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"Why Is This Movie Famous Again?" My Wife Watches 'Star Wars' For the First Time

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by Matt Singer
May 8, 2013 9:57 AM
12 Comments
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"Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope."
"Explain it to us without the nerd talk."

84 seconds into "Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope," right as the iconic opening crawl was passing from view, those words rang out from the darkness of my apartment's living room. In our little foursome, the two women had seen "Star Wars" a combined zero times. The two men had seen it a combined 1,553,603,091 times. 84 seconds in, the wives asked the husbands to pause the movie and explain what was going on.

This was the moment I knew the screening was not going to go well.

Subjecting these ladies to "Star Wars" wasn't my idea; it was theirs. On a recent double date, the subject had come up after someone noted that my wife Melissa and her co-worker Brooke, complete "Star Wars" neophytes, both wound up married to geeks who could practically recite the movies from memory. It would be interesting, we decided, to watch the movie together sometime. Then last week, Brooke suggested Saturday as the moment to proceed with Operation: Midichlorians (she didn't call it that, obviously, because she has no idea what midichlorians are. But it feels like this silly boondoggle deserves its own military operation name).

Brooke's husband Andy procured an Original Trilogy Blu-ray set, and we made plans to have dinner and watch it. Three movies in one night seemed too ambitious, but we all agreed to do at least a double feature of "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back." No "Empire," no Yoda -- and Melissa really wanted to see Yoda.

Needless to say, after 84 seconds I knew we weren't watching "Empire." Sorry, Yoda. We did not; there was no try.

In hindsight, showing them the Special Editions might have been a mistake. They hated everything that was added to the movie in 1997 as part of writer/director George Lucas' plan to modernize his aging masterpiece and simultaneously accumulate all of the world's financial assets. Even as first-timers, Brooke and Melissa immediately spotted most of the computer generated stuff -- the scene on Tatooine with the Stormtroopers on dewbacks, the establishing shots of Mos Eisley as Luke and company zoom by in their speeder. And why not? They stick out like poorly animated sore thumbs. 

The old school effects that remain intact went over great; the new school effects went over like Greedo shooting first (which, let it be said, they did not notice or remark upon in any way). Frankly, I agree with them on the CGI -- and wonder if Lucasfilm might have a serious problem on their hands in a few more years when their "Special" Editions start to look really behind the times. The digital stuff in "Star Wars" arguably looks more dated than the practical stuff.

Overall, though, they didn't hate the movie -- and after we sorted out that opening nerd talk, there were only a few other questions (the one about the Rebel base on Yavin 4 I couldn't answer; why does that place look like an ancient Mayan temple?). But they were occasionally perplexed. Things that I simply accept and take for granted -- like Obi-Wan's unclear fate at the end of his lightsaber battle with Darth Vader -- were met with befuddlement. There was also a lot of discussion about droids; how they function, why they behave the way they do, and what precisely their role is in this galaxy far, far away. 

The experience made me realize something. "Star Wars" is more than a movie; it's a language. And as with any other language, children pick it up much quicker than adults. George Lucas has always insisted that the "Star Wars" movies are for children, and he's attributed some older fans' disappointment with the prequels to this very fact. That argument always struck me as a cop out -- until today. Now, I'm starting to wonder if he's right. Melissa and Brooke's reaction reminded me a little of my own reaction to "The Phantom Menace." "Yeah, it's okay. But so what? This is what people are obsessed with?"

Sorry, honey. I love you for watching this with me. I won't make you watch "The Empire Strikes Back." But I'm still not watching "Teen Witch" with you.

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12 Comments

  • grrljock | May 9, 2013 7:33 PMReply

    I watched Star Wars when I was 9 and loved it. I watched it again when in adulthood and really disliked it. Not because of the old special effects, but because the story was just meh, Luke Skywalker was not convincing as the hero, and the fact that Princess Leia was the token woman.

  • MiSoFine | May 9, 2013 12:33 PMReply

    I guess I'm immature. I can still watch Teen Witch, and can appreciate the story of Star Wars. I wish I could have seen the originals before Lucas messed with it.
    I really don't look that deep into movies, it's entertainment. I don't like movies that make me think during the movie--I'm at the movie to STOP thinking and be entertained.

    Tell them to shut off their brains and be entertained.

  • Ed | May 8, 2013 8:23 PMReply

    Wait--- your WIFE had never seen Star Wars?? That means either she's a shut-in recluse or you're a pedophile.

  • Patrick Fisackerly | May 8, 2013 2:10 PMReply

    Matt. You gotta watch TEEN WITCH. You're going to hatelove it. It's beyond. It's...it's just beyond.

  • Paco | May 8, 2013 1:47 PMReply

    DUDE! My wife wants me to watch Teen Witch too!

  • Tom | May 8, 2013 11:48 AMReply

    The whole reason Star Wars was EPIC in 1977 is because.....
    1) Nothing like it before had ever been seen in Sci-fi genre
    2) The EPICNESS of the music (John Williams!) and the EPIC sound design by Ben Burtt.
    3) The format it was shot in, the visual effects.

    If you want to come close to experiencing Star Wars in it's true form, get a sweet home theater system, blu ray, and crank that shit in the dark. Don't forget the essential subwoofer, without it the movie is flat.

  • Matt | May 8, 2013 11:07 AMReply

    Interesting. I experience this on a regular basis. I have loved Star Wars since I was a little kid getting the toys for my birthday sometime at the end of the '70s. My wife, on the other hand, doesn't care one iota about it. She didn't grow up with it the way I did. Lord knows I tried to get her to see reason, but to no avail. Now I have two young boys (5 and 3) and they love everything about Star Wars. They know the names, they know the vehicles, everything. I think it has something to do with taking Star Wars at face value. It isn't helpful to compare Star Wars to the rules we face in our world. Why do the droids behave like they do? Why does the Rebel Base look like a Mayan Temple? These are not questions I asked myself when I first saw the movie. It just is that way and you take it as it is. That's the key to truly loving Star Wars. That's also why I hate it when Star Wars starts deliberately referencing stuff in our universe (Clone Wars did this way too often). As a kid it is apparently much much easier to suspend your disbelief and that will stay with you for the rest of your life when it comes to fantastical stuff like Star Wars.

  • Karl | May 8, 2013 10:48 AMReply

    Yes, there are many flaws in Star Wars, but there is a sense of wonder there and brief flashes of brilliance that make us forget all the uninteresting or unexplained parts. For many of people Star Wars was a first love that opened up a sprawling world of cinema and sci-fi. And like many first loves we tend to forgive it for its flaws.

  • Tom Andrews | May 8, 2013 10:45 AMReply

    What I don't think most people get is that THE thing that makes Star Wars great never happens on screen. It's the talking about/playing Star Wars that created the "language." I'll be interested in if and how Melissa and her friend bring it up again. Another thing is this. And no one has time for it of course. But I think it's important to watch each movie multiple times and have time to talk about each one. If you ever do plan to watch more. I'd wait 6 months and spend that time periodically chatting about it.

  • Donald | May 8, 2013 10:43 AMReply

    Dude - just watch Teen Wolf - its QUITE awesome.

  • Bill Thompson | May 8, 2013 10:25 AMReply

    When I wanted to get my wife and daughter into Star Wars I made sure to show them Empire first. My reasoning is simple, Star Wars is not a good film, in any edition. It's boring, it meanders, features a lightsaber duel that is embarrassingly bad, and it's bogged down in so much origin minutiae that had I watched it first I never would have become a massive Star Wars fan. So, my wife and daughter watched every single Star Wars film before seeing the original Star Wars, and it worked, because they came away fans of the series as a whole and even appreciated the original Star Wars more than I ever will.

  • FromWayDowntown | May 9, 2013 6:04 AM

    I think Bill did it right. Empire is clearly the best movie and quite frankly the only one I care to revisit regularly. I devoured the movies as a kid, read everything Star Wars I could get and was a massive fan. Then came the Prequels of which I saw the first two and hated them and after that my love cooled down considerably.
    I made a try to revisit the originals a while back after no having watched them for a couple of years and we (a buddy with exactly the same experience and I) hardly made it to the end of the original. It drags, is clumsily written and acted and both Chewbacca and the Droids are uberannoying with the sounds they constantly make.
    Empire was a joy (apart from the still existing annoying noise issue) but RotJ was as unwatchable. The shite Ewoks totally killed us. I see why the movies work for kids but as an adult I simply cannot overlook all the flaws.

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