Star Wars After Midnight

Citrus Park 20

For me, the release of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones was more than just a day. I wouldn’t exactly call it a religious experience, but it definitely was something I’d waited for with eager anticipation.

I went to the midnight showing at Regal Cinemas 20 at the Citrus Park Town Center with two friends who are professed non-fans. But I didn’t care; the thought of seeing Anakin all grown up (in the form of Hayden Christensen), and the beginnings of Darth Vader are the events fans like me have been waiting for since Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope premiered.

I chose to go to a midnight showing on a whim; it wasn’t really a conscious decision. And now I know why I won’t be seeing Episode III at midnight. The crowd is too unpredictable. I wouldn’t call myself completely anal, but teenage girls who obviously could care less about Star Wars, trying to be cheerleaders in the front of a packed theater and thinking it’s funny, did not enhance my movie-going experience. Neither did the drunk guys behind me and the smell of alcohol that surrounded them. But there were Stormtroopers, with filtered voices, and a Jedi wannabe. Although I could have done without the overweight Jango Fett.

But, this is Star Wars, and once the movie got rolling, it was hard to forget. A feeling of disbelief settled over me, and I didn’t really believe I was seeing Episode II until the magic words appeared on the screen, “A long time ago … ,” and I heard the first downbeat of John Williams’ famous score. It seemed everybody else felt it, too. There was clapping, cheering and whistling as the prologue scrolled up the screen, and it continued throughout the high points of the movie. I don’t want to ruin it, but Yoda warranted some cheering, Jar Jar got some boos, and Jango Fett was a welcome villain.

Did the movie live up to the hype? What movie could? But for a fan like me, probably one of the most critical, it did. Only a few things bothered me, and I knew about them well in advance of the release. Most notably, why Jimmy Smits? Although his role is downplayed in the current installment, he will play a much larger role in Episode III, and I hate that. He is not one of my favorite actors.

Most importantly, Attack of the Clones got me back in the theater to see it again before the weekend was over and made me want to see Episode III. While Episode II didn’t beat Spider-Man’s opening numbers, (it’s played on less screens, for one), it will have staying power. The cheering and whistling at the end of the movie and the lines around the block guarantee it.
Megan Sullivan

Channelside Cinemas

Maybe I’m jaded and have lost the ability to look at a movie through the dirt-smeared glasses of a child. Or maybe George Lucas’ latest Star Wars installment really was horrible. Of course, don’t tell that to my boyfriend or any of the other guys at the Channelside midnight viewing of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

I didn’t have to wait in any lines because my boyfriend, being the fanatic he is, had already secured tickets almost a week ahead of time. In fact, I was only at the midnight premiere for one reason – a deal made back in February or March when previews for Star Wars became a reality: If I saw Episode II the day it came out, my boyfriend would take me to the new Austin Powers flick the night it opened. I should have held out for something much more valuable.

By the time we reached the theater, people were already seated. In fact, it was 11:30 and the place was already packed.

As soon as the previews ended, the fans went nuts. They cheered when the previews ended, they stood and whistled when the LucasFilms logo and the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … ” flashed on-screen. I kept thinking, wow, all Lucas had to do was package this and the previews of this film into 30 minutes, and the whole thing would have been great. Stephen Corbert of The Daily Show was right when he reviewed the trailer a month ago. Every movie should come in trailer form and it would be perfect. Or at least Episode II would have been.

For this film, I’d have kept the logo, the intro, all the miscellaneous fight scenes (which were well-choreographed, but not as intricate as those in Episode I), and then ended with Yoda’s battle. Although I thought Yoda’s fight finale was absolutely absurd, the theater went nuts when he entered the conflict.

Whatever the theatergoers expected, they got it and loved it. They cheered, applauded and yelled out support for Yoda as he battled Count Dooku. Something tells me most of those guys waited all their lives for that scene.

I won’t rush to see Episode III. However, knowing me, I’ll have made some stupid pact with my boyfriend by then, trading off that film for another, because like Anakin and Lucas, I don’t seem to learn from some mistakes.
Michelle Demeter

AMC Regency 20

At 10 p.m., I arrived at the theater with my girlfriend Metta. Regency already had the Star Wars theaters cleared out so we were able to walk straight in and have a seat. But there was still two hours before the show began. On a rare stroke of planning genius, I had a pack of cards in my pocket, and Metta and I were able to chew up a full 45 minutes playing gin (I won 138-56, woohoo).

For the first hour of waiting, the theater was pretty empty, and the people who were there bored me. No one was dressed up; no one was dueling with light sabers in the aisles. A few guys behind us were playing the movie game, but that was as exciting as it got.

I layed down and tried to sleep. It didn’t work, but when I opened my eyes 20 minutes later, two kids in the fourth row were swinging toy lightsabers, one green, one blue. Finally, some action.

Still, I couldn’t help but flash back to the Episode I opening a few years ago. For that one, there were at least two guys in the crowd painted up like Darth Maul, and even the theater got into the act by having one of its managers dress up like a Jedi knight. By comparison, the Episode II crowd was a severe letdown.

Finally, the lights dimmed, and the screen lit up. The crowd cheered. We sat through some commercials, then came the previews. The crowd erupted when The Matrix teaser came on. I’d pay another five bucks just to see the teaser again, but I think they pulled it after the first night.

One last cheer went up as the LucasFilms logo shimmered its way onto the screen. Episode II had begun.

I struggled through most of the movie just trying to stay awake. Overall, it was much better than Episode I, but it was still incredibly late at night, and I couldn’t really get into it. It took all of my energy just to keep my eyes open.

But about two hours into the movie, Yoda’s fight scene came on. I was wide awake. After all the waiting before the movie and struggling to stay awake during the movie, the payoff had arrived. As I watched Yoda spin around like an errant pinball, I thought, “Now that’s entertainment.” The scene was more comedy than action, but it was still an instant classic. And, of course, the crowd was going nuts.
Dustin Dwyer
Muvico Starlight 20

I didn’t know what to expect.

Honestly, I didn’t really care as I rushed to the theater from work, hamburger in one hand and ticket in the other.

But then, as I parked my car, I noticed a strange excitement in the air.

To my right, two fully clad Jedi Knights jumped out of their beat-up Kia Sephia ready for battle.

At the door, a pimple-faced ticket taker shrunk in horror as the crowd rose in anger to the announcement that lightsabers would not be allowed in the theater.

The atmosphere could only be compared to that of a sporting event. Everyone wore the T-shirt of their favorite character. The audience roared with delight at the first chord of John Williams’ famous music.

A standing ovation nearly broke out when a certain green guy arrived on the screen.

My mind drifted back to a long time ago in a theater far, far away, when I was just like every other boy, playing Darth Vader for Halloween and waiting in line for Return of the Jedi.

I wondered, why are these movies so important to people?

They’re not the best movies. Heck, they’re not even the best science-fiction movies.

But for some reason, they cause a reaction in people that no other movie seems to create. Maybe its the timeless battle between good and evil. Maybe its the fact that after 25 years, the characters feel like family.

One thing is for sure though, at least on this night at the Muvico Starlight 20, the force is still with George Lucas.
Rob Brannon
R/C Parkside 16

At about 10 p.m. Wednesday night ,I shut down my computer at The Oracle and headed out to pick up my wife at home to see Star Wars in Pinellas Park. Why Pinellas Park? Because they have the only digital projector in the area.

Driving there, I hoped it would be better than Phantom Menace; less of a kid movie, and more involving. Anything would be fine with me as long as it did not involve fart jokes and stepping into alien excrement.

At precisely 12:01 a.m., the lights dimmed, and loud cheers from the crowd erupted. After the Men in Black II and The Matrix trailers, the Fox fanfare rumbled and the excitement of everybody in the audience rose. Finally, the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … ” appeared on screen. You could have heard a pin drop. As I was reading the text of the opening crawl, I actually paused for a second and thought, “I am going to see a Star Wars movie. The movies I have loved for so many years now will have an addition.” Unlike with The Phantom Menace, I was instantly involved in the story. I cheered along with everyone else when Mace Windu walked up behind Count Dooku and later as Yoda was reaching for his lightsaber. Wars might not make one great, but Industrial Light and Magic sure does.

The clarity of the images on screen was amazing. Not a single scratch or flicker. Apparently, I was not the only person present who seemed to think the projection was life-like. During the chase through Coruscant, quite a few people dodged into their seats during close fly-bys. I half-expected a dust cloud coming toward Yoda on Geonosis to also roll over me. I never experienced this during any movie I have ever watched. Simply put, this was the best movie-going experience I have ever had.

The movie itself is true Star Wars. Some reviews I’ve read note that the story is uninvolving and lifeless. When I walked out of the theater in search of my car that was parked at the outer rim of the parking lot, I kept thinking about the movie. Even 45 minutes later, when I got home, I was still thinking about it and the way it changed the original trilogy. How is that for uninvolving?

I have seen the original movies countless times. When I watched Star Wars: A New Hope again yesterday I was suddenly seeing it in a new way. Vader was not the purely evil guy trying to get the heroes anymore. Now I understood his motivation and saw his point of view. After 15 years of watching the same movie, it now had a new meaning. For achieving this feat alone, Attack of the Clones is a feat of genius.
Sebastian Meyer