Everybody has their favorite movies series, the group of films that the moment they saw the first one, they were hooked. For some it is Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the James Bond films, or the Rocky Movies. For me, it’s Star Wars. From the first time I ever saw a Star Wars film, on TV all those years ago, I was a fan, and when the all special editions came to theaters, I became a fanatic. I was completely in it, I loved the characters and the universe; I watched them all, over and over again when we got the VHS tapes. I had toys, so many toys, figures, ships, collectibles, lightsabers, you name it I either had it, or begged for it for Christmases, and birthdays. None of this is to say that I am the biggest fan of Star Wars, I would never claim that, as I know there are many that there are far bigger fans than myself, but Star Wars has always been my number one, and with the first Anthology film releasing today, I thought I would take a look back, all the way to December 16th, 2015, The day that Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens premiered. The release of new Star Wars film was always going to be huge, a sequel to Return of the Jedi, set 30 years after the events of that film, with the original 3 main characters, there is no way that Force Awakens wasn’t going to be the biggest film event in quite some time. I was always going to be excited, I don’t think there was anything that could have come out that would have taken the excitement away from me.
Now the way in which I consume my pop culture usually comes in phases, when the mood strikes I will consume almost entirely that theme across all media; and when the first trailer for the Force Awakens hit, my Star Wars kick began in full force. I had made it a point that from the day that first trailer came online, that in the year remaining until the movie, I was going to consume every piece of media that was classified as new canon. Since Star Wars canon was reset with the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything that the “powers that be” determined part of the official history of Star Wars. I caught up with each new episode of the Rebels animated series, and finished watching all of the Clone Wars tv show, something I had seen some of, but never got around to finishing, and something that I highly recommend for any Star Wars fans. I either read or listened to the audiobook for each of the new novels, most of which were good, covering times in between trilogies, and one filling in gaps after Jedi; nothing overly fantastic, and certainly not any must reads. I read each of the Marvel comics, covering the time period between A New Hope and Empire, all of which are great, both the story and the art make for excellent additions to the Star Wars Canon. The plan was always to finish these by the time the 16th came around, because I knew that the culmination was always going to be an all day movie marathon, either on my own, or in the theater.
In the weeks leading up to tickets being released, what I thought would be a certainty was confirmed, theaters all over the country were doing what many thought to be crazy, hosting a 7 film movie marathon of the whole saga. I, being no stranger to movie marathons, was in, and purchased tickets the moment they became available. I didn’t care that the marathon started at 3am, I didn’t mind taking the day off of work, or the following day, there was no way I was going to miss seeing every Star Wars on the big screen again. Everybody who I talked to about the marathon leading up to Episode 7 thought it was too much, or overkill, and while for every reason someone gave that they wished they could go, gave two as to why they couldn’t or wouldn’t, but nothing would have deterred me. Star Wars has stuck with me since I was a kid, I have memories with Star Wars, I made new friends throughout my life because of Star Wars, I’ve had discussions with people about how I will eventually introduce my kids to Star Wars, so the arrival of the newest film meant I was always going to be there for all of it. I didn’t just stop at the marathon though, the ticket included tickets to see Force Awakens, but since I wanted to see it for the first time, in the best possible format, I bought separate IMAX tickets as well, there was no way my day of Star Wars was going to be anything less than the best. To make sure I had the best experience when it came time to see Episode VII, I had to make sure that nothing got spoiled, and to accomplish this I went cold turkey on anything event remotely new as it pertained to the movie for last month leading up to release. I clicked on no news articles, I watched zero videos, and for the last week, avoided social media like the plague, nothing was going to take away my enjoyment.
When the day finally came I was more than ready, I took a nap after work, I wore the most comfortable clothes, and I prepared myself for 19 hours in a galaxy far far away. The theater did a great job, the films were spaced out enough to give you a break in between, there were breaks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there were special deals on food and drink just for marathoners, it was a well run event all day. Being in the theater early also gave me the opportunity to purchase all of the special edition 3D glasses, which was a goal since they were announced. The movies played in episode order, which is the logical way in which to screen them, and given the general lack of love for the prequels, it also gave many of the patrons some time to catch some sleep before the good ones started. I won’t sit here and say I was a true champion, that I lasted all 7 movies without falling asleep, that would be crazy. Had the marathon started a little later in the day, allowing for a full night sleep the night before, then maybe I could have, but the 3am start time didn’t make it easy. There were several moments throughout the morning where I caught myself dozing off, and if you thought Obi-Wan Kenobi riding a giant lizard and chasing a 4 armed robot was weird before, imaging waking up to it. Once the prequels were over, it was imperative for me to stay awake the duration of the day, and with the help of a few energy shots I was able to do just that. Watching the original trilogy on the big screen was great, as anytime you get the chance to watch a beloved classic again in a theater it is always worth doing, and while the endless changes made over the years have added some less than desirable new elements, the three films that started my love affair with Star Wars was an absolute joy to experience.
With the conclusion of Jedi came the moment I had waited for, the last break of the night before Force Awakens. The time had finally arrived, I was overtired, overdosed on popcorn, and completely and utterly excited for what was to come next. I was nervous too, what if it was bad, what if it was really bad? What if there is too much patented Abrams lens flare? What does a non George Lucas Star Wars even look like?
There was even a moment I thought some punk kid was going to ruin my weeks of avoiding everything by listing off all of theories he had read online a mere moments before the opening crawl was set begin with that familiar score. In the end the film started and after spending an entire day inside of the universe created almost 40 years ago, I was treated to the newest installment, and while it is by no means perfect, it was everything I had hoped for that night. It had the action, and the humor, and everything I had just spent hours enjoying, Star Wars was back and I was over the moon(insert a “that’s no moon” joke) to have it back.
Movie marathons are not for everyone, I understand that, and while this was something I needed to do, I get that not everybody can or wants to. I encourage everybody though, if they are passionate about something, especially a film saga, to fully embrace it, and if you ever get the chance to see a movie marathon for a franchise you love, I fully recommend it; because not only will you get to watch what you love, but you will also get to watch it with a crowd of others who love it too, and that is a feeling that cannot be duplicated. I loved every moment of my day with Star Wars last year, I can’ wait to see Rogue One this weekend, and if there is a 8 movie marathon next December, you better believe I’ll be in that theater seat for all 22 or so hours of it.