On Wednesday, May 25, 1977, I didn't go to work. No reason, I just felt like playing hooky. After calling in to my job and going back to bed for a few hours, I got up and lazily thumbed through the paper, where I saw that Star Wars was opening at the Eastwood Theater on Pendleton Pike near Shadeland Avenue.
I'd seen an ad for the film in the Sunday paper, but thought little of it. The last science fiction movie I'd watched in a theater was Logan's Run and I had been disappointed by its chintzy look, bad writing and lame gunfights. There was no reason to expect this new flick to be anything better, but I had nothing to do, so I headed for the Eastwood.
The movie flattened me. I remember thinking, "Oh my god, they're getting everything right!" The story was gripping. The special effects were mind-boggling. And everything looked real! I held my breath, anxious to see if the filmmakers could make it all the way through without screwing up.
And they did! Well, almost. There was a weird moment in the cantina scene where, amidst a room full of terrific looking aliens, the screen was briefly filled with the image of some guy wearing what looked like a cheap werewolf mask. What the hell was that? Then there was the closing scene, where the lead characters are presented medals at some royal function and stand around grinning like idiots while being cheered by the crowd. What a lazy way to end a movie!
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Those quibbles did not in any way dampen my enthusiasm, however. I was in love with Star Wars. Driving south on Arlington, I wanted to shout to passersby, "You need to go to the Eastwood right away! Something amazing is happening!"
I was so lucky to see Star Wars the way I did, with no hype and no expectations. In a couple of weeks, Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally opens, and I've been ducking articles, interviews and ads that might give anything away.
It looks like I won't see it at an early screening. As best I can tell, there will be no sneak previews, which makes perfect sense. Can you blame the filmmakers for trying to delay the moment when somebody spills the beans about their story? Besides, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most anticipated movie since Titanic – what possible incentive do they have to screen it early?
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So what can you do to maximize your Force Awakens experience? First, avoid the hype. Avoid the commercials, don't read the articles, and don't watch when Harrison Ford plays Candy Land with Jimmy Fallon.
More important: Lower your expectations. Most of you grew up on the original trilogy. Later you were disappointed to varying degrees by the three prequels. Let all of that go – this is a new trilogy from a different filmmaker. He's a talented guy who has done some good work. Give him a chance.
Remember, the people that made this movie (and are mapping out the next two) have also seen the other six movies. Imagine trying to be creative, commercial, and entertaining with the weight of all that on your shoulders. I get the willies just thinking about it.
With any Star Wars movie comes certain things. There will be battles, on land, in the air, and in space. There will be aliens galore, and robots as well. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher will be back, along with newcomers like John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac. Since this is a sequel to the original trilogy, we'll probably see some sort of gigantic weapon.
What else do you need to know? Nothing. When you sit down in the theater, take some slow, deep breaths, clear your head and let yourself roll with the movie. We'll get bowled over if we're lucky. We'll have a shared experience to talk about later. And if there's a werewolf mask or an applause scene, we can organize an angry mob together.
Oh, and if you're in Indianapolis, consider seeing the film at the IMAX Theater at the Indiana State Museum. The facility is grand and the 15/70 mm print will be the most impressive in the state.