Bradley King's Force Awakens ticket stubs

I was in Los Angeles recently on a business trip when I got to have lunch with my friend, writer/director Bradley King, whose film Time Lapse is a fun genre thriller that recently hit Netflix. As typically occurs when I meet with fellow film nerds, we started talking about what films he’d seen recently. That’s when he admitted he’d seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens more than 23 times in theaters, as of this writing, and had no plans to stop going.

I enjoyed The Force Awakens myself when it was first released, but I can’t quite imagine seeing any movie that many times in theaters, let alone that specific one. I needed to understand the depths and purpose of this obsession, so King agreed to let me interview him. Hit the jump to read a transcript of our interview, which has been edited for grammar and clarity, as we explore why King does it, what theaters he chooses to go to, and what he learns from each viewing. And of course, the following contains massive spoilers for The Force Awakens.

Why don’t we start by you telling us what your relationship has been to Star Wars?

I was a child of the ’80s, born in 1976. My parents must’ve taken me to Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back in my youth, but I have a clear memory of seeing Return of the Jedi. It seems like a story we’ve heard a lot now, but I had a Star Wars childhood.

The first birthday present I distinctly remember was on my 5th birthday, I got the Millenium Falcon. It was the only thing I got, but I was totally delighted. Most of what my friends and I played on the playground were variations on Star Wars stories, whether it was with action figures or with sticks or whatever. It was a really big part of my childhood.

All was well until I started going to Colorado Film School in 1997, and there was a little bit of backlash against popcorn movies in general. I experienced a little distancing from the movies, just because I had to be interested in the French New Wave or German expressionists or whatever. But secretly in my heart of hearts I always think movies of that period and Star Wars in particular were formative for me and my imagination.

While I was in film school, The Phantom Menace‘s trailer came out and the poster came out. We were all really excited. I did have a friend in film school who was in the same boat as me, really liked Star Wars, had worked on Starship Troopers. We went to see the new film together.

Unfortunately, the prequels did not go over very well with me, and they kind of soured me on the originals unfortunately. I found myself really struggling to access the wonder and the excitement and the nostalgia that I used to feel about the originals, to the point where probably for about 10 years I didn’t really watch any of the films. If I saw the action figures in the store, I wasn’t interested. It was just kind of a sore spot.

I came to terms with the fact that Star Wars was something that was just going to be in my past that I wasn’t going to feel much about.

What was it about the prequels that so soured you?

That’s a big question. I certainly have specific writing issues with them. The overwhelming amount of CG which may not hold up that well these days. It felt like pretty mediocre fan fiction. It felt like someone who was familiar with the Star Wars universe had taken it in a direction that didn’t really feel that authentic to the originals.

Also, they tried to demystify the Force. The kid in me, who had spent time every morning trying to move my cereal bowl with my mind, he did not like the idea that the Force was just a blood disease or whatever. I think on many levels I was struggling with those prequels.

What were your feelings going into Force Awakens? Did you have high hopes?

I was tentatively hopeful. I’m a pretty optimistic person in general. I definitely had friends that were cynical about it and felt like they had been burned so badly by the prequels that there wasn’t any way it could be a return to the original luster. I had seen one trailer for The Force Awakens and it really moved me.

When did you see it for the first time?

Within a week of release I saw it with some high school friends I reunite with every year.

What was your initial reaction to The Force Awakens?

Well, it was mixed. There was a lot that I liked, but obviously J.J. Abrams had this whole idea of going back to go forward — sometimes it really landed for me and I felt very good. Sometimes it took me out of the film. “Well, have I seen this before? Is it changed enough to feel fresh or does this feel redundant?” Even now, I wouldn’t say “This movie’s perfect. That’s why I keep seeing it.”

But coming out of the first screening, I was with people who almost uniformly didn’t like it. We spent an hour and a half driving back home picking it apart and talking about the things that didn’t work so well. By the end of that drive, I would say I was leaning towards not feeling so good about it. I was very confused because of all the discussion and all the various feelings I was having.

When did you start to come around on the film and how did that happen?

The next day I had to go see the film with my parents. I wanted to explore more of what I was feeling, because I did feel very confused and conflicted. We went and saw it together in my hometown in a much smaller theater and a much less grandiose setting. And I don’t know what happened. If I had to diagnose it, I would say maybe I had sort of come to terms with the potential flaws and the problems and was prepared for an unpleasant experience — a further letdown that would make me feel less excited.

But the exact opposite happened. It just sort of wiggled its way into my heart. Suddenly I felt freed up to appreciate the sort of things that I’ve now come to genuinely love very strongly about it. I was really excited. Coming out of that screening I felt not that the movie was perfect, but that I really loved it and it engendered things I was excited to be feeling.

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