The Phantom Menace

Well, I did it. I crossed picket lines and missed a day of work, and came home somewhat wonkily thereafter, but I did it. I joined the throng of Star Wars fanatics and went and saw The Phantom Menace. Considering the amount of hype that surrounded the event, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself being not terribly disappointed by this outing.

I suppose some perspective is called for. The saga of The Phantom Menace outing began on May 11th, around four in the afternoon. Two hard-core Star Wars geeks, Dave and Andy, both good friends of mine ended up in the lineup for tickets that were to go on sale around noon of the following day. At first, I thought this had nothing to do with me, as I was seeing the movie at a different place with a different set of friends. However, on the 12th, the day tickets were to go on sale, my buddy Alex says to me "So, what time should I pick you up? Tix go on sale around 11 so if we get there around 10, we should have no problem getting twelve tickets, right?" Hah. That was a naive statement, at best. Thankfully, the moviehouse Alex had been thinking we would be attending was packed, so we picked up and headed to the other big theatre-experience, Silver City Richmond. Where Dave and Andy were already in line.

In Andy's words, this was their line experience:

THE LINE


A docudrama
By: Andy Martin

Lights, Camera, aaaaaaaaaaaand...

Our Heroes arrive at the gates to the fortress of solitude (a.k.a. Silvercity Riverport). Dave and Andy are chipper. It is 5:45 Tuesday afternoon. Overcast. Tenth in line for tix to the most anticipated movie of all time. Our mission: to liberate 48 of these tickets for the people.

The line started at 1pm, with one lone woman (yes, there were females in the line!) starting a movement that would number 360 at its peak. A massive queue of humanity seeming to scream to the world "At least we're not as nerdy as those Star Trek freaks!"

Fueled by a single BigMac and a foot of meatball sub (and a case of OSB Pale Ale), our heroes settled in for the task ahead. Luck smiled upon the two, as they were the last to be fully undercover for the coming night. This would turn out to be a blessing, as the thunderheads above cared little for the plight of the meager mortals below. More sustinance arrived at 8pm in the form of KFC people who gave us free chicken, pepsi, macaroni salad, and wetnaps.

Entertainment comprised of an Obi-Wan Kenobi action figure, a deck of cards, and Andy's attempts at playing the Imperial March on his guitar at a level that could be heard over the looped CD that the theatre was playing over the PA. Fortunately, other people were more than willing to provide entertainment. First there were the high school girls who compared difficulty of homework with the engineer taking third year math courses. Followed closely by a loser who had come with the goal of scoring despite the fact that the lines sex ratio was 20:1. Listen to these classic come on lines: "I love math problems" "Are you kidding, I'm the Monopoly King, I actually have a crown in my room". Well, his highness nicely ruined the game of Star Wars Monopoly that the high school girls broke out by spilling beer all over it, even before anybody had a chance to pass GO, ruining his chance with the girls and at proving any ability with the game. And the final insult: it was Kokanee (that stuff even foams white!). He didn't stop hitting on them, despite the fact that they were trying to get some sleep. He finally ran out of steam at 6am.

Despite the loss of the Monopoly, another group was kind enough to bring a game of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. Dave took part with reckless abandon, coming close to victory, while Andy stayed just behind, laughing everytime somebody missed an obvious question ("This vehicle can do the Kessel run in twelve parsects" "ummmThe Landspeeder?"). By the time the game was over, the Episode I Rave was in full swing. Yessir, twelve DJs, a total of three people dancing, one f*** of an irritant to everyone I the line trying to sleep. Cops were called three times. First time, they told them to keep it under control. Second time they told them to shut it down to stop the lightsaber threats from the line. Sound off. Cops left. Sound on. Redial. Cops come again. Rave over.

Can't forget Alex and Scott's lovely visit, during which they brought donuts and caffine, and Scott and Dave taught me to play Bridge. Anna is also credited as being (I think) the only one who phoned us in support.

Dave attempted to sleep once the rave was over, Andy jammed on his guitar a bit and took a few laps around the theatre for exercise and to relieve his bladder. Richmond Ice Rink was then nice enough to let us use their facilities.

My actual ticket; strange, I thought it was called "Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace"

The sun came up. Andy and Dave poured over Popular Mechanics' Star Wars issue for a while. Dave read a book while Andy freeloaded breakfast off of other people in line, and reminded himself why he his religion forbade the consumption of McDonalds food. Nothing much happened until Jay and Alex (the other Alex, the one never seen in sandels) showed up around 11am. Followed closely by Jeff and Kate. Jeff brought us McD hamburgers for brunch. The doors opened, Andy, Dave, Jeff and Kate entered and happily handed over $117 Canadian for a bunch of silly white paper bits with the words "Star Wars No Refunds" printed in big letters on them. Then walking out yelling "Geez, that 12 ticket limit dissapeared quickly" "I can't believe I got the last one" and other various phrases to accompany waving of the dozen parsimonious patches of pinkish parchment worth so much to so many.

Other events of the line: somebody had a van set up with a five inch TV screen and an awesome sound system and played Episode IV for us twice. Lightsaber duels were frequent, and a group of very wet people broke out into close harmony of 'Uptown Girl' (I blame pneunomia).

Both went home. Andy stumbled to bed, to dream the exact same things he dreamed fifteen years ago (except with more sex this time), at least until the phone rang an hour later. Dave went home to do more organizing, and would not have a chance to sleep until late that night.

Two years to prepare for The Line: Episode II: The Ravers Strike Back.

Appendix: (From May's issue of Maxim)

Breakdown of the Composition of the Phantom Menace lineup:
46% Uninteresting Losers
29% Geeks seeking sex despite the line's 20:1 male-to-female ratio
9% Trust-fund Kids
6% Film students planning to shoot gritty documentaries about "the line experience"
4% Colledge dropouts with puppies named Jedi, Boba, etc.
3% Canadians
1% Lightsaber instructor ($15/hour)
1% Fan who learned to readfrom Topss Star Wars Cards
1% Asst. Scoutmaster who enjoys Alanis Morisette


The Movie

The night of the movie was as festive as the wait for tickets. Many of us were there, a few in costume. Apparently, some people mistook my hooded grey sweatshirt as a kind of Ewok-tribute, so I think I was in costume. There were news crews in abundance. I saw a Han and a Leia (such sightings were usually preceded with the phrase "ain't they a cute couple"). Kate went as Queen Amidala and Bella got the Leia curls going.

If you look closely, the stamp says "Star Wars / -05- 19 2810 / 01 12:05 AM"

Overall, it was an interesting four hour wait, since I got to the theatre around eightish, in time for pizza runs and several rounds of connect-four with Doug's brother and cousin. The theatre opened its doors to the hordes of raving geeks around ten, and man, were there security procedures ever intensive. They passed your ticket through a UV scanner, and if that scanned true, you got your stub back and your hand stamped. You needed both the stamp and your stub to leave and return to the theatre once you were admitted.

Once inside, we spent our two-hour wait by idly wandering amongst ourselves. I learned an enormous amount of Star Wars trivia in those two hours -- probably more than I've ever learned about Star Wars before or since. I also learned how to play a form of bridge, thanks largely to Catherine. Every once in a while, this poor female Silver City employee would wander up on stage at the insistence of management in order to keep us entertained. However, since the theatre was largely filled with hormonal, caffeine-fuelled and otherwise sexually repressed fourteen year olds, we heard a lot of "show us yer tits" and "strip! strip! strip!" coming from the audience. I really doubt that poor girl was paid enough for that kind of aggravation.

Last Modified on August 4, 1999   Go Back | Go to the Top