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A Star Wars Story: Spoiler Free

SPOILER WARNING: There are plot details for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story throughout this piece.

Vader appears...
Vader appears…

A Real Rogue One Reaction — As a Star Wars fan, how many times have you said this to yourself?

“I just wish I could go back and see [insert Star Wars scene here] again–for the first time–so I can get that feeling again.”

Well, I dare you to watch Stephen Smoot’s YouTube video of his friend Brinley. See her witness the end of Rogue One for the first time, and not get that feeling–her feeling–yourself.

Smoot, 27, who posted the video below on June 3rd, described the scene in the living room when he and his friends Brinley, 21, and Madison, 29, sat down to watch Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It was Brinley’s first time seeing the film.

This week my friend Brinley returned from her LDS [Latter Day Saints] mission. She is a HUGE Star Wars fan! But due to the timing of her mission call, she missed seeing both Episode 7 and Rogue One. (Mormon missionaries are not allowed to watch television or movies while on their missions). Last night a few of us got together and decided to watch them with her. Being the devoted fan that she is, Brinley was engaged in every minute of both films; laughing, crying, and cheering right on cue. This is her genuine reaction to the iconic scene involving Darth Vader at the end of Rogue One. Enjoy! 😂😂

Speaking With Smoot

Stephen and friend...
Stephen and friend…

I caught up with Stephen, who–having seen the clip go viral–is enjoying everyone’s reaction to his friend’s reaction.

“It’s funny because Brinley’s sister Madison and I had the same idea halfway through, and so we started texting each other during the movie trying to coordinate what we should do,” he said, explaining that texts like…

  • “Okay, I’ll go turn on some lights to make it brighter.”
  • “Sounds good. I’ll position myself on the couch so I can film her but it looks like I’m just texting.

… were flying around the room.

“I did not expect it to go viral,” he admitted. “I originally uploaded it to Facebook, and thought friends and family might see it, and that’d be it. People would chuckle and then it would die down after a day or so.

“But once it started going viral on Facebook we had lots of fun promoting it on other sites and social media like Twitter and YouTube.”

Viral videos and Star Wars go hand-in-hand, what with babies reacting to the Episode VII trailer, Chewbacca mask mom, and Rogue One reaction videos floating throughout the web.

“I have to admit I’m not terribly original here[…and] got the idea from seeing other things like it on the Web,” he said. “I thought to film Brinley’s reaction and upload it because I’ve seen other similar videos where someone secretly records their friend’s reaction to this or that scene.

“In fact, when The Force Awakens was released there was a video posted not long after that where a returned Mormon missionary was filmed reacting to Han Solo’s death.

“So I guess you could say this was sort of a copy-cat video,” he said.

Jedi-like Dedication

Brinley on task.
Brinley: Jedi-like dedication

Having written about Star Wars/Religion twice before, I mentioned to Stephen (who is Mormon and who has previously been a missionary) that Brinley had Jedi-like dedication to avoid the films for such a long time. I also hoped that my comparison between the on-screen Knights and the real-life missionaries would not be offensive.

“The Jedi/missionary thing, that’s actually a running joke with Mormons who have served missions,” he DM’d, reassuringly. “It is very Jedi-like to be a Mormon missionary: very regimented with lots of self-mastery and discipline (no TV or movies, only writing to family once a week, up at 6:30 AM and to bed by 10:30 PM, etc.)

“So it’s not offensive at all. I’m sure any Mormons or those who know something about Mormon missionaries reading it would laugh,” he said.

Overwhelmed and Speechless

Anyone watching the video with Brinley should laugh and relish her secondary reaction (re: Smoot filming her).

“I’ve been a loyal Star Wars fan since I was a kid. I grew up watching the movies, playing the video games, going outside with toy lightsabers and recreating scenes from the movies with neighborhood friends, etc.,” he said. “I’ve also known Brinley for a while now and know how much of a fan she is. So it wasn’t really surprising to me that she would react to such a powerful, emotional scene like the ending of Rogue One.

“And yes, having seen Rogue One many times before, I figured the Vader scene at the end would be the one that she would react so strongly to, and so that would be the one to capture.

“Basically, I thought back at how I reacted to the Vader scene when I first saw it in theaters–I was overwhelmed, and was speechless afterward–and figured Brinley must surely have a similar reaction.”

Wrapped up in Star Wars…

Brinley with her Star Wars blanket
Brinley with her Star Wars blanket

Brinley did, and, admittedly, this writer shed a small tear as he watched her visceral reaction. In fact, many, many viewers have reacted (albeit internally) similarly when they saw Rogue One.

“Absolutely. I’ll never forget how I first reacted,” said Stephen. “I was actually with Madison when I saw it in theaters, and I remember after the credits were rolling how she and I were just speechless.

“Like, it took my brain time to process what it had just seen. I think I stammered out something, and [Madison] was likewise just overcome with emotion. So besides all the visual glory of the scene, there’s that emotional component for me as well.

“I think that’s what I was trying to capture [filming Brinley]; just the raw emotions that one feels with that scene: dread, terror, disbelief, and eventually relief and, fittingly, hope. But of course, all of this is wrapped up in the pure imaginative beauty of Star Wars.”

The clip continues to capture fans’ imaginations.

“So far… local Utah news (KSL News),” explained Smoot of their media contacts. “And also a local Utah podcast called The Cultural Hall and another Star Wars blog.”

And why not? The vid remains “Totally wicked!” after each viewing.

Epilogue: Reactor Reaction

Brinley Vandenberghe is the woman in the video and was kind enough to sit for a quick Q&A about her viral video moment in a galaxy far, far away….

Brinley, how long have you been a Star Wars fan?

Madison, Brinley, and Kylo at Comic Con
Madison, Brinley, and Kylo at Comic Con

I have loved Star Wars for as long as I can remember. A huge part of my life has been, in some way or another, connected to Star Wars. When I was a little, I remember watching the original trilogy and being creeped out by Yoda. Of course, this faded with time, but my love and passion for the series have never dwindled. I remember as a little kid playing with LEGO Star Wars sets with my siblings, reading different informational books in the series, having lightsaber fights with my brothers, and binge watching each episode around Christmastime.

I think a lot of fans would be asking if you were playing it up or if this was in any way something that you “acting” out?

This whole video is just so funny for me to rewatch and see others’ reactions to because what you see in it is completely me! I was caught completely off guard and didn’t even know Stephen was recording. I didn’t even notice that he was on his phone, much less filming me. We were sitting on our couch, and he was laying down in a bean bag, squished far down so you couldn’t even see him. Some people have asked me if I was laughing or crying during it because they couldn’t tell from my voice, and to that, I answer that I was indeed, truly crying because of sadness, shock, happiness, hope–as Leia says–among other emotions. My voice sounded very different in the video than it usually does, due to my laughing and crying throughout the movie.

How difficult was it to not be able to see the two films due to your responsibilities on your LDS mission?

It was a sacrifice for me to have to postpone my watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One till later. I left my home to serve others in Dallas, Texas on December 16th, 2015. This, of course, was two days before The Force Awakens opened in theaters! When one serves an LDS mission, you spend your time fully on serving others in various capacities, and missionaries do not watch TV or movies when they serve. [The mission] was a huge leap of faith for me to leave my family for a time and leave the culture I so loved, but I knew that I would see them again soon.

In many ways, Star Wars viral videos tend to be some of the most accepted across-the-board. Everyone loves Star Wars. But have you been surprised by the number of people who have reacted to your reaction?

Guests of Darth Vader
Guests of Darth Vader

I think it’s been really funny to see others react to my reaction! I’ve never seen other reaction videos before, so I was really fun for me to see this video take off. I hope even more people can see this video and be inspired to watch Star Wars; to take it a little more seriously, considering how much it means to so many people, including me. I have had several people reach out to me via email, text, and Facebook, and I just have to smile a bit each time and pinch myself because I can’t even believe people are watching this video and enjoying it as much as many people are!

Hope. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


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John Bishop

A graduate of Boston and Northeastern universities, John Bishop became the beat reporter for prior to the B’s 2006-07 hockey season. While with the Bruins, “Bish” traveled North America and Europe to cover the Black & Gold’s every move via laptop, blog, and smart phone. The co-author of two books, Bygone Boston and Full 60 to History: The Inside Story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, John covered the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and the B’s 2011 championship run and banner raising before taking a faculty/communications position at a prep school outside Boston in 2013. He lives with his wife Andrea and sons Jack, Scott, and Luke in central Massachusetts.
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