So I sat down to watch Fanboys this afternoon. I hadn't heard too much about it -- and what little I had heard was mostly centered around some of the problems they had before it was released. But it seemed like a pretty innocuous-sounding movie, and I was kind of curious to see how these alleged fanboys were portrayed.
The movie is about a group of friends -- all huge Star Wars fans -- who set out on a road trip to Skywalker Ranch to steal a pre-release copy of The Phantom Menace. The film is set in the months prior to the movie's official release, and one of the friends is dying of cancer and most likely won't be alive to see it in theaters. Not surprisingly, they run into a few problems on their trip -- from car trouble to a run-in with the police to an irate attack against a group of Star Trek fans.
I actually liked the movie quite a bit. It didn't wallow in Lucas-inspired geekery as much as I thought it might, and there were relatively few (given the subject of the movie) pot shots taken against stereotypical fans and fandom. I thought the plot held together reasonably well and all the actors did decent jobs with their roles. Nothing particularly award-winning, mind you, but a good job all around.
So then, after I finished watching, I hopped online to do a little background research before writing something here. I try to come to stories (movies, comics, whatever) cold -- with as little foreknowledge as possible -- so I can better see how well the creators did their jobs. But I also like to be well-informed when I'm writing these entries, hence the post-movie research. I found out the details of the problems they had in the production process, and then was surprised to see that the movie was generally not well liked by critics.
"Did I miss something?" I thought. "It wasn't a great movie, but I certainly enjoyed myself during it."
So I ran through the movie in my head again. Yeah, there were a few scenes that didn't quite work as well as they should. The romance between two of the characters did pop up a bit suddenly about half-way through. The biker bar sequence didn't seem to serve any story purpose. OK, there are some legitimate issues with the film, I suppose.
But as I kept running the movie through my head, I replayed a couple of scenes in which the protagonists are asked to prove that they're true Star Wars fans by answering some obscure trivia questions. And I recalled my reaction to hearing those questions: "Kashyyyk; Chewbacca comes from Kashyyyk. You know it, I know it, everybody watching this film knows it. Don't try drawing this bit out like it's supposed to be some kind of dramatic moment. That's a no-brainer question!"
Ah! See that? That's the key. Of course I liked the movie; it was made precisely for people like me. Fanboys. That's why I laughed out loud at the meta-textual moment when Lucas kisses Carrie Fisher's character square on the lips. That's why the Willow and THX-1138 gags are in there. That's why the whole everybody-holding-various-props-hostage bit didn't require more explanation. The movie-makers knew their intended audience would get all of those references immediately. The movie was filled with fan-service.
And that I missed it as fan-service initially -- that I thought it was a good movie that didn't go overboard in geek references -- shows that I really can't be objective about things the way I'd like. Oh, I figured out long ago that I'll never be able to look at the original Star Wars trilogy without a heavy dose of nostalgia -- those movies were a HUGE part of my life growing up. But I didn't realize that that same nostalgia permeates out to anything related to Star Wars. I thought that recognizing how badly Hayden Christensen acted in Episodes II and III meant that I could get past the emotions I have tied up in the Force. Clearly, that's not the case.
Which leads me to wonder how objectively I can look at comics. After decades of reading them, and their being such an important and integral part of my life, can I ever really NOT like them? I mean, I've read some comics before that I thought were pretty bad, but how many do I see that are still bad but I enjoy anyway? More significantly, is that even important?
Towards the end of movie Lucas notes, in another decidedly meta-textual moment, that it's not about the movie, but it's about the people you're with. And, for all the geek jokes and references throughout the film, that's really what hooked it for me. I was expecting a sophomoric romp with bad jokes, but they wound up with a small-scale, narrative version of my book. And that was extremely gratifying to see played out over the course of 90 minutes. Call it simple validation, but Fanboys isn't really about Star Wars at all; it's about the great people you meet through fandom.
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