Saying you’ve never seen STAR WARS is like saying you’ve never heard “Stairway to Heaven,” or a Michael Jackson song, or eaten at McDonalds. You don’t have to be a fan; it’s just that certain pop culture memes have become a part of our cultural heritage.
Yet, while rare, it’s not unheard of. After posting over one hundred pages worth of STAR WARS-related mini-editorials throughout May of 2016, it was brought to my attention that my office mate, a guy I’m just going to refer to as “Cloud,” fell into the Virgin category. He’d never seen the series. So over the course of a Saturday, , Cloud and I sat down, and attempted to watch each film in the Original Trilogy in their unmolested theatrical form.
QUICK BACKGROUND ON CLOUD: He is in his mid-20s, and he’s an engineer. He considers himself ADHD to the point where he can’t bring himself to watch television; his last three shows were FAMILY GUY, JEOPARDY, and WHEEL OF FORTUNE (because he was stuck in a repair shop). He listens to New Jersey AM radio and eats at least three fast food meals a day. There’s a good reason I call him “Cloud,” but that’s another story. He dubiously claims not to have seen a single feature film in its entirety since 1999 -- which, ironically, was THE PHANTOM MENACE, and then only because he was dragged there for a birthday party “for some kid.” His sole memories of the film are 1) “Luke Skywalker being chased through some sort of canyon-like thing”; 2) the overpriced popcorn; and 3) that he rated it “zero percent” in terms of quality. This is what he brought with him to the table as we prepared to watch the first film, STAR WARS (1977).
At about 12:30 PM, we settle in. I explain to him the fact that we’re watching the theatrical cuts, offering a brief synopsis of THE SPECIAL EDITIONS. Academically, he accepts this; emotionally, he just wants to hurry up and get started so the ordeal can be over with. Cloud, in case I haven’t mentioned it, has come to the table predisposed to hating the experience.
We start the film. ORCHESTRA HIT! The onscreen logo: STAR WARS. “I remember this title screen,” Cloud mutters. It is revealed shortly after that he’s seen the FAMILY GUY episodes based on the films, and thus has a greater sense of STAR WARS iconography and plot movement than previously hinted.
The complaining begins almost immediately. “They have really terrible aim,” he whines as the Stormtroopers engage the Rebels aboard the Tantive IV. “Look, they’re not even trying. The fact that they just missed [C-3PO] is a testament to that.” Things become more egregiously dire as the fighting stops and Leia is brought before Vader: discussions of plans and traitors go right over his head. “I have absolutely no idea what they just said,” he groans, literally rocking on the couch. “It’s all mumbo-jumbo to me.” When asked whether or not he read the opening text scroll, he shoots back, “Of course not. I’m an engineer -- I don’t read.” Unlike Stormtroopers, Cloud’s aim is true.
Tatooine (which reminds him of ISIS videos) proves a bridge too far for our intrepid hero. “Threepio should learn to read the sun,” he complains as the droid becomes lost in the Dune Sea. “What a dumbass…Fluent in six million forms of communication but can’t follow the sun.” He perks up momentarily when Luke arrives on screen (“Look, there’s our protagonist”), but promptly checks out because Luke “sounds basically like a Millennial.” FUN FACT: Cloud is a Millennial.
In due course, my friend becomes a kettle boiling over. “Someone should just download a whole Wikipedia into him so he knows everything!” he complains of Threepio’s ignorance of the planet’s whereabouts. Then he informs me: “I need a breather.” He has been closely watching the clock and determined that we are now one-quarter way through.
Fifteen minutes pass. “I’ll be honest, I find this shit boring,” he tells me. “It’s just dialogue on top of dialogue.” In spite of this, he still doesn’t know what the secret plans are that everyone’s talking about, or why everyone wants the droids. He wants less chatter and more action.
The film delivers upon our return: the Sandpeople attack Luke. “Happy now?” I ask. “No,” Cloud mutters in response. “If they’re trying to steal a hovercraft, they’re terrible at it” he declares of the attempted land speeder theft. “You fly away, then you check it out.”
We make it through Obi-Wan’s introduction (“Crazy old homeless man making up stories”); Luke’s reticence to leave Tatooine for Alderaan (“Whining about what he wants to do, but they’re just empty promises”); the destruction of Alderaan (“Great graphics”); and the plot to free Leia from the Death Star (“I don’t know how I’m gonna make it through two more of these at this point”). After he demands another break, I ask his Likes (“Drawing a blank”) and Dislikes (“No substance to this whole thing at all; no hook”), to which he adds: “So underwhelmed.” He informs me that his engineering degree complicates the potential enjoyment.
The break lasts nearly an hour. A friend stops by to visit; Cloud seems intent on milking it for all it’s worth. Once we finally get back to the movie, the sniveling continues. “Her plan is not good,” Cloud tells me after Leia -- in my favorite of her character moments -- grabs the blaster from Luke and guns down the Stormtroopers outside her cellblock. I ask him if he thinks she’s hot since she’s an atypical “damsel in distress,” and he shrugs. “Not really.” He remains quiet after that, up until Luke laments Ben’s death (“You met him like a day ago”), and explodes over a perceived lack of continuity due to Luke’s fist-pumping attitude after gunning down a TIE-Fighter (“Is he bipolar? He was just miserable; now he’s happy?”). Things seem more promising when Cloud chuckles at the Luke/Han/Leia dynamic during the flight to Yavin, but it may have simply been my imagination given that immediately afterward he asks whether I have any gum. By the time we left, Cloud had eaten most of the Family Sized bag and spit the chewed gum into a cup.
Finally, the film is over. The Death Star attack had played out, and Cloud was mostly quiet during the climax. Did this mean he enjoyed it, or was caught up in the action? “It got better at the end,” he shrugs as the credits roll. “I still wouldn’t watch another one if I had the choice.”
He didn’t have one. No choice at all. We were committed to this. Committed.
At 4 pm, we were finished the first two-hour movie. We put on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. When asked his story predictions, he says, “Luke learns Darth Vader is his Dad” (See? CULTURAL HERITAGE!), and “Han Solo and Leia fuck. Then she gets tired of Han and ends up with Luke.” The reasoning is because Leia is “a whore.”
A lot of weird shit begins coming out of Cloud’s mouth; maybe it’s the scotch I’m drinking, or the gum Cloud’s chewing. “Oh, they hung him like Mussolini,” he observes when Luke is revealed suspended in the Wampa’s cave. He can’t get his brain around the fact that Rogue Two addresses Solo as “Captain” despite his Alliance rank being designated as “General,” and derives a strange glee from the asteroid field chase that might have had less to do with the spectacle than the fact that “this is like me driving!” He takes particular umbrage with Luke’s hair after the crash landing on Dagobah (“He looks like a Neanderthal”), the possibility of the X-Wing being raised from the swamp by either of the potential Force-users (“Either way, the electronics in that thing are fucked”), and the fact that he feels he has “caught” Leia welding without goggles. Imperial promotions via Vader’s murdering of officers are deemed “just like North Korea,” and when Leia falls over in the Falcon into Han’s arms, Cloud excitedly yelps: “Look! They’re doing it. Sorta.”
So far: no breaks.
Lando’s appearance is met with good-natured chuckling, but Cloud’s engineering degree raises its ugly head again when it comes to the concept of gas mining. “I’ve yet to see a practical application for it in these movies,” he informs me. Moments later, Threepio’s busted body parts are being squabbled over by Chewie and the Ugnaughts, leading Cloud to cry out: “My mind is so full of fuck! I don’t even know what’s going on in that scene. Little people throwing shit everywhere!”
He does, however, laugh good-naturedly when Han answers Leia’s “I love you” with “I know.” When Vader does the No, I am your Father thing, Cloud says, in a semi-appreciative way, “Oh, there we go. That’s what we’ve been waiting for.”
Then it ends. Other than a quick Pee Break, we had made it through the entire thing. Was Cloud getting caught up in the storytelling? Sucked in? Engaged?
CLOUD: “Was it just me, or was that one longer than the last?”
ME: “Same length.”
CLOUD: “Damn it.”
Thus, Cloud bails on RETURN OF THE JEDI. “It was nice having experienced it, but there’s no way I’m gonna marathon them again” he told us. He offers to watch the third film the following weekend, but I wasn’t holding my breath. He then proceeds to stay for over two hours, approximately the length of RETURN OF THE JEDI.
CLOUD’S OBSERVATIONS, POST-EMPIRE:
LUKE: “Nice prosthetic.”
HAN: “He’ll be alive, overall.” Not bad considering the character’s a “JERSEY SHORE douche.”
LEIA: “She ends up with everybody. She’s a whore.”
IS VADER LUKE’S FATHER?: “Can we bring him to Maury [Povitch] and see? I know too little so I’ll let science settle that.”
YODA: “He’s the kind of guy that if I met him on the first day, I’d find him funny for about an hour; then I’d smack him upside the head.”
C-3PO: “I’m surprised nobody’s slapped that guy yet.”
LANDO: “He’s not the kind of guy I’d trust with twenty bucks, but I’d have a beer with him.”
STAR WARS: 3/10
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: 6/10
RETURN OF THE JEDI: Bailed.
Erik Kristopher Myers (aka ekm)