Please don’t talk to me about “Star Wars.”
I don’t want to see the newest international trailer to surface or know the secrets it might reveal.
I don’t want to hear the latest fan theory about Mark Hamill and Jar Jar Binks.
Really — I want to know as little as possible about the new “Star Wars” movie. Thanks, just the same.
It’s not that I’m anti-“Star Wars.” But when I finally do get to see “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” I want to watch it through the freshest eyes possible, with as little advance knowledge of the plot or the imagery as I can manage.
The media tsunami surrounding this movie and so many others makes that difficult to achieve without serious effort. Watching a film should be a revelation, not a confirmation. As the bromide goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. That first impression becomes diluted by each piece of the puzzle you’ve figured out before the movie even starts.
To me, a sense of astonishment is the true joy of movies. To watch “Star Wars” in 1977 — before it exploded into a permanent cultural phenomenon — was to be surprised by something that had really never been seen before.
It’s hard to imagine, in today’s media landscape, that a film could emerge seemingly out of nowhere to captivate the world the way George Lucas’ “Star Wars” did — or “E.T.” a few years later. In a world where news cycles are measured in seconds instead of hours, the environment simply doesn’t allow for it.
I understand the urge to be immersed in this new “Star Wars” story. After giving in to the urge to watch the teaser trailer for the new film when it was released several months ago, I’ll admit I almost immediately sat down and binge-watched Episodes I-VI over the course of two days.
I’m not a “Star Wars” obsessive (I’m not a collector nor have I ever watched any of the ancillary animated series) but neither am I a novice. I reviewed the three original episodes when they were released. I spent Labor Day 1986 in a San Francisco revival house watching the original trilogy in a marathon viewing. I’ve watched the original trilogy in reverse order, which is actually a revelatory exercise.
So I’m happy to re-engage with that world; it’s a mythology I’ve always enjoyed, a fantasy world I can buy into, even allowing for Lucas’ missteps along the way.
That’s why I don’t want to know anything about the next film before I see it.
Mine is a minority reaction; there obviously is a huge swath of the movie-going audience that wants to ingest, absorb and synthesize every possible morsel of the movie available — until they can see the movie itself. The original “Star Wars,” after all, practically invented modern movie tie-in merchandising; over the years, Lucasfilm and Disney have improved on that original blueprint and expanded on it, ensnaring the mass market even more firmly in the process.
With the advent of social media and online marketing, the studios milk that want-to-see relentlessly for as long as possible in advance of the actual release date. Think of the run-up to this year’s “Avengers” film or any of the other recent comic-book-movie entries — and how long in advance you were reading about it, seeing merchandise related to it, searching for snippets of footage from it. Only presidential campaigns run longer, it seems — and given that a lot of franchises have their titles scheduled almost to 2020, the political campaigns begin to look relatively dinky in comparison.
Well, thanks, but I’ll stick to my own model of knowing as little as possible when the lights go down. For me, that enhances the experience; ignorance is indeed bliss.
Seeing a movie without knowing anything about it before the first frame rolls: How rare an experience is that? It usually happens to me only a handful of times in a year, most often at a film festival. Sometimes they’re great, more often they’re not — but it’s the anticipation and discovery that I enjoy.
I try not to watch trailers (and am mostly successful) because they reveal far too much. I’m always fascinated to watch them after I’ve seen a film, to see how the movie is being sold — and usually thankful that I didn’t encounter them before I saw the film.
I’m aware that there is an entire section of the online universe focused on simply watching and speculating about what trailers and posters reveal about the next big film, whether it’s “Star Wars” or “The Hateful 8.” I’m not sure what it says about us that we feel the need to judge and deconstruct movies before we’ve even actually seen the film we’re so focused on.
See the movie first. There’s plenty of time to obsess about it later.
Marshall Fine is a film critic for Star magazine and the chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle.