Off Campus

22 May 2005

The Final Star Wars Post (#3): opening night


For this, what is purported to be the last theatrical film in the STAR WARS saga, two of my pals and I decided to do it in style, attending a midnight screening at a mammoth AMC Theatre multi-plex in Framingham, MA on the outskirts of Boston. The very same theater where we joined the frenzied crowds for the reissues of the original films (or as I like to think of them, the "real" STAR WARS movies), as well as THE PHANTOM MENACE, several years earlier. I snagged tickets online in advance, and present for you here a look inside the journey that spans 25 years of action figures, pillow cases, breakfast cereals, and three out of five great movies.


Wednesday, May 18th, 2005
7:15 am
Wake up from a dream about going to see REVENGE OF THE SITH and having HERBIE GOES TO MONTE CARLO screened in its place. The light sabers that audience members have with them suddenly turn real, and they slice the screen to ribbons.

45 minutes before my alarm will go off, and a little less than 16 hours until I see the final STAR WARS film. Need to try to get whatever sleep I can to charge up for the day ahead of me.

7:58 am
Wake up two minutes before the alarm goes off, and stare woozily at the numbers until they say "8:00". The radio comes on, and I'm greeted with "Love Shack". Time to shower, shave, and shovel in a frozen waffle or two before work. I've pulled my vintage Luke Skywalker "X-Wing Pilot" Underoos out of storage, and attempt to put them on. The t-shirt is more or less a dickey now, and the underwear basically explode when I get them on. That does a lot for my male ego, but little for their future eBay worth. I scrap the idea of nostalgic clothing and go with the Scooby-Doo boxers. Too much information? Tough. This is a diary. Looking forward to sneaking in a nap at some point in advance of the long night.
16 hours until I see the final STAR WARS film.

3:30 pm
Well, the work-day has turned out far busier than I'd hoped or expected. What I thought would be a mostly-uneventful day has turned out to be a week's-worth of activities packed into not-yet-eight hours. Great. So much for that nap. I'm driving to the theater tonight (2 hours and 14 minutes from home), so sleeping on the way is out, too. It's gonna be a looong day.
8.5 hours until I see the final STAR WARS film.

I'm at work alone today, and manage to use my wily, coyote-like skills to lock up a half-hour early, fight my way across end-of-day traffic in town, and pick up my co-pilot Tim for our trip to the theater. I've decided to forego dressing up as my favorite character, "Luke in the water tank" from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, as time, finances, and breath control (not to mention the lack of a minivan to carry the man-sized tube of witch hazel to the theater) prevented me from getting the whole thing together in time (though I do predict that my Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic costume, complete with 4-foot arms made of those bendy pool-toy tube thingies, will be ready in time for THE FANTASTIC FOUR's July premiere).
7.5 hours until I see the final STAR WARS film.

On the road, our listening of The Star Wars Christmas Album is followed by Tim and I getting into an argument about the greatest STAR WARS-related food product of all time. I say STAR WARS Cookies (circa 1982), he claims "Dark Side of the Force" M&M's. As STAR WARS Cookies can't be found for comparison, we call it a draw.
6.25 hours until I see the final STAR WARS film.

6:30 pm
Somewhere in Massachusetts, we pass some STAR WARS fans whose car has broken down. They're on the side of the road, their back window proclaiming "SITH OR BUST" written in soap. Am I hallucinating? Did I really just see Darth Vader and five Jawas thumb-tripping on the side of the road?
This is madness.
5.5 hours until I see the new STAR WARS film.

7:15 pm
After weaving our way through downtown Framingham at rush hour, we pick up the third member of our alliance, Matt, at the train station. Just in from Boston, he's ready to rumble, as are all of our stomachs. Time to find food, and lots of it. As we still have, oh....4.75 HOURS to kill until showtime, we figure we'll find somewhere to sit down, take our time, and consume a potentially lethal amount of caffeine.
As I just said, 4.75 hours until I see the final STAR WARS film.

Why do I hate driving in and around Boston? Because if you, say, miss a turn, it might be 10 miles or so before you can find a place to turn around on a divided highway. That is, if the lane you're in suddenly doesn't become "turn only" and jettison you out into some farther-reaching suburb on an unmarked rural route. I have no idea when we'll be able to simply turn around and go back to the restaurant we saw several miles ago. We console ourselves with the fact that the screening is still a few hours away, we've already bought our tickets, and we had time to kill anyway. I could swear that I just saw Darth Maul pumping gas. Hunger hallucinations are definitely kicking in.
4.5 hours until I see the final STAR WARS film.

Finally we sit down to eat at Bugaboo Creek. Kind of an Outback Steakhouse, minus the Australian theme and substituting a Canadian one. Feels like you've been shrunken down, Dr. Shrinker-style, and are eating in Paul Bunyan's summer home. Toss in the hallucinatory effects of talking moose and buffalo heads, and more food on your plate than you could fit in a gym locker, and you've got yourself the perfect place to kill a few hours before seeing the final film in a series that once featured a garbage monster. We eat our fill, and then some. I've had so many re-fills on my Coke that I think I can hear my veins humming. The boys have broken into a fierce chicken-and-caffeine-fuelled argument about the eventual outcome of a fight between Grand Moff Tarkin and Salacious Crumb. I tell them that they weren't meant to think about such things, but words and actions escalate until they're both trying to psychically choke each other. Luckily this amounts to little more than a staring contest, and other patrons are quitely amused. I excuse myself and visit the restroom to, my, um....pressures. We manage to kill a good amount of time at Bugaboo, and head over to the nearby theater at 10:00pm.
2 hours until I see the final STAR WARS film.

So that took forever. Again, genius traffic design threw us like a slingshot away from the theater, which, as the crow flies, is probably a quarter of a mile from where we just ate. We ultimately do make it to the parking lot, surprised to find a good space so close to the front. When we saw the reissues and THE PHANTOM MENACE here, the lot was full and the theater had a shuttle bus running to auxiliary lots, bringing patrons to the front door. We enter the pre-lobby to find it also rather mellow. Short lines and only a few people in costume (Obi-Wan seems to be the favorite of the REVENGE OF THE SITH costumed movie-goer--far fewer "Leia-as-slave-girl"s than we had hoped for). I skip to the Automated Box Office (literally--I'm excited, what can I say?) and in a flash I have our tickets. We enter the main lobby, again find far fewer people than before. Can this be possible? The electronic marquee shows REVENGE OF THE SITH on NINE SCREENS, all sold out. Where is everybody? We search the lobby for signs of fandom gone wrong, but there are no impromptu half-ass lightsaber battles as before, nobody in tuxedos like when we saw the first STAR WARS Special Edition (when asked why he was in formal attire, the gentleman in question replied "HELLO?!? It's STAR WARS!!").....just a few people in line for $4 bottles of soda and $6 bags of popcorn. Then we noticed it. People were going into the theater already!! Almost two hours before showtime and they're letting people in??? We quickly skipped (we were all excited at this point) to the ticket-tearer, who informed us that yes, we could have a seat now if we wanted to. Fearful that all of the good seats had been taken, we entered quickly. To our surprise, the theater was still only half-full. We grabbed three rather prime seats in the middle and, well, sat there.
What else was there to do?
1.75 hours until I see the final STAR WARS film.

Country. Why did it have to be country?
The pre-show "entertainment" provided to us by AMC Theatres was the usual series of plugs for films now and coming soon, local businesses, and albums in current release. We didn't really pay any attention to this (does anyone, really?), but instead chose to focus on the other members of the audience. We only spotted one Ben Kenobi in our auditorium, and sadly no Taun-Tauns. People to our left had their laptop out, watching ATTACK OF THE CLONES as a last-minute refresher before the final chapter would unspool in front of their eyes in a matter of dozens of minutes. Someone else was doing likewise a few rows in front of us, but they were watching ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN which, when you get down to it, is a funnier film than ATTACK OF THE CLONES was.
1 hour until I see the new STAR WARS film.

The theater is starting to fill up more now. One by one, we leave the auditorium to grab any provisions we might need to help us through the 2.5-hour epic to come, and to alleviate any biological tension brought about by the Bugaboo experience. (Note to the Bugaboo Creek corporation: you really should call your drink menu "Bugabooze".) I use my trip out to grab some more junk food to hop me up and keep my eyes open. After careful calculation of the dietary benefits of what AMC Theaters has made available to me, and mental balancing of my checkbook, I decide that I can afford (dietarily and financially) to go with the Medium Coke ($3.75) and small popcorn ($3.50 and still enough to choke a horse). They're almost more than I can carry back to my seat. I forget sometimes that in the parlance of Movie Concession Speak, "Small" means "Large", "Medium" means "Huge", and "Large" means "Suicide".
30 minutes until I see the final STAR WARS film.

Thursday, May 19th, 2005
12:02 am
The film is supposed to start now. Is something wrong? Did they not get enough prints? Is the projector jammed? Is this another bad dream? Just as a few light saber-clad teen warriors start to ferment the seeds of their own rebellion, the lights dim and a cheer rises like none I've heard since the last time someone dropped a tray in the school cafeteria. Then the previews start and we're overtaken by the dark side of silence. After several trailers for upcoming summer blockbusters (or so the studios hope), that twinkly Lucasfilm logo magically appears and the place goes nuts. Just as everyones palms and vocal chords were about to give out, the STAR WARS logo blasts onto the screen and the aural apocalypse gets LOUDER.
Then everyone shuts up and watches the movie.
I am now seeing the final STAR WARS film.

We emerge from the theater, having seen the final STAR WARS film (did I mention that REVENGE OF THE SITH is the final STAR WARS film?) I joke that we'll enter the lobby to find every broken out into discussion groups, as well as the largest bathroom line we've ever seen. I'm half right. The bathroom line iss medium-sized. The discussion groups are in full, passionate swing, however. As we leave the theater, I wonder how long the place will give the debaters and dissectors before they usher them out into the cold, damp darkness of the parking lot to face a life without any more STAR WARS movies. We sit in the car, comparing notes and looking at a sea of headlights and taillights that looked not unlike the starship battles we'd witnessed over the last two-plus hours, with slightly fewer explosions and screaming droids (but only slightly fewer).
5 hours until my alarm goes off.

We pull slowly out of the parking lot and head into Boston to drop Matt off at his apartment.
4 hours and 40 minutes until my alarm goes off.

Tim and I bid Matt a good night and head home to glorious New Hampshire. I take a wrong turn and we get lost.
4.25 hours until my alarm goes off.

4:20 am
I stumble upon the route home that I know. We start to notice the sky getting....lighter. We realize that the sun is coming up.
3 hours and 40 minutes until my alarm goes off.

The sun is bright and strong now, and we really, really just want to be home. Has our town been moved farther away from Boston since we've been gone? Then the CD player refuses to eject a CD and gives the playable surface a nice new cross-hatching texture.
3 hours until my alarm goes off.

I stumble through the door in a daze and fall into bed.
2.5 hours until my alarm goes off.

My alarm goes off.
Didn't I just get up 24 hours ago? I gotta do it again? Without a new STAR WARS movie to look forward to? Ever? Screw that. I hit the snooze and dream about STAR WARS Cookies and Underoos that fit.