same cycle of excitement-denial-disillusionment-depression that I did during Episode I.