Editor’s Note: In early October, when we first heard that Cinemax would be airing a Star Wars marathon — all six movies in narrative order, from Episode I: The Phantom Menace to Episode VI: Return of the Jedi — senior writer Scott Brown came up with a brilliant idea. Wouldn’t it be grand, Scott wondered, if we could find a Star Wars virgin to actually sit through the marathon and write about his or her experience?
A grand idea, indeed: We put out the call for a reader brave enough to endure our challenge, and found a hearty soul in Michael Morrison, a Canadian who’d never seen any of George Lucas’ saga. ”It was exhausting, but a lot of fun at the same time,” Michael told us about his experience. ”It has kind of motivated me to watch other movies on my virginity list. Up next: James Bond! But not all in one night.” Read about Michael’s very special first time with Star Wars in his own words below (oh, and check out his cool entertainment blog too).
The Challenge was simple: Lose my virginity. More specifically, my Star Wars virginity. This was something I had held for so long that I had developed a sort of pride about it. It made me unique in this vast world of passionate and eccentric fans. Was now the time? Would I even be ready?
Late last week I was challenged by EW.com to watch Cinamax’s complete Star Wars Marathon — George Lucas’ complete saga in the order in which he originally intended (Episodes I-VI). I would have to watch 14 straight hours of Star Wars all night Friday into early Saturday. With my social calendar predictably empty, I decided now would be the time to give up what so many people already have over the last 30 years. However, with my roommate not being up for the challenge, I would be being doing it alone.
My knowledge of Star Wars was limited. I was familiar with the popular sayings that have become a part of today’s language: ”May the Force be with you.” ”Luke, I am your father.” And without even knowing it, I had already developed a hatred toward Jar Jar Binks. I would take what knowledge I had and commit to this marathon like Darth would eventually commit to the dark side. (My first Star Wars reference!)
Before the marathon, I always wondered what exactly was so special about Star Wars. What was I missing? I’ve never had the urge to stand in front of a theater wearing a costume. Would I want to after tonight? (I honestly didn’t want to know the answer to that one.) And throughout the night I found myself asking some of the same questions. Without being too cynical, I wanted to know why these movies were so important to so many generations of people. In a world of Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica, do these movies still possess the magic to win new viewers over? Are they still relevant?
With an extra large coffee in hand, I settled in for Episode I: The Phantom Menace. For someone who has never seen a Star Wars movie, it would be easy to criticize them — and Episode I makes it especially easy. I had been told by practically everybody to stay far away from this particular saga. If only I could, Cinemax, if only I could. The movie comes off as childish and vague, and the script is notably weak. But this is my first time, and nobody’s first time is perfect; there would inevitably be some bumps along the road. It was only a couple of minutes before my first Jar Jar Binks sighting, and I found myself wondering: Why does he sound like a Jamaican Elmo? However, those are questions for another time. I found I was often confused in this movie. Terms like Sith, Jedi, and The Force were new to me and they came with little explanation. Obviously, most people watching this movie would have seen the other movies and know what is going on, but this first-timer did not. I was obviously dealing with a more experienced partner.
As the night progressed and I became more comfortable with the proverbial ”motion of the ocean,” I tried my best to forget Episode I. The next two Episodes grew more confident with every scene, and became more and more welcoming for the first-time viewer. Names became more familiar, as did words and phrases unique to the Star Wars Universe. When the pizza man arrived around 3 a.m., I wanted to show him how much I had learned about this cultural phenomenon. I instead treated him to a ”May the Force be with you” and a $5 tip. He walked away confused.
Next page: Michael on the digital updates and the new order