The Force at Midnight (The Star Wars Episode III Experience)—No Spoilers

Being at the first showing of Star Wars Episdode III was really exciting in many ways.

Nichelle and I weaseled our way into attending the midnight opening at the Apple Tree Cinemas, along with our friends Mark and Shelby Sohmer, and six of their friends: Matt and Wendy Camillieri, Phil and Jennifer Wilson, Matt and Heather Graves. Their plan was to go out to eat ealier at the nearby 99 restaurant, and then head over between 9:30 and 10:00 to get into line.

I still had my Jedi costume from Episode I, and Nichelle surprised me by announcing that she would also create a costume. She found one of David’s action figures that would be possible to re-create, and hit the costume shops for makeup, thrift shops for the clothing, and a fabric store for a few dollars’ worth of material.

Nichelle and I had our Wednesday night Bible study at church, and then needed to install the baby sitter(s) at our house and change into our costumes, so dinner with the group was out for us. We got to the theater just before 11, and found the rest of our group waiting out back for the opening at 12:01 a.m.

Below are the costumes my wife Nichelle and I wore (and our son, Isaac, hamming it up). Nichelle is dressed as Jedi Master Luminara Unduli. (Disclaimer: This is a very unflattering picture of Nichelle, and not a very good idea of what my Jedi costume looked like, either.) Nichelle and I were asked to pose for pictures on our way in, and complimented on our costumes on our way out.

Star Wars fans are an interesting bunch, and the fandom was truly in Force (I couldn’t resist—sorry) that evening. The lines went out around the building in every direction. While waiting for the film, we saw dozens of costumes: Lea Organa, Darth Vader (thanks primarily to the Darth Vader Voice Changer helmet now available in toy stores everywhere), Boba Fett, an attempt at General Grievous (which I didn’t figure out until the next day), several jedi. Light sabers were in abundance, including a few very nice plasma-tube models with realistic sound effects and a very convincing (if permanently attached) blade, the plasma in which extended and retracted when it was powered up. (Of course, there is such as thing as going overboard with this.)

Most of our group was at the far back of the line, and when we got in, Nichelle and I discovered that only 8 seats had been saved instead of 10. We settled for what appeared to be the only two adjoining seats left, in the far left of the third row of the “orchestra pit” section of the theater—not really ideal viewing.

We ran into several people from our church, most of whom were guys who had left their wives at home with the children. (Personally, I hate attending anything without Nichelle, although a break from the kids is sometimes welcome.)

There was quite a bit of time to wait between opening the auditorium and starting the movie. Some fans brought laptops or portable DVD players and were watching the other Star Wars films. People were chatting, laughing, trying to make pithy (perhaps Sithy) remarks. The atmosphere was festive, yet full of anticipation.

The management held a costume contest, which we had not known about. (As a prize, in our auditorium they gave away the full-size Chewbacca cardboard stand-up which had been used for promotion before then.) About a dozen of us lined up in front of everyone, and a cheer-based voice vote was conducted. It became clear that the winner would not be the one with the best costume, but the favorite character. Nichelle and I did fairly well; ultimately, though, Boba Fett won out over Darth Vader. Vader then attacked Boba with a light saber, which generated laughter and applause.

Our friend Phil Luchon reported via cell phone that in his theater in Randolph, Massachusetts, people set off the fire alarm twice, and they had to evacuate the auditorium. A guy dressed as a stormtrooper yelled, “The first transport is away!” and everyone cheered.

Finally, although a few minutes late, the lights went down, and the trailers started. Of particular interest to our group was the Chronicles of Narnia (see also this site).

Then the magic began! (Except that the left half of our screen was badly out of focus, and I found that very distracting, especially being so close to the front. The manager of Apple Tree Cinemas is sending us VIP passes—there was, indeed, a problem with the lens.)

Without revealing much in this non-spoiler article, we really loved the film. Anakin’s complete turn to the Dark Side is indeed very disturbing. Yoda is amazing in both action and dramatic expression. The integration of the prequel and sequel story lines, and some nagging questions left over from Episode I are handled wonderfully. Lucas has finally succeeded in making a prequel that works.

When we got home, we discovered Isaac had written this note, and put it in front of our bedroom door:

We took the kids to see the film on Saturday afternoon. 🙂

2 Replies to “The Force at Midnight (The Star Wars Episode III Experience)—No Spoilers”

  1. I thought I saw a Mac when watching the “Bridging the Gap” featurette on the Clone Wars DVD. But I guess that’s not ILM.

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