There have been about five films that document that fateful “wait in line for Star Wars Episode I” and I’ve seen them all. Most are not very good or at best, they’re average. Fun to watch if you’re into Star Wars and fandom – for others, utter torture. Certainly any filmmaker interested in the subject matter must grapple between the feelings of being a fan versus being a filmmaker. Director Dennis Przywara casts a critical eye in his inside look at fandom, while still maintaining the heart of a true fan.
“Starwoids” documents the rivalry between two sets of fans waiting in line. The Star Wars fans in Westwood are led by teenage Daniel Alter — an aspiring filmmaker who graduated high school early so he could achieve his goal of being first in line. The fans waiting in line at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood are led by Lincoln Gasking of the web site Countingdown.com. The documentary intercuts the trials and tribulations of each line in almost “Survivor”-like fashion. One would think that waiting in line for six weeks for a movie would be easy; not so. There are those nasty loitering laws to contend with, cops, hangers-on, vagrants, and those who just want to pound on geeks. Plus there are the living conditions — essentially these fans are squatting on the street to see a movie. For a time, Daniel gets sick and his dad waits in line for him. Daniel does go home for a few hours a day to get a little sleep and take a shower, but that’s about it. His mom is truly proud of her son and he makes the local news to her delight.
The Mann’s Chinese line turns into a circus. With the media interviewing the faithful daily, they get a satellite dish and even have name tags helping them identify who is in charge of what tasks — talking to media, cooking or whatever. The Chinese line turns into a promotion for the Countingdown.com web site and really becomes less about the fans and some protest this fact. It’s really bizarre to see these everyday fans become overnight media stars. Now, I remember checking the Countingdown.com web site daily to see the live pictures of the fans in line. I loved the spirit of those fans waiting. I would have been with them myself if the realities of, you know, providing for my family weren’t an issue. In a way, these hardcore Star Wars fans are no different from sports fans or Dead-heads. I admired their spirit. I cringe at the thought of this spirit being co-opted in some kind of corporate way for promotion, but this seems to be the way of things these days.
Woven into the storyline about the two rival groups are short segments involving the most diehard Star Wars fans including; a fan making Boba Fett rap tapes, scenes from a real Star Wars stageplay with big musical and dance numbers, a day in the life of a collector and a bunch of fans who even try to break into Skywalker Ranch and are busted by a guard.
All in all, this documentary works because it asks the right questions and presents all of its subjects (including Lincoln) in a fair light. I’m sure many fans will ask themselves a lot of the same questions, and they may even wonder if they would undertake waiting in line for Episode II. (I’ll be there the first day for Episode II, but you won’t catch me sleeping in a tent.)