The trailer for <i>Star Wars: The Force Awakens</i> is available all over the internet, but is only screening in theaters in 30 cities in the United States. So, we sent a writer who's never seen a single Star Wars movie to check out the spectacle first...
I have never seen any of the Star Wars movies, and everyone is constantly mad at me for it. "Never?" they yell, occasionally shaking me by the shoulders. No. Never. I don't know why I've never seen a single Star War. I'm not making a conscious effort not to. It's just never happened.
In the eyes of Star Wars fans, or just normal people who have seen at least one Star Wars movie, I'm missing out on a phenomenon that shaped the childhoods of millions. They're right about that. But what these Star Guys fail to realize is that I can never watch Star Wars through my childhood eyes. I have to dive in as an adult. And the older I've gotten, the less appealing and the more daunting it sounds to me. There are six of these films, and they aren't numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, like you would assume. They're numbered IV, V, VI, I, II, III. I had to look this up to make sure I was right. Already, this is tiring.
However, there's clearly something I'm missing out on. Even I can see that. One day, I will watch Episode IV (the one everyone likes). But for now, I thought a good way to dip my toe into the Star Wars universe would be to see the highly anticipated trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You read that correctly: it's a highly anticipated trailer. It's 91 seconds long, and fans were awaiting it for weeks. The trailer screened for only a small group of theater audiences: you can only see it at select theaters in select cities, and only Friday, November 28 through Sunday, November 30. After that, you'll never ever be able see it in theaters again... until the following month, when you can see it in "theaters around the world," according to StarWars.com. Also, you can see it online as of today, as you've probably figured out from your Twitter feed by now.
I saw the trailer today, its "opening day," at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, before a 10 AM showing of Big Hero 6. For a limited-release trailer—I guess that's the best thing to call it—it's awfully easy to come by. After all, it is... on the internet. Nonetheless, people were clearly excited to see the trailer in the theater. I saw several people in Star Wars t-shirts, and overheard plenty of people excitedly talking about it before the lights went down. Plus, the Disney-owned El Capitan pulled out all the stops to generate excitement.
When I walked through the door, an employee handed me a raffle ticket. When I asked her what the raffle was for, she smiled and said "I can't tell you." Inside the theater, organist Rob Richards was playing Disney tunes on the theater's massive Wurlitzer organ. Richards, an El Capitan institution, plays Disney songs on the 83-year-old organ before every movie showing. You can enter the theater with all the Disney cynicism in the world, but I will tell you from experience that it will dissipate with the first organ note. God dammit, those Disney bastards are good.
Richards ended his medley with the Star Wars theme, to raucous applause from the audience. After his exit, an emcee warmed up the crowd and told us about what lay ahead. He opened by asking if there were any Star Wars fans in the crowd. Get this: there were. They applauded loudly. I applauded along out of habit, then felt like a liar. The emcee announced that the mysterious raffle prize was two passes to Star Wars Celebration, a Star Wars convention in Anaheim, CA. I briefly panicked about what to do if I, a non-Star Wars fan, won. I thought it would probably be unethical to keep them. Luckily, someone else won, to the loud dismay of the guy behind me, who kept yelling his own raffle ticket number at the emcee, as though that would legally obligate the emcee to choose him.
After the raffle, the emcee announced that we'd be seeing the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer today, to more thunderous applause. But we wouldn't be seeing it only once, he told us. No, we'd see it not once, not twice, but three times—twice before the movie (once in 2D and once in 3D) then once more in 3D after the movie was over. His announcement was greeted with the biggest round of applause yet.
The lights went down and we sat through two non-Star Wars trailers, which were fine, but come on, who are we kidding showing these today? At long last, our 2D version of the Star Wars trailer came on, and the theater went crazy. They applauded at the opening scene. They applauded when the Star Wars theme music started playing. They applauded when the Star Wars logo came on the screen, and they applauded again when "December 2015" appeared below it. Immediately afterward, we were told to put on our 3D glasses, and then the exact same trailer played, but in 3D. Surely, I thought, people won't be as excited the second time around. But the 3D trailer got all the same applause breaks.
Did I know the specifics of what was going on in the trailer? No. I don't know what that planet is called. I can't name all the characters. The only one I can name is R2D2. R2D2 is cute, and I think he should be the star, and I'm going to tweet that at J.J. Abrams. At any rate, despite my lack of Star Context, I found the whole experience pretty riveting. For one thing, I'm not a Star Wars fan, but I'm also not a robot. I can tell that the movie is an epic about good and evil. We can all get on board with that. Plus, the entire theater was united in their excitement to watch a trailer multiple times in a row. And the excitement was contagious. I got excited to watch it a second time in a row, and I didn't even know what was going on.
The Force Awakens will be the first Star Wars film released since Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012. It will also be the first Star Wars film directed by J.J. Abrams. That's a lot of pressure to impress a voracious fan base. But it's safe to say that as long as Jar-Jar Binks is a central character, that fan base will be happy. Just kidding. Even I know that everyone hates Jar-Jar Binks.
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