Put simply, I like ‘The Phantom Menace’ – Or ‘Star Wars: Episode I as it was more commonly advertised. (I personally hate referring to any of them by numbers and thank J.J. Abrams and Disney for marketing ‘The Force Awakens’ by it’s subtitle)
And there’s pretty much only one reason why I do, and it mostly has to do with branding. Especially on Pepsi cans.
The Phantom Menace wasn’t anywhere close to being my first ‘blockbuster’ movie event. The first movie I remember seeing in the theaters was ‘Back to the Future Part II’, and ‘Jurassic Park’ blew my prepubescent mind to pieces.
But then there were movies like ‘Wild, Wild West’, ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Batman Forever/ and Robin’ that taught me an important lesson – that movie marketing and cool Taco Bell tie ins do not a good movie make.
However, when it comes to the first of the much derided Star Wars prequels, I don’t really care. Because that spring was full of so much anticipation – the weather was getting better, the school year was winding down, and Pizza Hut had ads featuring this crazy new thing call pod-racing! (Which incidentally, also made for a great video game).
It helps that I grew up on the original Star Wars trilogy. I don’t remember the first time I saw them, but I can still remember what was edited out of the ‘Return of the Jedi’ tape my mom had recorded off of TV (and even some of the ads that played during the commercial breaks). So I was understandably hyped for anything new bearing the Star Wars name.
Then I saw it, and, honestly, felt indifferent.
But the toys, the Pepsi cans, the specials on E!. Wacking my friends with plastic lightsabers all summer in my backyard. So great.
I went to a midnight launch of the first line of action figures. I was thirteen, with my mom, got to watch a grown man trip on the curb of the sidewalk, break his glasses and begin bleeding from his nose while everyone else stormed the Toys-R-Us (his friend was the only one who stood by to help him.)
I got my little hands on a Darth Maul action figure that didn’t have a mouth because it was poorly painted. I opened it immediately, to which I felt a collective gasp from adult collectors. Over the next several months, you couldn’t find Darth Maul anywhere. I felt lucky.
I got a new C3-PO, my personal favorite Star Wars character. He was different and skinny and you could see his wires.
In short, the build up was what I take with me, not the finished product. It doesn’t matter to me that the movie was a first draft full of uncooked ideas bogged down by the pacing of a traffic jam.
With the release of the new movie back in December, I spent a month re-watching all six films. (‘Jedi’ multiple times since everyone and their mom wanted to re-watch that one again and apparently I’m always down for ‘Jedi’). I had to buy the prequels because I actually didn’t own them and figured what the hell, if the new one is good, I’ll want them all. I’m also a sucker for Steelbooks. Many members of my family gave me crap for days for asking them if they wanted to watch any of the prequels with me over the holidays.
And I’ll admit, I fell asleep, to all but ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’. ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Empire’ because I’d seen them countless times and the two prequels because they’re boring.
But what wasn’t boring, nor ever is, is the hype surrounding the release of a new Star Wars movie. I was so reluctant to get excited for ‘The Force Awakens’, but I also couldn’t ignore the merchandise that was vomited all over the internet and retail stores – I didn’t buy anything, but got an R2-D2 salt and pepper shaker set as a gift and I love it.
Someone, I suspect from over at the Star Wars Minute, equated Star Wars movie premiers to the Super Bowl for nerds who don’t like sports, and I think that’s apt, because it is the time when everyone can share in the fun together, get it out of our systems and then stop caring two months later.
And because of that, I choose to live in a world where the prequels exist. Because, dammit, even if they are far inferior to their predecessors, it opened up the fandom the greater heights and carried on Star Wars’ true legacy pretty damn well.
Have any great ‘Phantom Menace’ Memories? Share them in the comments.
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