Friday, May 20, 2005

End of the Line

part of the line, where the public was never meant to go."May I help you?" the theater manager asked pointedly.

"No thanks," John said, as we headed for the stairs.  "We're just going up to see a movie."

"May I see your tickets?" he asked, even more pointedly.  So John handed him our two tickets for the 10:05 PM showing of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, which I had purchased at lunchtime on Wednesday.  Normally we buy tickets through Fandango, and proceed upstairs with our printout to get the actual tickets.  But last night was not the normal situation.  We had real tickets, and for this heavily-hyped, cultural event of a movie opening, the procedure was very different from what we're used to.  After pointing out that the ticket-taker's stand was right behind him at the bottom of the stairs, the manager looked at the tickets and told us, "The line for Star Wars is through that door."

So John retrieved our tickets and we went through a door I'd never noticed before, near the bottom of the stairs across from the long box office counter.  This took us into something that looked like an unfinished basement, or a tunnel, or a loading dock; in any case a place not meant to be seen by the public, let alone hundreds of loud, excited moviegoers.  But there we were, at the end of a long line that doubled back on itself at least once, and went around a corner so that we couldn't see whether we were in the same line as the people on the other side of the rope, chatting and group hugging, studying and filling out crossword puzzles and playing with light sabers and repeatedly making loud, sometimes inexplicable noises.  I think in retrospect that some people were trying to reproduce the sound made by a large beast that Obi-Wan rides in the movie.  This would mean that they were on at least their second viewing, a plausible assumption for these people, who were at the head of the line.  We hoped that they were waiting for an earlier showing than ours, but no such luck.

the prettiest Jedi in line.I'll have you know that I annoyed my husband (onour anniversary, yet!) and risked getting the camera confiscated in order to take these pictures.  There was at least one theater employee in the tunnel with us, along with two security guards, one of whom was playing with a light sabre at one point.  I'm sure that one of the purposes of their being there was to watch for recording devices that could be used to pirate the movie.  My little Canon could theoretically have recorded about five minutes of video before running out of space on the compact flash card, but it certainly could not have been used for any serious piracy.  Still, the fact that I had with me at all was risky, and taking pictures of it was even more so.  I made sure the security guards were out of sight behind other people before taking the first picture.  Then I put the camera away in a hurry.  I got it out again when this woman waltzed in with her light sabre.  I don't know whether she saw me taking her picture, but she practically posed for each shot. 

"Karen, put the camera away," John said.


"Because you're taking pictures of these people without their permission."

the prettiest Jedi in line.Okay, okay.  I put the camera away.  But I have to think that people in line for Star Wars on opening day are going to half-expect that pictures will be taken by news media and such.  Why not for this blog?  I know, I didn't get anyone to sign a release, or even ask permission, but I doubt that anyone minded.  In particular, I strongly suspect that a young woman who shows up for a movie dressed like that, carries a high-end light sabre and moves with such confidence and poise is unlikely to be camera-shy.

And poor John!  He hates lines and hates crowds, and here we were in a confined space that echoed and amplified the chatter of hundreds of people with nothing better to do for the next forty minutes (this was an hour before film time) than to talk, loudly so that they could be heard over the din of other people talking loudly. This was not fun for him, and only the camera thing made it briefly fun for me.

Much later, after we finally got into the theater proper, Istood in line for a Diet Coke while John held our seats at the back of the front section.  As I waited, I heard a report on an employee's walkie-talkie that the next group of fans was "on the escalators already, except for the ones rushing up the steps to see who gets to the top first."  When I got back, John told me that they'd made the following announcements in my absence:

1. Phones and light sabres must be turned off during the performance.
2. Recording devices will be confiscated.
3. Star Wars posters were to be raffled off at $2 a ticket to benefit the Will Rogers Institute.

Needless to say, I made sure my camera was stashed deep in my purse.  It was no threat to studios and theater owners, and its potential for economic damage was moot anyway.  I am reliably informed that there's a timecoded version of the whole film already online.

Okay.  I promised a film review.  The truth is that I haven't all that much to say about it.  It was certainly better than Attack of the Clones, and probably better than The Phantom Menace (which I liked better than most people did, at least the young Ani parts).  The dialogue in Episode III wasn't nearly as lame as in Episode II, although the love story remained almost as unconvincing.  I've read and heard some comments that it may rival the original movies in quality.  If by "rival" you mean "in the same ballpark, but not quite as good," then okay, that's probably a fair assessment.  But no, it's not the best of the Star Wars movies.  No way.

There is something viscerally satisfying, though, about hearing that opening theme once more over very familiar credits, and finally seeing the loose ends tied up, so that the three prequels lead naturally into the original film.  Apparent continuity glitches are resolved, and we end up with all our Star Wars / Empire / Jedi characters more or less where they're supposed to be.  I'm still unclear on how Luke's aunt and uncle are related to him, but maybe that's because I've only seen Episode II once.  It's also in no way clear how Leia picks up the title of Princess.

The film is, of course, very pretty, and most of it makes sense--at least, more sense than Attack of the Clones did.  A few things happen merely for auctorial convenience or because it's really cool, not because the characters could reasonably be  expected to do those things.  Anakin's declaration of allegiance to Palpatine rings a little false, even after all the buildup and whining.  Obi-Wan does something out of character, Padme has a conveniently mysterious illness, and Anakin's visions, a major plot point, are never really explained.  And why did he and Obi-Wan have their big battle amid miles of flowing lava?  Tell me how that makes any sense at all, beyond setting up for Anakin's disfigurement.

But hey, I did like it.  I had a few emotional moments, mostly at the very beginning and the very end, but they were more about nostalgia for the original film than in appreciation of this one.  Still, I kept thinking about the movie today, as I struggled to enter and reconcile 240 pages of numbers.  I wonder whether that contributed to the errors I spent hours trying to track down.  Thank you very much, Darth Vader!  You really are evil, aren't you?



daephene said...

My co-worker the star wars nut says that Leia's adopted father was a politician of the level that his daughter would be called princess.  Can't help you with any other questions though.  I saw the first movies once when I was twelve, and Episode I once in theaters.

ryanagi said...

Well...Leia's mother was a queen, right? Queen Amadala? Didn't she know who her mother really was, even if she didn't know she had a brother? I guess I need to see this movie. LOL

plittle said...

< geek>Owen Lars was Anikin Skywalker's half brother. Owen's father bought, freed, and married Anikin's mother.< /geek>

I'm looking forward to seeing this movie. I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to the prequel trilogy. I don't think the first two are anywhere near as bad as the critics did, nor do I think they are anywhere near as good as the fans do.

deabvt said...

They say Lucas snuck in Tom Stoppard to help with the dialogue!