By Herb Ponderosa | CONTRIBUTOR AT-LARGE
Herb Poderosa is a columnist who shares his experience as a man with a tentative grasp on reality.
For much of the early years, the Star Wars franchise was beloved the world over for its myriad cast of compelling heroes. Fans fawned over Luke S., the young up-and-comer resistance leader with a heart of gold. The tiny robot, famous for its bleeps and bloops, was a veritable encyclopedia that would cue other characters and audience members alike in on the rich history of the franchise. And who can forget the gut-busting Chewbacca, who charmed audiences with his witty, sarcasm-drenched zingers? While Star Wars certainly had a winning hand, supporters of the Wars franchise slowly cooled on its increasingly monotonous theme of space. The character universe expanded, most notably with the addition of another tiny robot in a recent installment. While the new robot is undeniably quirky and quick-witted, having two robots of similar stature only served to confuse audiences (like myself) who kept getting the two mixed up in my head.
So, with the release of the latest Star Wars, Star Wars: United Airlines Inflight Safety Video, my expectations were lukewarm. However, I’m happy to report this Star Wars comes closer than any other installment this century to its former glory.
The most brilliant decision Steven Spielberg (here, uncredited) made was to a complete overhaul of the film experience—which is apparent even before the movie starts. The doldrum act of simply buying a ticket at a movie theatre was replaced with a ticketing system that requires you to book your movie time weeks in advance to escape higher prices. Tickets aren’t cheap: my movie showing (Phoenix to Chicago) cost me nearly 150 dollars. Though, once you factor in the price of a small popcorn and drink you would buy at a normal theatre, you actually come out ahead in the end.
The video screen, an immersive 9” x 6” panel, was on the back of every seat, allowing each audience member their own personal viewing experience. The film itself was remarkable—and efficient. Sitting at just under three minutes, the instruction-based movie is far and away the shortest in the series. Not only did we get at least cameo appearances from our favorite characters, the filmette delighted me with a rundown of the futuristic safety features of the “spacecraft.” In one particularly effective scene, a stiff, shiny Briton in conjunction with the original tiny robot clued us in on how to fasten the “spacebelt.” Our old pal Chewy even stopped in to tell us about the zero-gravity oxygen masks. It was a brilliant touch of immersion that had me convinced I was about to join the space force. Once the film ends, you are treated to a time-realistic space ride that lasts anywhere from 1 to 18 hours, depending on your theatre.
When it stacks up against other movies in the franchise, it is leaner, smarter, and more cohesive than most. While I don’t have a ratings system, I would give this movie a 9 out of 10 if I did. Perhaps every Star Wars movie should be at most ten minutes in length—not much will be lost, surely. ♦
Nate Odenkirk missed his screening time, and is stuck at the airport.