Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Parents, Please Don't Bring 4 -Year Olds To The New Star Wars Movie!

Image result for darth vader
BWAAAAA! Daddy, daddy, who dat man!"

Look, I 've got nothing in principle against four years olds, but as my father put it when we were that age: "You're to be seen and not heard!"  He didn't regard anything a four- year old had to babble as anything worth considering or tolerating - especially in particular situations such as at Mass on Sundays, or the occasional dinner at our grandparents. This was good advice, given those special circumstances, and remains so.

Which brings us to the new Disney film, 'Star Wars - The Force Awakens'. Wifey and I came to the local cinema yesterday at around ten to nine in the morning, hoping to see the film in its "optimal' IMAX-3D format but were surprised to learn it was already sold out like all the other  IMAX showings that day. (We had checked online the night before and that showing was fully available).  We then had to go to 'Plan B' which was to see the Real 3D showing at 10:15 a.m.

After spending some time getting groceries (black rice, Ezekiel bread, organic onion) at a nearby Whole Foods, we dropped the bag in the car then got back to the theater by 9:30, to find only about six people there. Main thing is we had our choice of seats, and chose two roughly five rows from the top, and close to the aisle.

Alas, within ten minutes of the movie starting a father and his four year old daughter arrived in the row just behind us. An ominous sign was her constant chatter - mainly endless questions to daddy - during the previews. I hoped that by the time the actual movie commenced she would zip it up - because Real 3D is still pretty damned expensive ($18.50 for us both even with senior discount) and toss in a diet coke and it's over $22. (A WSJ article yesterday estimated that 49 percent of all domestic ticket sales came from higher end formats such as IMAX and REAL 3D)

But this was not to be: For the better part of the first 70 minutes it was just non-stop questions to her daddy: "Daddy, why that man have a light sword?", "Daddy,  why that lady look like that?",  "Daddy, why the man fighting?", "Daddy, why that man have a black mask?", "Daddy, that man look scary!", "Daddy, what those people doin'?". Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.....??!

If the kid was whispering it might not have been that annoying, but she spoke in a regular 60 dB kid voice and it had at least as many decibels (or more!) than a cell phone sounding off  - which the cinema (Cinemark) expressly prohibits and will cart offenders out of the theater for infractions. They clearly do not expect patrons - having shelled out their cold,  hard cash - to tolerate noisy nuisances. (And no, I am not a "child hater", I merely expect them to have their place which is certainly not in movie theaters chattering away and distracting others.)

As wifey put it at one point "This is not a movie to bring a young kid to!"

Indeed. You have to at least have reached the age of reason, and know a thing or two about the backstory and characters to follow it without making a nuisance of yourself with endless questions. Of course, the kid was merely the immediate annoyance and not totally at fault. She, after all, didn't choose to put herself and paying moviegoers in that predicament,  NO, it was daddy who had the seriously bad judgment to bring her there as opposed to the new Alvin and the Chipmunks flick which she'd likely have followed without all the questions. I mean, how difficult can a cartoon be for a 4-year old?

Anyway, after about half the film, she finally piped down and evidently fell asleep. So we could now finally follow the superb new addition to the series without distractions.

The movie was everything it was cracked up to be and more. As the WSJ put it yesterday:

"The Force Awakens was designed to emulate the original trilogy in style and substance. It returned stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill to their original roles, while introducing a new cast of Jedi Knights.."

As one fan quoted in the piece put it: "It felt to me like going home"

That's how much it reminded her of the original trilogy. And that is true. The scenes especially on Jakku were very reminiscent of the original film's location on Tattoine with just as many exotic creatures and inhabitants.

The part the audience loved the most was the appearance of Hans Solo and Chewbacca - after the Millennium Falcon had been taken by Daisey Ridley's character (Rey) and a deserting Storm trooper (John Boyega as "Fin").

The pace of the film was excellent, the editing in the 'A' class and the duration right on the money. There were two scenes that shocked us - as well as the other cinema goers - but I don't plan to reveal them in case any readers go to see the film.

Most interesting to me was the WSJ description of how the Friday showings mostly got 'fan boys" (if you've seen the last Big Bang Theory episode you know what I'm talking about) at  63 percent of the audience. But by the time Saturday ended that had dropped to 58 percent as the fan boy demographic thinned out in favor of a broader audience. In our case, the theater was roughly four- fifths full and about evenly divided between all ages, and both sexes.

Why the endless fascination with 'Star Wars'? Well, because as The Economist has noted (Dec. 19-Jan. 1, p. 13), George Lucas "was an avid student of the work of Joseph Campbell, who outlined a 'monomyth structure", e.g. in the Hero's Journey, whereby "a hero answers a call, is assisted by a mentor figure, survives various trials and emerges triumphant." 

The article also observes (ibid.):

"The original 'Star Wars' film, in which a band of plucky rebels defeat a technological superpower was a none-too-subtle inversion of the Vietnam War"

Though I doubt very many who've seen that film (Episode IV) would have made any connection to Vietnam.

The WSJ piece further noted that Disney plans to  keep the mythmaking machine moving: they are forecast to screen a Star Wars spinoff, 'Rogue One',  next December and there are plans for at least two more sequels in 2017 and 2019.

If J.J. Abrams can keep up this pace, and not lose quality, he will be marked as one of the all time greats.

But when next we see the movie, it will likely be either near 'Star Wars' end run (with crowds thinned out) or in our own home on a large HDTV screen - with no jabbering kids in the vicinity!

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