9.02am For me, the opening of ‘Star Wars’ is like coming home: everything’s just where you left it, and all your friends are there to greet you (I know, I know, it’s pathetic). But might it look a bit rough-around-the-edges to someone who’s never visited before? ‘It reminds me of old “Doctor Who”,’ says Phil, and I have to resist the urge to hit him over the head with my plastic lightsaber.
9.13am R2-D2 is kidnapped by the junk-dealing Jawas. ‘Is that a wookiee?’ asks Phil. No, it’s not a wookiee. ‘Is it an orc?’ Not for the last time, I channel my inner Jedi master and exercise patience.
10.01am Phil is making our trip even more nostalgic by repeating almost word-for-word the observations my dad would make when we watched ‘Star Wars’ on telly at Christmas. So Darth Vader ‘has a respiratory problem’, C-3PO ‘is a bit camp’ and R2 ‘looks like a bin’. I’m surprised when the film isn’t interrupted by adverts for Watney’s Red Barrel and the Woolworth’s sale.
10.58am The crowning glory of the saga, ‘Empire’ is one of my very favourite movies, a go-to retreat in times of illness and/or extreme hangover. For Phil, it’s thrilling for an entirely different reason. ‘F***ing hell, you didn’t tell me Cliff from “Cheers” was in it! Brilliant!’
11.51am ‘That’s Yoda, right?’ Yes. ‘Get in!’ We’ve landed on Dagobah to meet the mystic muppet, and by this point we’re both thoroughly entranced. There’s just time for a late brekkie: snake soup for the Jedi, toast and jam for us.
12.40pm I’ve learned that Phil doesn’t know who Luke’s dad will turn out to be. Sadly, I’ve made such a fuss about it that he’s figured it out on his own by the time Darth steps up for the big reveal. But we glide through to the finale in good spirits. ‘I’m really enjoying myself, actually,’ says Phil. ‘It’s cheesy but fun. I wonder why I didn’t want to see them when I was nine? I think I was just an unusual child.’
1.36pm I’ve always known the opening act of ‘Return of the Jedi’ gave me a creepy feeling, but I’d never really analysed it before. ‘It’s a bit bloody pervy, this,’ observes Phil, as we watch a giant fleshy snake being throttled to death by a woman in a bikini, while outside people are thrown into a gaping anus filled with writhing penises.
1.49pm Phil is worried about Princess Leia, and with good reason. Freed from her bondage chains, she seems content to take a back seat to the guys’ heroics. ‘She’s been marginalised in an annoyingly patriarchal way,’ snaps Phil Harrison, space feminist. I explain that Leia’s downgrade was partly down to Hollywood chauvinism and partly down to Carrie Fisher’s galloping drug problem.
2.33pm ‘Oh cool, Lionel Richie’s got the good plane,’ grins Phil as Lando Calrissian pilots the Falcon into the final battle. I feel like he still hasn’t quite got the hang of things, but at least he’s enjoying himself. Dark clouds are gathering, however, and I think before long weesa gonna be in bombad trouble…
3.09pm The fretting begins before the film’s even started. Looking at the DVD menu, Phil growls. ‘Oh, there’s a small child in this one, is there? That’s worrying.’ The film starts, and we both burst out laughing at Ewan MacGregor’s hair. It looks like he got it cut at the Womad festival. By Linda McCartney.
3.24pm The first appearance of Jar-Jar Binks comes as something of a shock. Even I’ve forgotten just how grating, out-of-place and faintly racist the gangly Gungan is. ‘Exqueeeeze me!’ giggles Jar-Jar. ‘Oh Christ, f*** off!’ roars Phil.
5.04pm Over the past two hours, the atmosphere in the room has turned decidedly sour. This is a tedious, sand-in-the-pants-irritating film filled with bad ideas – Midi-chlorians, virgin births, battle droids – and slappable characters, notably the excruciating Anakin. Still, the moral of the story rings true: annoying little brats grow up to be genocidal maniacs.
5.25 We’ve been here for more than eight hours and Phil is starting to lose it. ‘Ewan MacGregor looks like David Brent now. Or David Bowie. Or both.’ I ask if he’s okay to keep going, and he nods weakly. ‘It’s all starting to blur into one,’ he admits. ‘I have no idea what’s going on, and I don’t really care.’
5.49pm This one was shot in Australia, so all the bit parts that used to be played by teachers from ‘Grange Hill’ are now filled by actors from Aussie soaps. There’s a great bit where Damian from ‘Home and Away’ tries to sell McGregor some ‘death sticks’. Clearly, he’s seen ‘Trainspotting’. I catch myself wondering whether they have heroin in space, and start to fear for my own sanity.
7.22pm It’s the big lightsaber battle, and we both sit up and pay attention when Yoda draws his weapon. ‘That’s actually pretty great,’ admits Phil, as the little green fella goes batshit on Christopher Lee. We may yet be able to pull things back from the brink.
7.40pm The end may be in sight, but morale is low as we plunge headlong into the final movie. ‘I feel slightly deranged,’ Phil tells me. ‘I keep telling myself my great-grandad worked down a pit, so I really shouldn’t complain.’
9.29pm ‘Is that, like, a river of fire?’ Yep. ‘Cool.’ I’d actually forgotten how good this movie is – it really doesn’t deserve the stick the other prequels get. We both rally for the rousing finale, in which Anakin and Obi-Wan go head-to-head in an absolutely cracking lightsaber duel.
9.47pm As the credits roll for the final time, I ask Phil how he feels about the whole experience. ‘I enjoyed it,’ he admits, almost sheepishly. ‘I think that once I’d acclimatised to the general horror of my situation, Stockholm Syndrome kicked in. There are so many clichés, but I realise now that they invented all the clichés.’ I smile benevolently, knowing I’ve managed to bring a little light – a little joy – into someone’s life. ‘That said,’ he adds as an afterthought, ‘“The Phantom Menace” is the worst movie I’ve ever f***ing seen.’