It’s quite something to turn up at an inner-city cinema on a Wednesday night, months out from Comic-con, knowing that you won’t be the only one rocking your Jedi robes.
Something we once thought consigned to an earlier generation, fans of all ages broke pre-sale records to attend midnight screenings of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, and for the first time since 1983 got the treat of seeing what can now legitimately be labelled the first real Star Wars film in over three decades.
Surrounded by Obi-Wans, Kylo Rens, Stormtroopers, assorted Jedi and any number of other characters – it was clear that we were part of something phenomenal. A Storm Patroller confidently passed us, followed by his wife and child, the former of whom, dressed as the film’s villain, jokingly confided that she was glad they were not the only ones to dress up.
Just as we went into the cinema, a friend of mine, the spitting image of A New Hope’s Leia, surprised us out of nowhere, accompanied by her whole family who had dutifully dressed up. Having no knowledge prior to the premiere that she was a fellow fan, both friends and strangers revelled in the collective euphoria that was something we had all waited two years for since Disney’s first announcement, and for the numerous devotees, decades.
Successive ads received boos and snorts of frustration, but when the pre-credits sequence rolled in that long, familiar scrawl, lightsabers shot into the air and all you could hear were cheers, followed by laughter, tribulation, shock and in many cases silence as the film made its estimable impact.
In many ways, The Force Awakens had more at stake than the prequel trilogies. Taking place prior to Episodes IV-VI, their inclusion could not colour repeat viewings of A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back as a sequel to the series inevitably would, subverting the relative finiteness of Return of the Jedi and continuing the story in what for the cinema world was unchartered territory.
The content is handled admiringly well by Director J.J. Abrams and will please both new admirers and the most dedicated of fans in this action-packed, legend-laden instalment that is more than a pleasure to watch and has already garnered widespread, positive reviews.
A moment of silence as the film drew to a close was immediately followed by applause and a palpable exaltation amongst the audience as they left the cinema. A film that will be dissected over the coming days and decades, exuberant fans marvelled in the new-found thrill of a worthy addition to the Star Wars universe. Something that had been denied to the most ardent followers for decades, myself included, who with many others snuck out of school early to catch the prequels only to be disappointed could now confidently say for the first time, along with the multitude of others present, that there are no longer just three Star Wars film; there are four.
The Force Awakens is in every sense a Star Wars film for a new generation, many of whom entered the cinema hopeful and emerged visibly fulfilled and exhilarated. Sporting a literal inversion of the ‘passing of the torch’ in one of the film’s most powerful moments, Episode VII has broken pre-sale records around the world, and with reports that it is being shown on approximately one in two screens in Australia, it is set to break even more.
If you weren’t in attendance last night, go see it before someone regrettably spoils the plot. You may even see one of last night’s attendees or even myself there as it’s more than likely that all of us will be headed back to the cinema very soon.
Glen Falkenstein on The Big Smoke