Sunday, May 17, 2009

10 years of The Phantom Menace


This Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the release of "Star Wars Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace." It's hard to believe that it's been that long. I remember going on the opening day. My office pretty much shut down and we all went to an afternoon show together. It was such a thrill being in a packed theater and having every single person in the audience cheer when the words "Star Wars" appeared on the screen. The look of the title and the "a long time ago..." lead in were exactly the same as the three original films. I didn't fully believe I was seeing a new Star Wars film until the words "Episode I" scrolled up.

Many people were less than thrilled with this new creation from the mind of Lucas. I had a great time at the movies that day, and I still enjoy the film today. I admit it is probably the weakest of the Star Wars films, but the way the current generation has responded to this film and it's sequels over the last few years I think proves that it is not the films that changed, but the audience. Simply put, the children of the 70's grew up and many were unwilling to approach these films as they did when they were young.

So, in celebration of the film's 10th anniversary, here are a few of the things I love about The Phantom Menace:

- Giant Monsters

It must be the Godzilla fan in me, but I loved the giant undersea creatures that Qui Gon, Obi Wan, and Jar Jar encounter during their underwater bongo trip to Theed. Giant monsters are a Star Wars tradition, so it was fun to meet some of the aquatic variety.

- Watto

Watto, the junk dealer who owns Anakin and his mother, is a great character. I love his design...pot bellied, unshaven, broken teeth that won't fit behind his mouth...he looks like a guy who's spent too much time at the race track. He's also got one of the best character voices of the series. I wish we we could've seen more of him as the saga progressed.

- Pod Racing

The pod race sequence is one of the best action scenes in any of the Star Wars films. This is Lucas' imagination working on all cylinders. Just the idea of racers being dragged along by two giant engines at dizzying speeds is wonderfully insane by itself, but there's so much more to like about this race. The cast of alien drivers make this Episode 1's version of the cantina scene. The nods to the other Star Wars films are great...buzzing by some Jawas, Jabba the Hutt falling asleep at the race, and best of all, Tusken Raiders taking pot shots at the racers. Ingenious! But as good as the pod race is, it may not be the film's best moment, which leads us to...

- Duel of the Fates

It turns out that after all those years we really had no concept of what a real lightsaber battle was like. The moment when Darth Maul ignites his double-edged lightsaber had appeared in the first trailer for the film, so fans had played and replayed it hundred of times in the six months leading up to the film's release, yet there were still audible gasps in the audience when the moment came. The battle that followed was beyond what anyone had imagined. You've got to hand it to Lucas for not giving Darth Maul the same sort of sword fighting chit chat that Darth Vader was fond of in the original trilogy. It helped make this villain a creature of pure rage. I think my favorite moment of the duel is when, to open a door, Darth Maul points at an object on the floor, then points at a control panel to send the item hurling into it, thus opening the door. The music for this sequence also represents on of John Williams' finest moments in either of the trilogies.


So happy 10th anniversay Phantom Menace! Everyone grab your double-edged lightsaber and party like it's 1999, or at least watch the movie again.

1 comment:

Juanita's Journal said...

I admit it is probably the weakest of the Star Wars films, but the way the current generation has responded to this film and it's sequels over the last few years I think proves that it is not the films that changed, but the audience.You admit that "The Phantom Menace" was the weakest in the franchise? Hmmm . . . I don't. I believe that the weakest was "Return of the Jedi". But I do love all six films.