The thing about choosing home cities and time zones: The mere fact that you live 12 hours in the future of most U.S. release dates (which for some reason, are all the important ones for Pop culture), means that sometimes, you get to be part of a worldwide Funomenon (shameless plug haw haw haw): being among the first in the world to watch the newest Star Wars film. Interestingly enough, the most bizarre thing about this entire adventure saga for me personally, actually came from the ticket booking incidents. Sure, I will talk about my thoughts on the movie (FYI it was good, so no worries!), but being the ranter that I am, I need to start from the beginning: how a Star Wars casual scum suddenly decided to supposedly fight teeth and bones to watch the film on the 17th of December, a day ahead the rest of the world?
Oh right…some explaining first. I’m aware of the anime-centric nature of this blog, but let it be known that this site is an expressive platform for yours truly: it kinda reflects my interests in many ways. I’m mostly in the anime realm, but I’m not ignorant of the West either, so if something as *trival* as Star Wars catches my attention, I need to talk about it.
Short Story Long: Ticket-Booking Saga
I vaguely remember watching the original trilogy on DVD as a 10 year old, having barely just migrated from my country of birth and just starting to pick up this alien language of English. Didn’t understand a word of what Luke, Han and Leia were saying whilst they argued in some cockpit in a weird pancake-shaped spaceship, but my young, simple-minded self had his eyes glued to the screen, because he saw red lasers and a blue lightsaber flashing all over the place; that giant metal planet looked cool, some spaceship battle happened, something big exploded. IT WAS AWESOME!
Of course, I also vaguely remember watching segments of the prequels, when a TV channel decided to air them after dinner on its Saturday movie time blocks for 3 weeks straight. I was only 10 then as well. I remember goofing around on the couch, flipping through random magazines, only paying attention to the films when a fight was happening. Apparently I didn’t like watching complicated politics and bad romance as a young boy. Bad taste in films, I know.
And that was pretty much my exposure to this giant franchise in film form.
The only novel series I finished from Star Wars was a bittersweet one, from what I remembered: Jude Watson’s Jedi Quest. I also briefly followed the adventures of Ferus Olin with another novel series, The Last of the Jedi. Star Wars eventually melted almost completely from my train of thought, as middle school rolled around.
Not very impressive, huh?
Flash forward about 6 years, to 2014. I just finished my high school finals, thankfully being able to qualify for a decent dual course I’m interested in for university. It was almost December when the teaser trailer landed on my YouTube homepage. Several facets of my hobbies all combined in this moment to rekindle my interest in Star Wars.
Since 2012, I’ve been immersing myself in the world of orchestral film music, engagingly following the works of the greats: John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, John Powell and more recently, James Horner; among many others in the Japanese realm as well, such as Joe Hisaishi and Michiru Oshima. Needless to say, if nothing else, music was what kept the ashes warm when it came to Star Wars’ relevance to my life. The sudden blast of the always-famous fanfare was what kicked my excitement into overdrive. I wanted to hear more music from the maestro Williams.
So, naturally, I spent half of 2015; a great year for orchestras and film music already; eagerly waiting for the film’s SOUNDTRACK. The film didn’t matter to me: I guess I enjoyed Abrams’ Mission: Impossible and Star Trek films, but not to the point of obsession, so his involvement in Star Wars was a positive one in my mind, but not a mind-blowing one that immediately needed me engaging in fanboying.
Then the official trailer landed.
Did I mention, that I also love visual poetry?
To me, visual poetry is one such art form, that engages each and every one of the human senses: they invoke beauty in a way that transcends what our eyes can see, what our ears can hear: instead, its a flow of signals that urges the essence of our human passions forward. The vast desert land with a crash-landed star destroyer, where Rey’s seemingly insignificant figure had travelled through, the sweeping camera that gracefully followed the fighters as they engaged in battle, the echoing, empty piano chords in the background signalled a vacuum that is desperate to be refilled and the slow intensity of the brass chords which gradually rose to call for a grand adventure. Every chip is down, as the entire force of the orchestra swept in with the flowing of strings, a ballad of choirs and the intense onslaught of trumpets.
Only then, did I decide to buy a ticket to watch the film: even if only half of what I wanted was delivered, I would have been happy nonetheless, so the fare was indeed earned by Star Wars.
Initially, I planned to wait a week for the fandom to die down, before settling for a cinema where I can enjoy the movie in relative peace. The Sydney crowds in cinemas are amazingly well-mannered, so I wasn’t that anxious about sharing cinemas with large crowds: well, at least when I compare Australian crowds to the bizarre stories of American movie-goers from American movie Youtubers.
It was December the 14th, Sydney time. I was browsing a local cinema’s site, looking to see if its 7 day-advanced booking are online. I wasn’t surprised by the fact that the midnight session for the Star Wars premiere was booked clean. But I WAS surprised, that the 17th’s 10:15am session; the third one of the day after the first midnight and 9am sessions; was still available for booking. Naturally, after paying and exchanging a few words with friends online, we planned a meet for that session.
Let’s think about this: I was watching Star Wars AT LEAST 12 hours ahead the rest of the world, I got tickets without breaking a sweat, I’m not even a big fan of Star Wars. Hell, I even changed my mind by switching from my initial 11:15 3D session, just so I can coordinate with the rest of my friend group. I know, I’m probably overblowing the exclusiveness, but this IS the first Star Wars I watched in the cinemas, so a milestone WAS officially established here.
The Most Epic Pre-movie Toilet Breaks
We arrived a decent half an hour before the starting time. I followed my usual ritual throughout the morning, when I’m going to a early screening (don’t follow them yourselves, as these may not be actually useful in enjoying films in the cinema): wash face with cold water splash, toilet break, consume one glass of water, skip breakfast. | After arriving at the cinema, get your ticket, toilet break, buy the snacks and drinks, AVOID consumption, wait. | Right before screening: toilet break. (seeing a pattern?)
Only this time, since its premiere day, Star Wars music boomed throughout the lobby and the entire theatre: Duel of the Fates and the End Credits suite accompanied my numerous toilet breaks.
Me As A Literal Grinning Emoji (NO SPOILERS)
The cinema was half full when we found our seats: the audience’s ages ranged from primary school to retirees. Pretty telling when you consider Star Wars’ influence on world culture.
Eventually, after a bombardment of preshow advertisements, the lights faded, the curtains widened further as the projector recalibrated its projection onto the enlarged space. In a galaxy far far away…
BANG! went the opening fanfare. The blast was so loud, my knee-jerk reaction forced my legs to almost propel my body skywards, before my lips widened into a grin as the brass and percussion carried the melody I know so well, eventually joined in by a passionate ensemble of strings and woodwinds.
Something clicked with me, as the film propelled along in breakneck speed. The vast, raw and slick cinematic space inhabited by the various geographical and outer space realms of this fantastical galaxy, was accompanied by an incredibly animated and alive cast of characters, who are incredibly charismatic to follow around, hilarious to see interact and outlandishly adorable when needed to be. Watching Finn and Poe banter, bond and finding that immediate sense of manly comradery, whilst whizzing around the underbelly of a star destroyer, had me both smiling uncontrollably and gritting my teeth in a state of excited suspense.
The whimsical woodwinds’ performance of Rey’s Theme as it accompanied her presence onscreen, generated a sense of guarded hope that seemed to depict the sense of childlike curiosity; kept in partial control by fear of the unknown; rather than the blatant and passionate plea for adventure, present in the Force Theme. Yet, the musical identity of Rey presented her as a grounded human being with a staunch sense of loyalty and inner strength, who idolises the legends that came before her. Finn’s interactions with Rey were almost bizarre in their humorous blend of siblings’ care for each other and a clash of wits between a pair of practical hands and a no-nonsense attitude from one side, and a mouth that’s pre-made for one-liners on the other. BB8’s presence added another layer of humour, as a droid with a sense of loyalty that matches R2 D2’s, but also doesn’t lack the playfulness, either. Never has a lighter doubling as a thumbs up been so hilarious on screen.
Aided by J.J. Abrams’ intense style of direction, the battles depicted on screen were dynamic and action-packed, brutal yet respectably vivid and relaxed with the camera: needless shaking were practically non-existent.
John Williams’ score; as if anyone would have doubted; has retained its timeless sense of romanticism that has defined the musical soundscape of Star Wars for decades. Quite fittingly, amongst many other instances of creativity in musical storytelling, Williams’ snug interplay between the Force Theme’s passionate melody and Rey’s more whimsical and rhyme-driven theme; especially towards the end of the film and the latter half of the End Credits (Who DOESN’T stay behind for the music in a Star Wars film?!); was definitely something to behold: the different personalities of these two themes were practically made for each other. Also a worthy addition to the music tapestry is a March for the Resistance: not at all lacking in its main identity; defined by organized brute force.
Needless to say, The Force Awakens was quite worth the wait.
By the time the entire film has completed its run, me and my friends sat in the seats, breathless and satisfied. One of them uttered about it being one of the most fun cinema experiences he has ever had. I almost never agree with him on most topics, yet I found myself nodding to that statement. We spent our bus trip to our next destination for the day, chatting endlessly about how shocking the reveal of Jar Jar as the new Dark Lord was.
May The Force Be With You
And thus ends my tale. Hope you enjoyed the read.
Disclaimer: By no means was this a review of any kind…this is how I watch films and this is how I talk about them: as a story about my experiences. My reviews take a complete different format.