In what felt like a galaxy far, far away, there were people actually watching “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
But at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday (opening night), there were separate battles between light and dark taking place outside of the AMC Loews on 19th Street in Manhattan.
“You're being a dick!” a young woman screamed, adding a few choice words and then storming off. She was talking to a young man in a black coat who had angrily accused her of cutting in line. She claimed that she and her friend were just trying to figure out where to queue.
The confusion arose because there were several long, unmarked lines outside of the theater. Fans waiting to see the 10:30, 10:45 and 11:00 p.m. shows lined up along 19th Street, up Broadway and then around 20th Street. The theater was doing its best to direct the flow, but the lines lacked storm trooper efficiency. And tensions were running high — in part because of the wait to see the movie (two years since “The Force Awakens,” one since “Rogue One” and one long hour in front of the theater) and in part because it was colder than Hoth outside.
It would’ve been a good night to wear a Chewbacca costume, but the crowd was, disappointingly, dressed in Western styles. I had come in a ship badly in need of maintenance (the L train), searching for theories: Were the die-hards in-tune with The Force enough to predict what would happen?
But who even were the die-hards? There were no sabers or blaster guns in sight, no robes. Only Canada Goose and pea coats. Were these lines even for “Star Wars”?
“No, ‘Harry Potter,’” one snarky scoundrel said.
“No, ‘Wonder Woman,’” said another.
I opened my mouth to “WUUAHAHHHAAAAAAAAAA,” but as I did, I spotted it: a storm trooper mask!
I approached the man, Rageef, who was waiting with three of his Death Star (finance) colleagues. “I think Luke's going to go dark,” he said. Why? “Because he's the classic hero. Hero on the edge. Gotta have a Shyamalan twist at the end, right?”
Reid, a 25-year old who, with his Harvard hoodie, Ohio State beanie and Iceland scarf, was dressed for everywhere but faraway galaxies, similarly predicted that things wouldn’t end well for Luke. “I actually think the Last Jedi is probably going to be Rey. I think Luke's done.”
For Reid’s friend, Bassam, things weren’t so simple. “As far as Luke goes, I think there's going to be a lot of grey areas to his character. I think in the original trilogy he was painted in a very positive light; in this one, I think he's definitely going through more hard times, and he's not as clear cut as we've seen before.”
This, at least, was what Bassam hoped. “What I like about this director [Rian Johnson] is that he's good at giving more nuance to his characters. I think they're getting some more texture to their motivations and personalities. It's nice to have some complex characters back in ‘Star Wars,’ because the prequels kind of sucked."
Across the board, the fans I spoke with were prepared for an unhappy ending. "I think Luke and Leia are both going to die in this movie,” said Evan, a 29-year-old bearded software engineer who was at the show with his girlfriend and another friend. “It's going to follow the same story structure as 'Empire Strikes Back.' So it'll be pretty dark and it'll end with Rey getting upset and fighting against the dark side.” The basis of his theory being that, “‘The Force Awakens’ follows the same structure as 'The New Hope,' so I think it's going to be a similar situation here."
Other fans, though, didn’t want to think about what would happen. An Australian man behind Evan in line got upset that Evan might spoil something.
“These are just theories,” I said.
“Well if your theory's true then it feels like a spoiler,” the man said.
There was one theory he didn’t mind though. His friend, a lanky young man with whisked brown hair, in his wry Aussie accent said, “I have a theory that it'll be good!”