The STAR WARS Experience

April 29, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

Since I "converted" ReelThoughts into a more conventional blog (rather than just a convenient place to stick commentaries), I have been pretty good about posting something nearly every day. Next week, my resolve may falter, so I have decided to apologize in advance. My calendar is packed with screenings, so nearly 30 hours of my time will be spent traveling to theaters, watching films, and writing reviews. That doesn't leave a lot of opportunity for doing other things, especially since I still have my day job. So don't be surprised if there aren't five ReelThoughts next week.

Barring a snafu, one of the films I expect to be seeing is the final Star Wars movie. Over the course of the next two weeks, I intend to post a few of my personal reminiscences of the original Star Wars, and, after I see Revenge of the Sith, I will give a sneak preview of my thoughts in this space. Nevertheless, even though I'm seeing a critics' screening, I intend to be in line for the midnight showing on May 19. Why? Because it feels right.

There's something about the energy of the first showing of a big movie that can't be matched. While I'm not one of those who would stand in line for days (or even hours) to see a film, 30-60 minutes seems reasonable. When you go to a midnight screening of anything, you're not just there to see the picture; you're there to absorb the experience. The excitement and anticipation are palpable. I missed that for both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, because I had seen both at advance screenings and didn't feel like fighting the opening night crowds. But this one is different. This is the last one.

The last time I attended a midnight showing was for The Fellowship of the Ring. Because of a screw-up on the part of the local publicist, I wasn't able to get into the press screening, so I had to see it when it became available to the public. The energy in the theater was incredible. I had downed a cup of coffee beforehand, but, as it turned out, I didn't need the caffeine. I got home around 3:45 in the morning and spent the next two hours typing the review. When I went to bed at 6:00, I was still wired.

By the time I see Revenge of the Sith, I expect the review to be written and posted. That takes the pressure off. Knowing I don't have to go home to write will make it a more relaxed experience. But the best thing about it is the people. Feeding off their anticpation. Soaking in their excitement. There's nothing like a Star Wars movie to turn a successful 38-year old investment banker into a 11-year old kid.

Those who, unlike me, were deeply disappointed by Episodes I and II will forgive George Lucas if he hits a home run with this chapter. By all accounts, he has exceeded expectations. I haven't read any of the numerous first-hand accounts that are beginning to pop up on the web, but I know the general tone. Revenge of the Sith is everything that fans have been hoping for, and more. Does it rival The Empire Strikes Back? That remains to be seen. But if the possibility exists, that means that Star Wars will indeed go out on a high note.

So here's to seeing Revenge of the Sith with a loud, appreciative audience. I'll see you in line outside the theater in the late hours of May 18.