To put this one into context a little, I rewatched The Phantom Menace on 19th May. Nineteen years since it was released in the US and Canada. Us Brits had to wait until 16th July. Talk about painful.
I still remember the first time I saw it at the cinema and when I got it on VHS. I loved it so much, it became my favourite Star Wars film.
Over the years my love for it dwindled. I fell hard for the beginning of the Clone Wars in Attack of the Clones, and I fell out of love with a certain Gungan who, according to the final part of the Aftermath Trilogy, became a street performer in Theed.
I wrote in a previous blog that in 2015 I bought the DVD and rewatched it for the first time in years, firstly I had to text my friend Andrew for confirmation, did George Lucas add more to the Podrace and to the scene where the Queen’s ship landed on Coruscant? Yes he had. Interesting.
I have watched it a few more times since that first rewatch in 2015, at least six times ( a rough guess) and I’ve definitely moved on from my teenage opinions on Jar-Jar. Sure he’s annoying but so what? I actually think that Phantom Menace is the most Star Wars feeling film in the Prequel Trilogy. It still had practical effects, real sets and there is something about it that screamed of Lucas and Co. circa 1977.
The appeal to a younger audience always sat wrong with the older fans who had grown up with the Original Trilogy. Granted I had grown up with those films and Phantom Menace didn’t bother me in the slightest back then and now, despite the fact I have a few problems, mostly with some of the poor CGI shots that either had to be rushed or were added last minute, it is still a very good film.
What’s not to love, it shows us not only the Jedi at the height of their power. We see the opulence and grandeur of the Galactic Republic and how the Galaxy operated on a political level. We get a brief history of the Sith and we got Darth Maul and the Dual of Fates.
The Phantom Menace is also incredibly important for the development of technology that, at the time was unheard of and has become almost second nature in Hollywood nowadays. Motion Capture technology. First used to bring Jar-Jar to life, a few years later we got Andy Serkis performing Mi-Cap on Gollum on The Lord of the Rings trilogy and now our biggest blockbusters are filled with Mo-Capped characters. We even got Andy Serkis in to play Supreme Leader Snoke in the sequel trilogy. All because Lucas wanted that annoying Gungan in the film.
It may have its detractors, and I was one of them for years but Phantom Menace is a great and enjoyable film that has had unfair treatment over the years. But us long-time fans who started with the Original Trilogy were not the target audience. Star Wars is and should always be primarily for children. They are who the films should be aimed at and Phantom Menace was. The main protagonist is a 10 year old kid, he has a comedic creature sidekick and is the best race-car driver around. Anakin follows the same pattern as Luke, both are unsuspecting and don’t have much in the way of life but they become great and powerful and become legends, and now in the sequel trilogy Rey is following that pattern too.
And who doesn’t love Qui-Gon Jinn?
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