Mark Mallman vs. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Mallman and <i>The Force Awakens</i>

Mallman and The Force Awakens

I walked out 45 minutes into Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and I left all my friends inside. I got up to go to the bathroom, and just never looked back. Instead, I ordered a terrible pepperoni pizza, and sat in the IMAX lobby till it ended.

“Don't you like the movie?” asked the kid working the pizza counter.

“It was a good movie. Maybe, I was bored?”

His eyes widened, and I backtracked.

“Well, no. I mean, it wasn't that I was bored because of the movie," I continued. "See, this morning I woke up with a terrible sciatica surge down my left leg. It's been getting worse all day, especially when I sit. Herniated disc — ya know?”

Here stood before him a grown man who was quite possibly bored by Star Wars, a grown man who'd been overtaken by the dark side ... of adulthood.

“Well, there's still an hour left sir. So you can go back in after your food," he said.

Who was he calling sir? The nerve. I appeased him as I walked away with my $10 personal pizza.

“The pain. I can't focus when I sit too long. The sciatic nerve is ...” By then I was just talking to myself. “Sciatic nerve pain someday know he will. Foolhardy is he who not with the legs does lift.”

The Force Awakens trailer looped on TV screens all around me. Not even John Williams' thrilling new score would draw me back in to catch the rest of the second act. I could hear Star Destroyers of the First Order rumbling behind the lobby walls, like the garbage trucks that roll by my bedroom window and wake me up in the night.

Why the hell wasn't I sitting in Star Wars? Between my anxiety and my recent back injury, I sleep lighter nowadays than I did when Episode One trampled and crushed every fond memory of childhood. Dead. Curse you Jar Jar Binks! You vampire. You and your death-bell voice. You killer of dreams. 

I guess I'd left the force behind me somewhere along the line. Maybe it was in summer, when I nailed that killer interest rate on a new band van by going to a credit union instead of a chain bank. 2.4. fixed. BAM! 

I'd been bugging my brother to let me bring take six-year-old nephew to the movie over Christmas. I called him.

“Brian, you were right. It's too scary. I don't want his first 10 minutes of Star Wars universe to be the first 10 minutes of The Force Awakens. It was good, but too scary”

He waited to reply, and then said, “I told you, Mark. Too Scary.”

I first saw Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope with my mother during it's theatrical re-release in 1981. She fell asleep somewhere during the Sandcrawlers on Tatooine. My mom was roughly the same age then as I am now. I woke her up during the closing credits. It was astonishing to my 8-year-old self that any human being could sleep through the greatest and loudest adventure of all time.

Twenty-six years later, I would fall asleep for the majority of the Bourne Ultimatum. At what point in our lives do we think we'll stop changing? My Jedi self faded when I discovered Kerouac in art school. Once my career was in order enough to watch my relationships fall to pieces, Kerouac was replaced by Woody Allen.

After my mother died, I lost my faith in fiction entirely, which brought on a wave of self-help books and environmental documentaries. Eventually, I just began to watch the world around me, and expect nothing.

A girl working the ticket counter pointed at an iPad and said, “... and here's the father of postmodernism ...” to her coworker as I was leaving the movie theater. She looked up, “Sorry!” I felt sad, and in a way, like a bad American.

The whole night reminded me of a chapter in Dharma Bums where Ray Smith (Kerouac) takes a summer job as a fire lookout for the United States Forest Service. In hopes of finding a deeper purpose the likes of Henry Thoreau, Ray ends up only finding boredom in place of enlightenment.

Was it in this same way that my own longing for the perfect Star Wars created an episode in my head that could never ever be? The last thing I remember was the Falcon speeding its way down a lightening tube. Then I closed the door behind me. My 7-year-old self hung his head in shame. I'm sorry, 7-year-old me, but adults don't know what the hell they are doing. Ever. Except worrying.

Just after 1 a.m., I was back in my kitchen blasting Smells Like Teen Spirit from my laptop on the counter. I needed to visit the pre-Jar Jar Binks Generation X version of me. Cobain made it all better. He didn't solve anything (solutions aren't among Kurt's great achievements.) But he made it better. We sang together, “Oh we-ell. Whateeeeh-ver. Nevermind!”

The 45 minutes of The Force Awakens that I saw were actually pretty great. But something compelled me to get up, walk out, and stay out. I know it wasn't to pee, even though I really, really had to. I just know that I didn't want to be in there. Something in me, some force awakened from within, didn't want Disney's Star Wars in my face another 89 damn minutes!

Maybe I still haven't recovered from what Jar Jar did to me. Well, for certain, that. But also, maybe something inside of me felt a generation removed from the gestalt of the millennials packing the room.

Maybe I'll give it another shot next week — or ...maybe not. Oh well. Whatever. Nevermind. 

The whole next day, all I could think about was Episode VIII