The Phantom Menace. The PHANTOM Menace. THE Phantom Menace. Well, it looks like I'm in the situation that many of us are, trying to get used to the sound of the newest member to the family of movies we can't help but love. Who would've expected that on some random day in September we would find out one of the more important aspects of the new Star Wars movie that we've all awaited with more than bated breath? But how important is it? I mean, we all have an opinion on the topic, and the majority from what I've seen very negative.
Let's go back in time first and take a look at some of the names of movies. First off, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Temple of Doom? Most of us are big fans. I've heard some people mention SW:TPM sounds like an episode of Scooby-Doo. Well, at least it's not as bad as Temple of Doom, which sounds like something from the Herculoids or Birdman. Yes, here comes the Collector out of his Temple of Doom to attack heroic Birdman! Man?.hee hee?.the Collector, he always cracks me up.
Secondly, Forrest Gump. What the hell is that all about? Well, until it got closer to the release, no one knew that was his name (and a very ridiculous name at that). It's engrained itself into American culture though, hasn't it? Howard the Duck, Deep Impact, The Big Lebowski, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and Dr. Strangelove (or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb). All of these, ridiculous names, but they're hardly mentioned unless simply used to refer to a good movie that someone saw last weekend. As will it be with Episode I, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. We will all go into the theater and come out giddy as schoolgirls. Pretty simple.
I really honestly don't see the problem though. It has all the elements. Phantom, the ethereal spiritual side, being the Jedi. The Menace being the conflict with the Trade Federation or the Empire. And the whole thing works out to suggest betrayal and behind the scenes politics on behalf of the unequivocally evil Senator Palpatine as he directs the war effort at the figurehead of the Trade Republic that he set up. Or maybe the shadow of Vader that we as the audience may see fall over innocent young Anakin from time to time. How sweet is that? It's like A New Hope all over again, except emphasizing the complexity of the plot. And who knows, it may even just be a working title, like X-Files: Blackwood, or Revenge of the Jedi (and Blue Harvest as well :).
But we all seem to forget that we will have seven months until then to get used to the name. After seeing it all over, and hearing it bandied around the workplace, it will become a part of every Star Wars fans lexicon. Until May, when it will be on everyone's tongue (and on everyone's Pepsi on everyone's tongue). At that point maybe we'll come to the conclusion it was judged a bit prematurely.
Furthermore, we have no right to judge this title yet, but we could ask the kids. I've seen references to it sounding childish and juvenile or outright ridiculous. Well, have we stopped to think maybe it's not geared at us? The original Star Wars didn't appeal most to middle class businessmen aged 20-35 did it? Lucas is more than justified to create a new movie geared towards the children of the late `90s. We need to stop being so selfish and thinking Lucas is doing this for each and every one of us. May be in this for his own dream or a new generation of fans. I'm content to let him have it, and give us the honor of knowing about the title before the rest of God's creation when the media shakes it down on Monday.
And has anyone stopped to think about a certain Star Wars comic book series that is a favorite of the ol' funny book crowd? The first issue of X-Wing: The Phantom Affair appeared on the shelves of my local distributor in great number. The next month, the second issue was almost gone before I even arrived, as were all the backissues of #1. The name didn't matter in that case. Why should it on a movie? Is it because we really feel that that is the sole indicator of schlock content and childish acting? Or is it that George beat us again? Are we maybe a little upset that we didn't figure out the name; that we couldn't divine what George is thinking even with a $150 call to the Psychic Friend Network? No one was even remotely close to this title, and I couldn't be happier. It goes to show that George is in the driver's seat. Exactly the place he should be-- putting his vision on film no matter what the studios or the fans think. It certainly worked over twenty years ago, so let's put our faith on him now. At very least let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and let him share his talent with us. Phantom or no, I can't wait for Episode I.
- David Coates
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