I've had to accept a dark truth about our world this month: There are people out there who have never seen the Star Wars movies.
They walk among us, hidden in plain sight. They might be your friend, your relative, your boyfriend, your neighbor ... You might even be on of these people yourself. I myself made the unpleasant discovery that my good friend and colleague Sarah Blaskovich was one such person, prompting me to wonder if our friendship was doomed.
Thankfully, there's a cure in theaters now: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The movie is shattering box office records left and right, so seemingly everybody is seeing it. Can that number include people who don't have a clue what the Millennium Falcon is?
There are some relatively small spoilers in the discussion below (and relatively huge ones in the related videos). The minor spoilers shouldn't affect non-fans too much, but Star Wars devotees should see the film before reading on.
Sarah: I knew the name, but honestly, no. To me, most of the Star Wars characters are like the friend of a friend who lives a few towns away: I know "of" them, but I didn't care to go meet them.
Britton: So you never felt like you were missing out? I mean, Star Wars is a big deal. You never felt like you were being excluded from the cool kids' table for not having your own lightsaber?
Sarah: Nah, not really. The Star Wars fans I know tend to be pretty nice, inclusive people, so no one ever made me feel terrible about it.
After seeing The Force Awakens, I'm not sure I feel any closer to the cool kids' table.
I thought the movie was interesting. But I don't need to see it again, and I don't feel particularly compelled to see the other Star Wars movies. I just think I totally missed the opportunity to be a fangirl. So what's left is just a movie. It's a good movie. But it's just a movie.
Britton: So let's talk about it as "just a movie" for a minute. The Force Awakens introduces a new cast of main characters that we're going to be sticking with through this new trilogy. Did they grab your attention? Do you care about who they are and where they're going next?
Sarah: For two and a half hours, yes, I did care about the new characters. There's no question the new Star Wars movie is gripping and exciting. And main character Rey (Daisy Ridley) is mesmerizing as a badass warrior princess.
I cared less about traitor Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega).
Britton: I'm with you. I like Finn in general (though for someone raised as a cold-blooded killer he's got a weird hopeless romantic thing going on), but it feels like we didn't learn enough about him to make him totally captivating on his own. It's good that this movie is Rey's journey, not his, because she's far more interesting.
I've gotta admit, though, that I committed a movie watching sin of watching you a few times as you watched the film, and there were points when you looked confused. Should I have given you more of a Star Wars history lesson before we went to the theater, or did everything clear itself up by the end of the movie?
Sarah: No, I was surprised to find that I kept up even though I wasn't familiar with many of the older characters. Good job there from the writers and director: It didn't seem to bore any long-time fans but also didn't confuse me.
Here's one thing I didn't like: New Darth Vader's real name is Ben. Ben. Scariest dude in the galaxy could have been named anything and he's, y'know, just Ben. That was problem No. 1.
Problem No. 2? When he took his mask off, I thought he looked downright adorable, sort of like a young, nerdy professor. No chance can I believe now or ever that Ben is going to bring down the entire galaxy.
Britton: I personally think that made Kylo "Ben" Ren a more interesting villain. He's sort of like a young adult with anger issues throwing a tantrum, which actually makes him a little terrifying. He's not a tactical mastermind so much as he's a loose cannon, so it's hard to predict what he'll do next. I'm interested in seeing where he goes from here.
I loved The Force Awakens, but I'll admit that I'm bothered by something that I think almost ruined the experience for you: Most of the events in the movie are just a little too convenient. The Star Wars faithful will argue that The Force, like God, works in mysterious ways and therefore it makes sense that our heroes just happened to stumble onto the things they need at just the right times, but there were probably too many instances of deus ex machina at work.
Sarah: Yes, exactly. The constant conveniences didn't exactly ruin the story line for me, but they did continually reinforce that this is just a story. At no point did I desire to live there or be part of these worlds, because these places don't exist. I was not sucked into this galaxy that seemed at all real.
It was a bummer that there weren't cosmic explanations for these coincidences.
Britton: Oh, but Sarah, The Force binds us all together and is responsible for so many things. Pilot skills, mind control ... even romance. We've had discussions about the love stories in other pop culture plots in recent years (The Hunger Games springs to mind), with varying reactions. Flirting takes a backseat to action in The Force Awakens, but what did you think about what was there?
Sarah: I think the characters should stick to flying spaceships and killing bad guys and give the pillow talk a rest. None of the love stories in The Force Awakens are riveting. More lightsaber fights, please! Less gazing into one another's eyes.
Britton: I think that's fair. You would despise the Star Wars prequel movies, by the way.
So I guess I won't be buying you a Chewbacca plush toy for Christmas, which is fine. We can't all be superfans. But one final question for you, Sarah: Will you come with me to see Star Wars: Episode VIII when it hits theaters on May 26, 2017?
Sarah: Yes. The new characters are part of a compelling enough story that I do want to know what happens next. It'll serve as my once-a-year Star Wars fix.
See Sarah (try and fail to) recap The Force Awakens in 90 seconds: