Sunday, December 13, 2015

What happens when this "Star Wars" non-fan finally watches the movie again? Read on!

I recently watched the original Star Wars movie for the first time since I saw it back in the day. This was a big deal for me, because I am one of the few people in America who has been very meh, as the kids say these days, about Star Wars. So what made me do this? Because of fantasy football. Let me explain.

I wrote this October on Facebook about how I didn't care about Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
"Shocker: I'm one of the few people who has zero interest in the new Star Wars movie. Does that make me un-American?"
Lots and lots of my Facebook friends were stunned and dismayed by my admission. It was as if I said, "I like to eat babies for breakfast. Deal with it!"

Now, I had seen the first three Star Wars movies when I was a kid (I think it was a requirement if you grew up in the 1970s and 80s, along with reading Dynamite magazine and knowing what the words are to "Conjunction Junction.")  I found the movies okay. Never felt the need to see them again, as I noted in that Facebook thread, and they were never like The Godfather or Goodfellas to me. Also, I argued that there was way too much hype about the Star Wars flicks, given that only two or three out of the six installments are considered good.

I didn't even get into how the Star Wars fanatics in the world kind of scare me. Wearing clothing of characters they like? Playing with toys related to the film? Indoctrinating their children into their creepy cult? Watching certain parts over and over? Lining up for tickets? Too weird. Oh, wait, aren't many sports fans guilty of all of those things?

Now, some FB friends did agree with my assessment of the movies, but most of the responses I received were negative. Very negative. My running club compadre and fellow blogger Josh Pesin was particularly peeved, and wrote this impassioned response to my negative comments:
"George Lucas based the whole Star Wars universe on Greek mythological archetypes using the writings of mythology expert Joseph Campbell. There are deep Oedipal and psychological meanings throughout the films that reflect the weaknesses of the human condition. Unrequited love, a thirst for power, innocence lost, and betrayal are just some of the themes of human frailties dealt with throughout the films. And Lucas created a distant future full of dystopian imagery where robots are banged up, dirtied and worn, aliens are tired of working their 9-5 jobs, and humans still have trouble making ends meet where their crops on farms of far-away planets are just not growing. While the cinematographic images, costumes, score, special effects, and fantastical aliens and creatures all add to an amazing visceral experience throughout all the films, critics who only judge Star Wars from this superficial level are missing the point. Star Wars deep down is a film series that focuses primarily on the nuances, challenges and realities of the human condition."
Then he delivered the kicker. "I would never say I had zero interest in any of your passions. There would be no point in me stating that." Ouch!

That particular comment made me feel extremely guilty. And I wondered how I could make amends.

Josh is able to leap tall buildings in
a single bound. But setting a fantasy
football lineup? Fuhgeddaboudit!
You see, as I mentioned earlier in this blog, I roped Josh into joining our running club's first-ever fantasy football league because we needed ten players, and only had nine. (His team's name? The 10th Guy.) I initially thought he would have football knowledge because he is a real badass, as you can see from this picture. Josh does Spartan Races and marathons (including running the NYC Marathon six times!) and adventure races and road races and polar bear plunges and mountain biking and all sorts of manly stuff.

But that's the thing. He is a sports participant, not a spectator. He likes to play football, not watch it. Let alone pay attention to the intricacies of fantasy football.

Even though I helped Josh every week with his team, fantasy football just wasn't his thing. As he put it to me a few weeks ago: "Me doing this 15-week fantasy football is like you following Star Wars for 15 weeks and being expected to maintain and know your Star Wars characters every week."

Here Josh exclusively re-enacts for Subway
Squawkers his facial expression
when hearing me explain

how NFL bye weeks work.
Ouch again! Josh was totally right in his comparison, and I felt terrible. Here he did me a solid in agreeing to be in my fantasy football league, something that was important to me, and how did I repay him? By dissing a movie that was important to him. What a heel I was. Why didn't I try to learn about his interests, given that he spent a whole season trying to learn about mine?

So I knew what I had to do. And that was watch the original Star Wars again. Maybe he and the many millions of people who love the franchise were right, and I was (gulp!) wrong. At the very least, I could sit through this for two hours, considering Josh sat through a whole season of fantasy football.

Last weekend, I took the plunge on watching Episode IV: A New Hope. The first 15 minutes were slow going; Carrie Fisher's weird accent, dumb hairstyle, and tacky makeup job grated on my last nerve. So did C3PO's manner of speaking. (Why in a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, do they speak in a plummy faux-British accent? Annoying!) I did like the way Tattooine looked, but that was about it.

I really wanted to quit watching at this point, but I decided to plow through it the way I plowed through the Staten Island Half-Marathon with a hip and leg injury. So I gritted my teeth and kept on watching.

And then a strange thing happened. I found myself entertained by the movie. Luke Skywalker doesn't show up until 17 minutes into the movie, but when he did, things started getting interesting, even if he was a little whiny. Alec Guinness was a great actor, so it was fun to see him as Obi-Wan Kenobi. I liked seeing the stormtroopers on the giant lizards. Then the road trip begins with Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids, and I'm always a sucker for a good road trip.

By the time the cantina scene started, I thought "Hey, this isn't so bad." And then the best part of the movie showed up: Harrison Ford as Han Solo! Oh, my. I thought he was so handsome and dashing in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I never thought of his Star Wars character that way; that could be because I was still four years away from puberty when Star Wars debuted. Anyhow, his appearance in the film, 47 minutes in, made the whole movie for me. Han Solo was just such a great character; one of the original lovable rogues, before that became a cliche.

I also liked the camaraderie with him, Chewbacca, Luke, and Leia. Especially the banter with Leia. And the way Han Solo decided to do something selfless to help the rebels. The ending awards scene reminded me of The Wizard of Oz, and when the movie was finished, I thought, "Hey, this was pretty good entertainment!"

Is Star Wars going to make my all-time favorite movies list? The answer is still no. But I did enjoy watching the movie, and I...was..wrong in my earlier assessment, as much as that pains me to say! I was initially going to just write my review of the film for Josh, but he talked me into writing a blog entry on this. Even thought it would mean I would have to publicly admit that I was wrong about something. "People like honesty and those who keep things real," he said. So even though Squawker Jon thinks this whole blog entry is an all-star effort in navel-gazing, I figured I had to write this up. Who knows? Maybe I'll even go to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But I'm not wearing a costume!

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