Star Tours: In Praise of Avoiding Spoilers

Friday, December 16, 2011

Note: If you're avoiding Star Tours spoilers, my hat is off to you! Now close your browser and go read something else. Come back here after you've experienced the new Star Tours. Kthxbai.

When Star Wars came out in 1977, my family stood in line for hours. We packed a cooler with sandwiches, and waited on the streets of San Francisco to catch a matinee one weekend (I believe it at was the Castro Theater, but I was 10 years old at the time, and I'm not sure my memory can be trusted). I'll never forget sitting in the second row, far right, under the enormous screen, watching the jump to light speed for the first time. 

Pal Mickey in Star Tours t-shirt

I saw the rest of the Star Wars movies all on their opening weekends, and sometimes on opening day. So I suppose you could say I'm rather fond of the Star Wars movies. But I'm also a critical fan: I'm not crazy about everything they've done with the franchise. Phantom Menace was a huge disappointment, and the Clone Wars movie irritated me so much that I haven't bothered watching the series. Please do not speak to me of Jar Jar.

So, when I first heard that Star Tours would be updated, I didn't exactly greet this news with open arms. The Those Darn Cats podcast, which I co-host, ran a show that week titled, "Star Tours Two-Point-Noooooooo!" We didn't want podracing. We were nervous about anything prequel-oriented. We were surely going to miss Paul Reubens' narration! But we did agree that the film needed to be spruced up, that the attraction needed attention. We wanted to see the attraction incorporate new technologies, and we thought it would be interesting if they mixed it up a bit by randomizing the attraction in some way.

After hearing the initial rumours, I went into spoiler-avoidance mode. At some point I heard there would be three different planets, that it would be in 3D, and that Hoth and Tatooine were two of the planets. So I thought I actually had inadvertently heard a lot . . . but that's all that managed to leak through, and now I understand it wasn't much. I even avoided all the Disney fan press on Star Tours II opening weekend, perhaps the most tempting time of all.

And boy, was it worth it! Eight days ago, I rode Star Tours II for the first time, and under perhaps the best possible conditions: At the WDW Today Reunion 2011 Fill a Star Speeder Meet, sitting with my friends Danielle, Eliyanna, and Studios Central's very own Matt Hochberg. And I still knew very little. Just before we headed in, I learned that there are 54 possible combinations. I learned there was something called "the message" that was slightly different every time. And, well, when they handed me the 3D glasses I remembered it was in 3D (how had I forgotten that detail?).

I've got an analytical mind, and I find it hard to shut off. But that first time through, I was completely swept away. Darth Vader was there, and we were in his grip. My friend Eliyanna was a rebel spy! C3P0 and R2D2 managed to get us free, and before I knew it we were dodging AT-ATs on Hoth. Then a message from Admiral Ackbar (it's a trap!!!), and now off to Naboo! I was having so much fun even Jar Jar didn't get to me. I do believe Matt will vouch for me when I tell you that after the ride was over, I was so happy I could have cried.

I rode Star Tours four more times last week before allowing myself to search for any information online. I was desperately curious to know what other planets and characters I'd see, and thrilled every time an old favorite appeared. Yoda! Kashyyyk! On the fourth time, I saw the scan droid version of the opening sequence for the first time, but also realized I wasn't seeing a lot of new material anymore. So I finally went ahead and googled . . . and found the complete list of components. A friendly Cast Member had seen me scribbling notes, and she helpfully pointed me to the Star Tours Passport, where I've now printed my own custom passport to keep track of the destinations I've visited (I could have had this stamped by a Cast Member while I was there . . . so I guess I just have to go back sometime, darn it). But not having had a passport with me, and being perhaps intoxicated with enthusiasm, I simply twitterbombed people following ThoseDarnCats with my itineraries each time I stepped off the ride. All told, I rode Star Tours: The Adventure Continues six times last week, and loved it every time (but periodically needed a little shortbread to calm my queasy stomach).

Would I have enjoyed the attraction as much had I followed the rumors? Maybe. But I doubt I would have enjoyed the first time as much. Once I'd ridden the first time, it became a Pokemon-style quest: I wanted to catch them all, find all the components, see all the characters. Find all the things!! I was still having a blast, but it was a diferent sort of fun than that first time through. For me, all that work avoiding spoilers was defintely worth it. And now, I can go back and watch all those videos I missed from opening weekend, read the old rumors (some no doubt debunked by now), enjoy reading the reviews.

But there's one thing I'm still not gonna do, and that's watch the full attraction videos. You see, I haven't yet been to Geonosis, and I'm avoiding spoilers.