There's been an awakening in the Big Apple. Can you feel it?
With less than a week to go before "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" opens, New York fans of the beloved sci-fi franchise can't contain their excitement for the new movie. Those who eat, sleep and work the Force said anticipation has never been stronger because the buzz has engulfed their entire social circle.
"Star Wars has gone beyond pop culture," said Andrew Cohen, 27, marketing director of Midtown Comics. "When you have something like that in a city where a lot of people have shared interests, it just feels more special when a big event arrives."
It's been 10 years since the last "Star Wars" movie, "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," hit theaters, but the series has remained strong with spinoff comics, animated shows, video games and merchandise. Fans, however, said the new movie has bigger buzz because of the return of the original cast and also the mystery surrounding the film's plot.
Other fans said they're hoping "The Force Awakens" can erase the bad taste of the prequel trilogy, left behind because of the latter's messy plot, poor dialogue and overuse of CGI.
"I have very high expectations. I think that they learned from when they screwed up the prequels," said Nick Zieminski, 46, a Reuters correspondent.
Cohen, who showed original "Star Wars" creator George Lucas around Midtown Comics in March, said one of the biggest changes since 2005 is the prominence of social media. Every tweet, Facebook post and YouTube clip about the movie adds more power to the thrill.
"The way the media is now, for these kind of films, it's bigger now," he said. "I've never heard of so many people already booking their tickets for opening weekend."
Paul Levinson, a professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University and a science-fiction writer, said "Star Wars" helped to break the mold of sci-fi by making the universe relatable. Although there are flying vehicles, aliens who speak in weird tongues and tons of technobabble, it has an engaging tale.
"It married [sci-fi] with human interest story. The father-son story, the adventure, it's Shakespearean," he said.
Anne Richmond, 30, of Sunnyside, said the movie appealed to her because it taught her that anyone can be a hero, regardless of their size, gender or background.
"My dad showed [it] to me at first but he didn't think I'd care. But as a girl, seeing Princess Leia, she kicked ass, and I loved it," she said.
The franchise's legacy has helped to make it a multigenerational cornerstone for families, according to Levinson, who watched all the movies in the theater with his wife and children. NY1 reporter Roger Clark recalled how he watched "A New Hope" six times in a Flushing theater during the summer of 1977 with his father. Flash forward 38 years later, and the reporter is excited to pass the torch to his 4-year-old son.
"He already knows the characters thanks to the animated Lego shows," Clark said in a statement.
Levinson added that the verisimilitude had extra depth in the eyes of Big Apple fans.
"When you walk into the bar in the first 'Star Wars' and you see all those characters, they weren't literally New Yorkers, but it's something that New Yorkers could identify with," he said.
Die-hard fans said living in New York gives them the freedom to proudly show off their "Star Wars" pride. Greg Lee, 30, a tattoo artist from the Lower East Side, is a member of the New York City "garrison" of the worldwide fan group, the 501st Legion, whose members dress up as Stormtroopers for gatherings.
Lee said he's not once been heckled while in uniform.
"You get some weird looks, but most people want to take your picture. Even if you don't know 'Star Wars' well, you know what a Stormtrooper is," he said.
Cohen said the majority of the city is beaming for "Episode VII" because they're less ashamed about being a fan and realize how big the community really is.
"Being nerdy used not to be cool, but now it's cool to go into a comic shop or dress up. People like that and it's more accepting in a big city like this," he said.