Last Friday night I got to see¬†Star Wars: The Force Awakens¬†on its opening weekend, and was not only able to stay spoiler free¬†before seeing the movie,¬†but was able to stay awake though the newest Star Wars movie. Both were big accomplishments for me. Let me explain…

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I first got to see Star Wars: A New Hope (or just “Star Wars” as we called it back then) when I was around 11 years old in 1977. I went to this latest movie at 49 years old. The 11 year old me had no idea what to expect going into see Star Wars, while the 49 year old me had all sorts of expectations- as well as an internet to avoid spoilers on the week before the movie officially opened. Gotta admit, just like watching the original trilogy(OT), or prequels, or Special Editions, the 11 year old in me comes out every time I see these movies on the big screen. When the Star Wars logo first appears in front of me followed by “the crawl“, well- it’s time-traveling and real movie magic for me. Ah, but¬†the 11 year old me didn’t have a day job and was used to staying up late to watch movies. Sadly¬†the 49 year old me just can’t hang like that anymore. Last week my wife did a Star Wars movie marathon at our house showing each of the previous 6 films, and I fell asleep during the last three¬†we watched at night. It’s not that I find them boring- I love the OT, but due to my day job I’m up around 5:30am or earlier each morning and in bed by 10pm. If I’m sitting on the couch I can easily be out by 8 or 9pm, and I just can’t stay awake for midnight showings at the theater anymore. So when my wife Nicki said she got tickets for a 9pm showing on a workday for us, I just didn’t know if I could go do dinner, make it through the movie, go hang out with friends after, and then drive home. I can happily report, that while the movie did test the abilities of my bladder towards the end (I bought large sodas for us), The Force Awakens¬†did keep my attention and keep me awake.

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Friday afternoon when I got off work I met Nicki across town at the Malco Cordova movie theater to drop off my car, pick up our tickets she had ordered online, and then go grab some dinner before meeting back at the theater to get in line with some friends. Our waiter at Red Robin noticed our Rogue Squadron Geeky Jerseys and asked if we had seen the The Force Awakens yet. He said he really dug it and promised not to spoil anything for us.

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After dinner we had a good hour or more to kill before securing a place in line at the theater, so we headed up the street to the Wolfchase Galleria Mall to kill some time and do a bit of last minute Christmas shopping.

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I have been looking for a plain embroidered Star Wars logo ball cap for a while now and have only found a beanie style hat. The¬†baseball ones are¬†usually printed all over and are pretty obnoxious. Didn’t see any at Hot Topic or the Disney Store, but did find¬†a cute stuffed BB-8 at the Disney store.¬†Nicki unfortunately got a free Star Wars¬†spoiler when she picked up a toy lightsaber there! Later while shopping at FYE Nicki noticed some Rebel Alliance hats that matched our Geeky Jerseys perfectly…and even better- they were on sale! I bought¬†a pair and we headed back out into the mall.

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I spotted Santa downstairs and since the line wasn’t long we went to have our photo taken with the big guy. I told him I wanted a Red Ryder BB gun, and he told me, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” ūüėČ

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Back at the theater we were shocked that it was very quiet, and that the lobby was a bit empty. One or two folks were standing at the concession stand and nobody was in line. One of the ticket window guys asked us about our¬†Geeky Jerseys¬†as we walked in. We asked if the 9pm showing had begun seating yet, and the ticket taker told us no, but we could start a line to the right. “Wait…we’re the first ones in line for Star Wars..?!!!” Apparently so, which meant we were going to get great seats. ūüôā

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A few minutes later our friends Mike¬†and¬†Rhonda, Tim and Traci, and their kids Emma and Rachel started showing up and joined us in line. We all had some catching up to do since we hadn’t gotten together since around Halloween.

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We’re all members of the Memphis Fan Force/Suspicious Mind Trick, a local¬†Star Wars fan club. It’s actually how Nicki and I met and got together.

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I told this story last time, but thanks to George Lucas I lucked out and have a Star Wars fangirl wife, because Nicki and I actually got together due to our love of Star Wars.

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I met some local Star Wars fans (Tim and Traci) from the SMT group at the 2003 Midsouthcon costume contest and we traded jokes and comments on some of the costumes we saw. The couple were dressed convincingly as Jedi and each had a great sense of humor.

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After cracking each other up at the contest, Tim handed me a promo SMT pen as I was leaving the convention, and they invited me out to a backyard drive-in showing of Star Wars at their house, which led to an invite by them and Rhonda to a group outing at a Memphis Redbirds game, which led to me joining the group.

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Then a few¬†years later while living in Nashville, TN Nicki met some of the same folks on¬†the internet¬†at the TheForce.net message boards after doing an online search for news about “Revenge of the Sith” and Darth Vader. They invited her to join us at one of our Fan Force¬†activities¬†whenever she was coming back home¬†to visit family or going to a convention like Celebration, ConNooga, or Midsouthcon.

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She did on several occasions and became part of the tribe. We became friends¬†and started dating after Nicki¬†moved back here. Later we got married with Tim as my Best Man and Traci as Nicki’s Matron of Honor. Several other SMT members were in attendance. We both went to the same high school, but didn’t get to know each other until almost 20 years or more after we both had graduated. She was worth the wait. ūüėČ

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My wife and I¬†are both fans of Star Wars, but Nicki’s a HUGE Star Wars fan and a big Darth Vader fangirl! She loves¬†the expanded universe books, Marvel and Dark Horse¬†comics, and has collected many toys, art, autographs,¬†statues- and of course copies of the movies and soundtracks.

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We’ve done a few displays at the Hernando Library (hockey, comics, Batman, and Harry Potter)¬†and one was items from¬†our combined¬†Star Wars collections. It was to help promote¬†Dan Wallace‘s book signing there, which also included¬†some costumed members of the 501st and SMT for the event.

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We’ve both have been lucky enough to meet many of the actors from the¬†Star Wars movies and animation, and many of the authors and artists on the novels and comic books. One of those authors joined us Friday night to see Star Wars– the other “JJ“…John Jackson Miller.

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JJM is a former Memphian and a long time friend who we also met through Midsouthcon. He was in town to visit family and had some time to join us. Always good to see and talk to John, and not just about Star Wars. We all went for something to eat/drink after the movie and I¬†enjoyed talking¬†story and trivia with him.¬†The guy is a walking data bank of movies, comics, and TV trivia. He knows sales figures, release dates, spin-offs, etc. Nicki said it’s like he ate TV Guides and Trivial Pursuit games as a kid and can regurgitate that info at will. Honestly I’m really surprised his head hasn’t exploded yet.

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John¬†and I, along with some other Memphian¬†Star Wars artists, cosplayers, and fans¬†were interviewed in this past week’s GO MEMPHIS section of the Commercial Appeal and Memphis Flyer. (You can read those stories by clicking the links below.) Lots of Star Wars love in our area.

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So, what did I think of Star Wars: The Force Awakens..? Well, without any spoilers I can honestly say I enjoyed it and thought it was a fun movie. Was it my favorite Star Wars movie..? No.¬†Was it perfect..? For me, no- but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t or won’t be for others. At times it felt very much like a Star Wars movie, and at other times it didn’t. Some things were great homages or familiar, other¬†things¬†just seemed like a bit of a re-hash,¬†“borrowed”, and not very original to me. I felt a few actors/characters weren’t on screen enough, one character was a bit over the top, and some of the plot I just didn’t get. May have to read the novelization to fill in some blanks for me. Nicki’s read it and has already clued me in on some things I wasn’t sure about.

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The movie did have¬†a good mix of drama/humor/action, and I did love¬†a lot of the character designs. Captain Phasma and BB-8¬†are two of my favorite, and I love drawing them. I’ve got to say that the visuals were just stunning in the movie, and I want the art book and visual guide book. Can’t wait to go back and see the movie¬†again in the theater just to see what all I missed going on in the background, and honestly wouldn’t mind catching it once in 3D, too. Which leads me to what this movie did best– it made me not only stay awake during a late showing (a monumental task), but made¬†me want to go see it again, and again, and again.¬†It made me care about new characters- especially Rey, who I’m really looking forward to seeing more of in the next movie(s).

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It successfully passed the torch- or should I say “lightsaber“, to a new generation of actors and fans.

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Edit to my post: had time to see another showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Christmas Eve after I got off work.

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Nicki and I enjoyed the movie more after a second viewing. Some things still bothered me a bit, others not so much anymore, and a few things did make more sense. I did catch several things I missed the first time I saw it last week, including R2-KT, some reactions by background characters and one main character, more info during a “flashback” scene, and saw more aliens. Still want to go see it on a BIG screen in 3D. I don’t see many 3D movies, but think this one would definitely be worth it!

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Oh, and I did get the art book and visual guide for Christmas, plus several other SW items including my new BB-8 watch, Hot Wheels cars, Clone Wars DVDs, and a LEGO TIE-fighter. We also enjoyed going shopping for Nicki’s nephews Tyler and Beckett and buying them Star Wars clothes and a lightsaber- red, of course. ūüėČ

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For more movie reviews-

Memphis Flyer

Commercial Appeal

To read the stories about local Memphis Star Wars fandom, or find out more info on joining in on the fun-

GO MEMPHIS¬†“The Force is With Us: Memphis artists, fans join ‘Star Wars’ universe” by¬†John Beifuss

Memphis Flyer¬†“Star Wars: The Cult Reawakens” by Chris McCoy

Midsouth Garrison and Mississippi Rancor Raiders 501st Legion costuming groups

Midsouthcon Memphis, TN

Memphis Star Wars Fan Force/Suspicious Mind Trick (SMT) Star Wars fan group

Memphis Star Wars Fan Page

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Happy holidays, and may the force and Star Wars be with us always!

Lin