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17th Dec 2015

Somewhere in Manchester, the force awakens for a whole new generation

Nooruddean Choudry

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…or more precisely a burger joint in the heart of Manchester.

The venue was the Great Northern Warehouse – itself a relic of a once mighty empire – and the event a special midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The showing was organised by Almost Famous Burgers, the kind of trendy fast food eatery that describes its nosh in pornographic terms and its drinks as ‘house licks’. Of course I felt out of place.

Not only because everyone had trendier haircuts and pointier shoes, but because I was surrounded by die-hard Star Wars fans and I am most definitely not one.

To clarify, I really enjoyed the original trilogy – parts IV, V and VI – when I first saw them, a few weeks ago. Before then I was a Star Wars virgin, and not the kind you normally associate with the term.

If that sounds mocking, it is because that’s how I felt. As an outsider looking in, I was intrigued but a little dismissive of this excited lot dressed up and desperate for this new episode.

There were Princess Leias, Han Solos and overgrown Yodas all over the shop, drinking their ‘Jedi nectar’ and chomping down their ‘super awesome special burgers’.

I found the relative youth of those in attendance a bit of a surprise. Barring a few older heads, most were mid-twenties or below, and therefore retrospective fans of the franchise.

But their excitement was infectious. Very quickly my sneering cynicism seemed out of place and a tad mean-spirited. This much happiness in one concentration usually had places closed down.

The kids weren’t p*ssed on the themed cocktails; they were high on anticipation and good vibes. Most of them had waited for this very night for years, and now here it was.

The only thing I could relate it to was football…if your team only played once every decade or two. And so what if they wanted to dress up and pose with a Boba Fett statue or straddle a speeder bike?

Very quickly the midnight hour was upon us and everyone rushed to the screening room in the adjacent AMC cinema. That is when it hit me – the rush of excitement generated by the geeky throng.

It wasn’t sad, and most definitely wasn’t pathetic. It was weirdly sweet and touching to see such eager joy in so many painted faces. They were ready and willing to be transported to another place.

As for the film, I wouldn’t dare ruin for those of you yet to have your fill. All I will say is that as a newbie, I was blown away. I hope it is everything you hoped for; I reckon it probably is.

But my memory of the night is the dreamy faraway look on the faces of those who left the cinema with me. They finally had a proper Star Wars of their own, one belonging to their generation.

And yeah, the force is still strong. Of course I was going to end with that.