I finally saw Star Wars, and it wasn't that good

I finally saw Star Wars, and it wasn't that good
Posted at 5:00 AM, May 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-06 08:33:55-04

(Note: The video above was taken before I watched the movie.)

Star Wars is not a very good movie.

But wait.

Before you start coming after this former Star Wars virgin with light sabers (lightsabers?), hear me out.

If you don’t know the back story, I watched Star Wars for the first time Wednesday,on May 4 (May the Fourth be with you — a reference I now understand!). My friend and WCPO contributor Jamie Rockwell has been trying to get me to watch it for years, and my co-workers decided I should finally watch it with him and live tweet the whole thing on Star Wars Day.

You can imagine the hype among Star Wars fans who knew this was finally about to happen. 

We decided to start from the beginning (the actual beginning, which apparently has caused much debate) and watch the movie that came out first: "Episode IV - A New Hope."

Then we went to the WCPO Insider screening of "The Empire Strikes Back" at Kenwood Theatre.

I tried very hard to view the movie from the perspective of the 1970s and not compare it to the cinematic advances of the last 40 years.

I tried to watch it as if I were a kid and it had just come out. It helped that Jamie was so excited about this he could hardly contain himself — I channeled his energy as we sat down to watch "Episode IV" on my laptop (which was possibly a mistake because it was hard to experience it the way it should have been).

It also helped to have a huge Star Wars community following along with my tweets and reliving their first viewing of the movie through me.

All that said, "Episode IV" didn't blow me away. I had a hard time keeping up with the plot. Luke is very whiny. Han makes me want to punch him in the face (though watching a young Harrison Ford for a few hours wasn’t the worst thing ever). And there were only two women in the whole movie (and only white people), one of whom got burnt to a pretty nasty crisp about 20 minutes in.


As I continued to tweet, and saw how many people I’d never met get so into it, and listened to Jamie’s commentary as he paused it every five minutes (it literally took us three and a half hours to get through!), I started to realize something.

It’s not necessarily about the movie. It’s a feeling. A feeling that comes from reliving that part of your life when you were a kid and watched this movie that you didn’t realize at the time would change film and influence pop culture forever.

@MeghanWesley I am! It's like reliving a part of my childhood. It's been a loooooong time since my first viewing.

— Scott Allison (@ScottSAllison) May 4, 2016

It brings comfort and a sense of being home. It makes you remember that sense of wonder you could get when you were young and something amazing was happening before your eyes in the movie theater, something that enveloped your senses and blew you away with revolutionary special effects.

Jamie told me he would watch this movie when he was sick or lonely or bored. And it brought him back to the happiness it made him feel.

I get the sense it brings millions of people back to that place every time they turn it on. 

As I drove to Kenwood Theatre to watch "Episode V," this all started to come to me.

At the theater, Star Wars fans were posing with a very realistic looking R2D2, holding light sabers and donning also creepily realistic Leia buns (I kept calling them ears).

The excitement was electric. Kids and adults of all ages were there.

As the theater darkened and the iconic words ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …’ came onto the screen, I started to feel it.

The electricity. The awe of what it must have felt like to watch this in the theater right after it came out. The feeling of inclusion I got from actually knowing what was going on (I am hopeless when it comes to pop culture and movies. I always feel like an outsider) and the characters’ back stories.

The full theater would clap, laugh, get silent. The longer I watched, the more the feeling came over me. 

So, Star Wars fans, I get it.

I liked "Episode V" a lot more than "Episode IV," but I think it was probably because I was finally getting swept up in all that is Star Wars.

I’m finally part of the nerdiest club on the planet, and I’m not gonna' lie. I kind of love it.

And I really love R2D2.

So. I am no longer a Star Wars virgin. And I am starting to understand why these films have captured the hearts and minds of so many.

But, as an objective viewer, I still have some questions. Let's count them down:

9. How does everyone understand each other?

R2D2 speaks bleep bloop and C-3PO speaks English (Basic?) and they converse throughout the movies. Also people converse with Chewbacca (who reminds me of my daughter, but that’s a conversation for another time), who seems to communicate solely with a back-of-the-throat gurgly noise.

I wonder how R2D2 and Chewbacca understand English but can’t seem to speak it, and I also wonder how all of the people in the movie understand Chewbacca and R2D2 but only choose to speak to them in English. Why don’t they learn R2D2's language and Chewbacca's language (Wookiee? Is that right)?

I’m guessing because we, the audience, don’t understand R2D2 and Chewbacca speak, but nonetheless.

8. Why is there only one form of cup in Episode IV?

I first noticed this because I was fascinated with the blue milk. Luke’s aunt and uncle have these tall, slightly opaque whiteish cups with indentations in them.

And then I noticed them again later in a scene in the Mos Eisley Cantina (where the bartender is robot racist against poor C-3PO).

Is this on purpose? Did so much of the budget go into special effects that they had to reuse cups?

7. If the question of whether Han shot first is so important, why did it change in the special edition? Or is that why it's so important? 

In one of the thousand times Jamie paused the movie, he stopped it at just the perfect place (of course I didn’t get a photo — darn it) and I saw a little beam of light (I'm sure there's a technical term for this) very close to Han’s face, which he dodged and then shot Greedo before I realized what was going on (hence needing to pause it). Clearly we watched the special edition.

So when the movie originally came out, George Lucas wanted him to be a bad boy space pirate, but then later changed his mind and wanted to present him as altruistic? Someone who wouldn’t just kill someone (something?) in cold-blooded fashion, but only in self-defense?

I had lots of awesome people give me feedback on Twitter after I asked that question, which definitely helped clarify things, but I still don’t understand why it would change in the updated version.

6. Is George Lucas from Wisconsin?

Obviously I could look this up. But I thought it was funny that he seems to love vowels as much as the people who named the cities in the cheese state.

Wookie. Alderaan. Tatooine. Dantooine.

Sheboygan. Milwaukee. Wausau. Manitowoc.

It would be funny to sit someone with less pop culture (or geographic) knowledge than me and quiz them: Wisconsin city or Star Wars character/planet?

5. Why does George Lucas hate proper grammar?

Of course, being an editor, I’m sure I notice this more than others. Yoda’s strange sentence structure is obviously well noted.

But why is one of the most famous lines in movies grammatically incorrect?

And in the opening scroll, the all-caps emphasis of DEATH STAR seems odd to me. Why not capitalize entire planet? Or Galactic Empire (though that one has title caps)?

I obsess over style consistency, so the emphasis of certain words with capitalizations stuck out to me. 

4. Why are Storm Troopers such bad shots?

Aren’t they trained soldiers? Is this on purpose?

There was one fight scene in "Episode IV" in which they repeatedly hit lights on the walls, causing dramatic explosions, but not actually doing any good. Is this on purpose? For dramatic effect?

3. What do Jawas look like without their hoods?

I don’t know why I was so curious about this. But I kept waiting for them to reveal themselves.

I got some fun responses to this question on Twitter.

2. How on earth did Obi-Wan Kenobi stay hidden for so many years without changing his last name?

Kenobi is kind of a unique name. It’s not like Smith or Jones or Wesley. So wouldn’t you also change your last name if you were trying to hide?

And how did Luke immediately know that Obi-Wan was Ben without the mention of the last name?

1. Why is it called the Death Star?

That enormous ship looks nothing like a star. It looks like a moon. Though I suppose Death Moon doesn’t sound as cool, as several Tweeters brought up yesterday.

It also kind of looks like Jupiter, with that spot on it (though there aren’t a bunch of tornadoes swirling around the spot on the Death Star. Oh! Idea for the next Star Wars movie.).

I do have more questions, but these seemed to garner the most reaction yesterday, so I figured I’d highlight them here. If you have answers for me, feel free to Tweet me at @MeghanWesley.

Thank you to everyone who participated in my first Star Wars journey Wednesday, with a special shout out to Jamie. The experience was almost magical thanks to all of you.

As my colleagues, friends and husband love to point out to me: I am a bit of a pop cultural idiot. Star Wars isn’t the only movie I hadn’t watched.

So what now?

Take the quiz below (or just Tweet me) and I will watch whatever movie wins. And if you want to know if I have or haven’t seen something you think I definitely should have, tweet me at @MeghanWesley. I’m excited to hear from you!