Starwoids (2001)

2008 #17
Dennis Przywara | 79 mins | DVD | PG

StarwoidsAnother fan documentary (following yesterday’s review of Done the Impossible), Starwoids tells the tale of two groups of Star Wars fans who queued for six weeks to be the first to see The Phantom Menace. Alongside this, the film takes a couple of diversions into general Star Wars fandom.

The main story here is the more interesting element. You might think an hour of people standing in line is pretty dull, but, surprisingly, enough happens to hold the attention. The two groups make a structurally pleasing contrast: one is just a group of fans, who have a great time playing games and hanging out in line. Their biggest worries are the police moving them off the pavement, and where to go to the toilet. The other group was organised by fansite CountingDown.com, and turns from a bunch of people having fun into a 24-hour television studio and media event on a sidewalk, provoking arguments, governments and revolutions. Przywara uses no narration for the majority of the film, so these contrasts are left for the viewer and participants to draw out on their own. Generally it works, though leaps in time and the skipping of certain events occasionally make it hard to follow what’s going on, especially at the more argumentative camp.

The asides into broader fandom work fairly well. They break up the occasional monotony of people queuing, but are neither entirely related to the release of Episode I nor delve far into painting a picture of Star Wars fandom as whole. This dilutes the focus of the film a little: it’s neither a comprehensive overview of fans nor entirely centred on the anticipation of one film. It would be a lesser film if they were missing, however, as Star Wars: The Musical, the life of a toy collector, and the woman whose car is painted like an X-Wing are among the highlights. A trip to find filming locations in Death Valley is a misguided inclusion though, as the lack of comparative clips or stills from the film itself renders it fairly pointless.

Eventually the hundreds of queuing fans get to see Episode I. First reaction: they love it. Przywara returns four days later, and then a year later — amusingly, no one is asked for a retrospective opinion on the (generally reviled) film. Personally, I’d much rather watch Starwoids again: while the fans’ aggressive nature makes it a somewhat more depressing experience than Done the Impossible, the insight into what it’s like to be completely obsessed (and to queue for a month and a half) are both interesting and entertaining.

4 out of 5

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