Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiers in Seattle on Thursday night, and there is no better place in town to see it than Cinerama. Cinerama was selected by Disney as the only theater in Seattle to screen the Star Wars Marathon, an epic full-day screening event of all six Star Wars episodes beginning at 1:00 AM on Thursday, followed by the Cinerama premier of The Force Awakens at 8:00 PM.
I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan since the first movie came out in 1977 when I was six years old. I’ve lost track on how many times I’ve seen these movies over the years, between the original theater screenings, the theater re-release of the Special Edition, along with well-worn VHS tapes, DVD and Blu-ray versions.
My original plan was to re-watch the first six episodes at home before The Force Awakens, but my set of Blu-ray movies is currently on loan to Jack, a six-year-old buddy of mine. Besides, seeing them on the big screen again with a packed house of uber-fans is going to be so much more fun.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen any of the movies on the big screen, and this one should be something special. Cinerama is one of the few theaters with laser projection, and all seven movies are going to be shown from their 6p laser projector along with the 110 speaker Dolby Atmos sound system. While it is the same content as the Blu-ray versions of the movie, these digital projectors use Digital Cinema Package (DCP), a special format for cinemas that has a greater color gamut, less video compression and higher resolution audio than a Blu-ray player.
I’ll be here for the next 22 hours and will update this post between each movie. Check back as the event unfolds and The Force will be with you, always!
1:00 AM — Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Release Date: May 19, 1999 | Running time: 133 minutes
Crowd was psyched, even for The Phantom Menace. What got the largest applause? The first encounter with Jar Jar Binks! Either they believe in the conspiracy theory that Binks was actually a Sith Lord, or it was applause of derision. Either way, this episode suffers from way too much Jar Jar.
It had great potential though. The lightsaber battle between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi was outstanding. Really a shame that Darth Maul didn’t play a bigger role in this movie and maybe live on in Episodes II & III. He’s the coolest Star Wars villain that we know nothing about.
4:00 AM — Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Release Date: May 16, 2002 | Running time: 142 minutes
It’s still dark outside, and we are now two episodes in. The Force is stronger in Episode II, and Obi-Wan really comes into his own. Definitely Ewan McGregor’s movie, other than the epic Yoda lightsaber battle at the end.
Unfortunately Episode II is plagued by the ridiculous love scenes between Anakin and Padme. The crowd at the Marathon was either snickering or cat-calling each time these painful “romantic moments” were on screen. I dozed off at some point during their banter on Naboo.
Folks here are subsisting on cinema fare so far, as the restaurants across the street aren’t open yet. I’ve had a beer (a mistake at this hour), a Coke and a chocolate bar so far. Feels like it’s time to delve into some chocolate popcorn for Episode III and looking forward to a real breakfast during the next intermission.
7:00 AM — Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Release Date: May 19, 2005 | Running time: 140 minutes
Some folks filtered out for Episode III. I’m suspecting some have to go to work for a bit, while others may want some rest before the original trilogy and new movie. Unfortunate for them, since Episode III is certainly the best of the prequels and deserves a spot in the Star Wars canon.
Out of the three prequels, this one was the only movie to get a rousing round of applause at its conclusion from Marathon-goers. Yoda seemed to be the crowd favorite, drawing cheers during his epic battle with the Emperor and chuckles as he talks about his friendship with the Wookies.
Episode III still has its weaknesses. More inane lovey-dovey banter between Anakin and Padme and some more of the boring politics of the prequels. Thankfully it is chock full of epic battles and action, and does a nice job of setting up the next three films. Finally after more than 6 hours of film, the clear line between good and evil has been drawn.
Episode III also offers one of the theories of story line for The Force Awakens. I haven’t read any spoilers yet, but does Darth Plagueis, the mentor of Emperor Palpaltine who was killed in his sleep by Palpatine become the villain of the new movie? I’ll find out at 8:00 PM tonight!
After three movies, I’m starting to drag, but my favorite movie of all time is coming up next, so time to rally! What better way to rally than some dark and light donuts from Top Pot, courtesy of our hosts at the Cinerama.
10:45 AM — Episode IV: A New Hope
Release Date: May 25, 1977 | Running time: 124 minutes
Energy level went up, way up for Episode IV: A New Hope. Not surprising, given how beloved this movie is to Star Wars fans. Everyone in this audience has seen the movie countless times, but 38 years later, people still went nuts when Luke blew up the Death Star.
I had never seen the original movies in theater together with the prequels. While the prequels have their fair share of bad acting and overly complex story lines, what I didn’t realize until today is how much they lack humor compared to the original trilogy. The first Star Wars is funny, in a corny/kitschy way, and the audience laughed over and over again, whether it is dorky banter from C3PO and R2-D2, or quips between Han, Leia, Luke and Chewie, the movie still makes folks laugh.
“But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!”
“You can waste time with your friends when your chores are done.“
The other thing that is blatantly obvious on a huge screen is that the original movie simply looks better than the neat and tidy CG-fantasy world of the prequels. The original Star Wars is filthy. The droids are dented and covered in grease. Uniforms are torn, stained and nasty. Even the controls on ships are worn from use. It just looks cool.
Lastly, the prequels needed the swagger of Han Solo. The theater erupted when he came on screen in the Cantina, and I’m guessing people will go berserk when he show up in The Force Awakens.
1:30 PM — Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Release Date: May 21, 1980 | Running time: 127 minutes
Empire is that yardstick that will be used to measure The Force Awakens tonight. The most emotional, well-acted and well-directed of all Star Wars episodes did not disappoint with Marathon attendees.
Almost everything about the movie is unconventional. It starts with the big action sequence and ends on a downer with one of the biggest surprise endings in movie history. The playful love story between Leia and Han is Star Wars goofiness at it’s best. Let’s hope that Leia and Han rekindle a bit of that in tonight’s premiere.
This is also Yoda at his best, and the crowd loved him. He’s hilarious and mischievous before he reveals his identity, then becomes the soul and conscience of the entire saga.
The best audience moment from Empire? When Leia kisses Luke to spite Han. We all know they are brother and sister, and every person let out an big “ewwwww” in unison.
4:15 PM — Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Release Date: May 25, 1983 | Running time: 134 minutes
Our Star Wars Marathon crowd seems to be getting rowdier as each movie progresses. The anticipation for The Force Awakens is building to a fever pitch.
Jedi is not everyone’s favorite episode. Many fans dislike the cute factor of the Ewoks, but you’d never know by the reaction of today’s crowd. Two gigantic roars of applause, first when Vader destroys the Emperor, and then when the Death Star is blown up.
But Jedi was the only episode to elicit booing from the audience. When Hayden Christensen appears as a spirit in the closing celebration, the place erupted with boos. It seems that only Jar Jar is hated more than Hayden by Star Wars fans.
The audience highlight of Jedi? Two of them. Admiral Ackbar’s “It’s a trap!” has always been a clear crowd favorite, and tonight was no different. And the whole reveal of Leia as Luke’s sister has numerous uncomfortable and sometimes hilarious moments, particularly with Han.
The Force is with us Marathoners. I’m exhausted, loaded with caffeine, but pumped for what comes next. The time has finally arrived for The Force Awakens!
8:00 PM — Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Release Date: TODAY! | Running time: 135 minutes
Chewie, we’re home! Home as in the place I haven’t been since this Marathon started 22 hours ago, and the place that I haven’t slept at since 7AM Wednesday.
Almost 16 hours of movies, a bunch of sodas, a beer, a couple hot dogs, a chocolate bar, a Top Pot donut and popcorn kept me going.
Was the Star Wars Marathon worth it? Yep, it was a blast. Should fans see the new movie? Definitely. Is it my favorite Star Wars movie? Nope.
I’ll have a lot more to say in a review once I’ve had time to decompress and rest, so stay tuned to GeekWire and thanks for reading.