Early this morning, I attended a midnight showing of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in 3D. It was a fairly miserable experience for numerous reasons. As the night progressed, I kept a running diary of the events that transpired and the audience reaction. So, here's how that went down.
11:00 p.m. Honestly, I have no idea how big the crowd will be. The lack of buzz this week makes me think that we don't have to worry too much about getting decent seats, but this is New York City and this is a Star Wars movie.
11:17 p.m. You know, maybe I'm having flashbacks to the release of the Special Editions in 1997, but it's really hard to imagine opening night of a Star Wars movie without a large crowd.
11:23 p.m. A member of my party states, "We're seeing it near NYU. Of course it will be sold out." I'm actually starting to panic about not being in line yet.
11:30 p.m. Five blocks from the Regal Union Square 14, the rest of the group that I'm with decides that they want to stop for coffee. I plead my case that this is a terrible idea because we are already late. I may have been a little too emotional when I emphatically state, "We need to get seats!"
11:34 p.m. I think I may be genuinely excited to see The Phantom Menace.
11:37 p.m. Here is the line for the midnight showing of The Phantom Menace, approximately 20 minutes before it starts.
11:38 p.m. A man uses the kiosk the purchase a ticket. I ask him if I can take a picture of him buying a ticket to The Phantom Menace. He replies, "I'm seeing Safe House."
11:42 p.m. There are 24 people in this theater to see the midnight showing of The Phantom Menace. Then again, this is a rural area and that is to be expected. Oh, wait, no, we're in the heart of New York City. For a second I forgot.
11:46 p.m. Alison Willmore is here writing a review for Movieline. She has a conflicted look on her face that's somewhere in-between, "I'm happy to see you," and, "Oh, God, now there's proof that I was here."
12:00 a.m. As the lights go down, the crowd has swelled to just under 50 audience members.
12:08 a.m. A guy in front of me finds the trailer for Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted absolutely hilarious. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen someone laugh that hard at a movie trailer. I guarantee that as soon as this movie ends, this guy is writing the words "I have plans" in the June 8 entry of his Google Calendar.
12:15 a.m. "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... " flashes on the screen. The audience responds with polite applause.
12:16 a.m. For some reason, I was really looking forward to seeing the title crawl in 3D. Thing I learned: Even in 3D, sentences like, "The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute," are still very boring.
12:26 a.m. A group of about five people, with plenty of seats available, decide at this moment to sit directly behind us and deliver commentary. Yes, this what you're going to have to deal with if you decide to see The Phantom Menace in theaters: hecklers.
12:30 a.m. Jar Jar Binks makes his first appearance on screen. The audience bursts into laughter. Not because of Jar Jar's actions, but it's more of a nervous laughter of, "Good God, this really happened. I forgot how awful this was."
12:45 a.m. The star of the movie (if the posters are to be believed), Darth Maul, makes his first appearance. His scene lasts 15 seconds.
12:54 a.m. Captain Panaka reads off the name, "R2-D2." One lone audience member screams, "Woooooo!"
1:03 a.m. Finally, I ask the group behind me, "Are you going to be talking through this entire movie?" Their leader looks at me and says, "Yes, I am." I have to admit, I wasn't expecting that and it threw me off guard. I had no response. So, well played, asshole. I guess I should appreciate his honesty. Of course, a few moments later I had ten, "That's what I should have said," responses. (Yes, one of them involved a "jerk store.")
1:15 a.m. It dawns on me that this movie is in 3D. Honestly, I really haven't noticed.
1:33 a.m. The first time Anakin yelled, 'Yippie," the audience let it go. The second time, they did not. An outbreak of, "Yippie," floods the theater.
1:45 a.m During the Senate scene, right when the line, "We now introduce the delegation from Naboo," is spoken, Matt Patches from Hollywood.com let's out an overly dramatic snore. Apparently he is not a fan of this scene.
1:45 a.m. Nope, he's actually sleeping. I bet he's dreaming about a better movie.
2:01 a.m. This really is a pretty boring movie.
2:12 a.m. Katey Rich from Cinemablend and Dave Gonzales from Latino Review point out that a man in front of us is recording the movie. I am fascinated by this. Does he not realize that this movie has been out for 13 years and is readily available on home video or on Spike? Is it even possible to bootleg a 3D movie?
2:15 a.m. The lightsaber battle between Qui-Gon Jin, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul begins. I must admit, this is fun to see on a big screen again.
2:24 a.m. The lightsaber battle between Qui-Gon Jin, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul is a lot shorter than I remember.
2:35 a.m. The Phantom Menace in 3D finally comes to an end. What I learned: There's really no thrill of seeing this particular Star Wars movie on the big screen again. The 3D is barely noticeable -- Lucas stated that he didn't want anything to jump out at the audience, he succeeded. And this movie has such a bad reputation, a good percentage of patrons will be there only to audibly and annoyingly mock the film.
2:37 a.m. As we walk out of the theater, a older gentleman in the last row is still sleeping. We debate waking him, but the general consensus among our group is that, at this point, he's earned that right to sleep.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter