The Dork Side

It's a dark time for the Phoenix Fan Force. Although the local cadre of sci-fi superfreaks is hyperspaced for the impending release of Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, the final chapter in George Lucas' six-part space opera, the PFF geeks are also morose that the über-director is hanging up his light saber on the saga that's dominated their days.

"Lucas has owned the past 10 years of my soul," says 24-year-old PFF member Joel Cranson. "There's gonna be people crying at the end of the movie, since there's no more Star Wars to look forward to. It's over."

But despite having hearts heavier than Han Solo frozen in carbonite, Cranson and his fellow Obi-wanna-bes are gonna send Star Wars out in style during this week's "PFF Line-up" at Harkins Scottsdale 101. The weeklong event, open to the public, involves local Jedi junkies camping outside the theater for a spot to attend the flick's midnight première on May 19, costumed or otherwise.

Participants clock in and out in order to accrue time, with seating to the screening in Harkins' Ciné Capri theater divvied out based on how long one waits (tickets must be purchased separately).

Organizers promise plenty of "nerd stuff," including LAN gaming, trivia contests, and the requisite light-saber fights (albeit with plastic toys). Even if the showing sells out, other midnight screenings are offered in adjacent auditoriums, and Cranson says the fun lies in one last chance to let loose with fellow fans.

"The line isn't totally about who gets in first," he says. "It's also about enjoying the experience, and doing something outside of your daily routine."

Participants better have deflector shields up, however, as Vader haters in the media have unleashed onslaughts of Boba Fett-style snipes at fans nationwide during line-ups for the previous prequel flicks. Everyone from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to the morning jocks of KUPD have dissed Darth dorks as pudgy 35-year-olds who forgo reality for a galaxy far, far away.

Truth is, though, not all PFF peeps are Comic Book Guy look-alikes. Take 21-year-old hottie Jenn Watkins, for example.

"Nobody gets weird if you tell them you're on a bowling league or a baseball team, and that's really what this is like," says Watkins, a recent ASU biochem grad. "We're a bunch of people with a mutual fascination with Star Wars and having a good time. It's a weeklong tailgate party . . . or our World Series."

Watkins' husband, 24-year-old Josh, says the real oddballs ("The people that scare us," he says) arrive in the waning hours, transforming the place into a cracked-out Cantina scene, as Jedis in bathrobes and cowboy boots, crazy codgers in pink hoodies mix with other Force-loving freaks.

"That's who the media wants to see, the stereotypical fans, and, unfortunately, they'll inevitably seek them out," Josh says. "The media in this town has no shame. Last time we had a member flipping off Channel 3 during their live feed. We're gonna have to get barbed wire this time . . . or land mines."