Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Force is Strong with FANBOYS

Allow me to take you back to late 1998, when, when excitement for EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE, the first Star Wars film in nearly 16 years, was palpable. Legions of die-hard Star Wars fans -- myself included -- had been biding our time for years, watching the original trilogy literally hundreds of times, discussing, debating, theorizing every detail... and now that the new film was nearly upon us, we found ourselves devouring spoilers, scrutinizing photos and trailers, wondering what might await, and basically frothing at the mouth with anticipation. In our pre-Jar-Jar-tainted minds, it was a great time to be a Star Wars fan.

Now, with that in mind, allow me to tell you about FANBOYS. Set during that specific time period, it is the story of five Star Wars mega-geeks who embark on a cross-country quest to break into George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch and watch a rough cut of EPISODE I, for the benefit of one of their gang who has been diagnosed with cancer and won't make it in time for the movie's release. This movie has spent a long time in production limbo, but now, finally, it has been unleashed like Force lightning.... and I can honestly say that it is a perfectly-crafted, nostalgia-inducing love letter to that era of Star Wars geekdom.

This is a movie made FOR Star Wars geeks, BY Star Wars geeks, and it shows. The characters are so eerily true-to-life, it's almost as if the filmmakers delved into my own journal or something, because there are a ton of scenes, conversations, references, etc., that nearly caused me to overdose on nostalgia. There is one scene in particular in which the characters are sitting around talking about Star Wars and playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64... which pretty much describes how my & my friends spent our time in those days... it's amazing. All Star Wars references are expertly used and hilarious -- I'm sure it's one of those movies that you need to watch many times to catch them all. The film is loaded with cameo appearances by Star Wars alumni and famous geeks alike. Best of all, the filmmakers actually had Lucasfilm's blessing to use character likenesses from their entire catalog (the security guards at the Skywalker Ranch are particularly awesome) and actual Star Wars sound effects. Actually, if I have one lament, it's that I wish they could've used the actual music, too -- I'd love to see someone with too much time on his hands re-edit the movie using John Williams' score, because that would be damn cool.

Sure, at times, the plot gets a bit formulaic and over-the-top (the result of some unfortunate but unavoidable Hollywood-izing, I think), but it doesn't really matter. The important thing is that it's a spot-on look into the mindsets of Star Wars fans in the months leading up to the most anticipated movie of all time -- and at its core, it's also a tale of a group of friends that has stood the test of time, despite the disruption of "real life," extenuating circumstances, etc. Star Wars may be the foundation of their friendship, but when push comes to shove, it consists of a lot more than that.

If you are NOT a Star Wars fan, there is no reason to see this movie because it is not for you. But if you are, then FANBOYS is an absolute must-see. Be quick about it, though, because it may not be around long. Sure, you can wait for the DVD, but I think it is absolutely worth seeing on the big screen with as many fellow fans as you can round up. It will remind you of that moment in time when the worst thing that we could complain about was that "Greedo shooting first" was bullshit (which, actually, may still be the worst thing we can complain about, but I digress)... when we'd pay to see shitty movies like MEET JOE BLACK and WING COMMANDER specifically so we could see the new Episode I trailers... the sheer and utter thrill that we felt on opening night of THE PHANTOM MENACE when we first saw that opening crawl -- a feeling that will never again be matched by any movie, ever. And above all, it will touch your heart and reaffirm your love for that galaxy far, far away....

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