It is amazing that twenty years have passed since Star Wars was rebooted from a sixteen year slumber by George Lucas. The first of three Star Wars prequel films, The Phantom Menace set the stage for what was to come, and each film improved upon the last.
Had George Lucas not taken a chance on The Phantom Menace, we never would of had The Clone Wars animated series, The Disney Merger, Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One, Solo, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker, multiple novels, comics, animated shorts, and so much more. Despite all the negativity surrounding this film from the vocal minority online, it continues to hold up to this day and should be recognized for all of the other great Star Wars content it inspired over the past two decades.
Today for the twenty year anniversary, please take a look back at Scott Chitwood's non-spoiler review of The Phantom Menace from 20 years ago!
Well, last night I (Scott) saw Episode I in Houston. (No, I didn't have to kill anyone.) I'm in a little bit of a predicament because we've been posting that people should not read reviews and that they should make up their own minds about the film. But at the same time I'm dying to talk about it. :) I think I can tell you about it without giving away spoilers or tainting your opinion.
I personally really liked it. It was an incredible film. The film is very much aimed directly at kids, but it has something for everyone. Everyone can find something they love in this movie.
Jake Lloyd did a good job, in my opinion. Some of his scenes were better than others, but I think that he was a great choice for Anakin. For a 9 year old, he held his own. Every little boy will be pretending to be Anakin Skywalker. Jar Jar was great, too. He really did make me laugh several times, and kids are going to love him, too. For those of us who have read the script, books, or whatever, we found it easy to understand what he was saying. My wife and others who avoided that stuff found it difficult to understand him at first, but as the movie progressed, it got easier.
The pod race was incredible and a lot of fun. The final lightsaber duel was one of the most intense experiences I've ever seen on film. It left me wanting more. I can't wait to get this film on DVD and to watch the fight in slow motion. Neeson and McGregor exceeded my expectations as Jedi Knights in battle. Darth Maul was great, but as many have said, he is barely in it. But when he is on screen, he steals the show.
OK, so you're wondering how reading all the spoilers for the past 3 years affected my viewing it. I knew the plot over a year ago. I read the script several months ago. I finished the novelization a few days ago. How did it end up? Well, walking in knowing everything made for a very different movie experience. It's like reading, say, Romeo and Juliet, then going to see it on the big screen. You know the lines. You know the plot. You know the ending. You know who lives and dies. So the point of seeing the movie was to see how it is interpreted in front of you. Luckily, ILM, Lucas, Williams, and the actors delivered in a big way. Despite knowing the plot, I kept saying, "Woah" over and over again. Seeing all these people's talents come together was an incredible experience. I have yet to decide how I want to go into Episode 2. :)
At the end of the movie, it felt a lot like the end of ANH. The players are in position, now it's time for the rest of the story. As the credits rolled, I really wanted to see more. And again, like back in the 80's, it's going to be a looonnngg wait for the sequel. :)
This movie is very much a Star Wars movie, but it is a totally different animal. It is similar in many respects to the previous films, but there's a huge gap between Episode I and Episode 4 that is going to have to be bridged by the next two films. But if anyone can do it, it's Lucas.
So, in short, expect a great film for kids that has something also specifically for you in it. The film has its good and bad points, but I found it worth the wait. You'll have to watch it multiple times just to catch everything. (Specifically, look for some very familiar aliens from a non-Star Wars film in the Senate scene.) I'll be in line again on opening day.
As for the film experience, I had to pass people camping out for tickets when I went into the theater. I didn't have the heart to tell them what was going on inside. (However, I think some of the people on the way out of the screening told them about seeing the film. Ouch.) Apparently, like with the Star Wars Special Edition, a lot of fans from the Star Wars Fan Club were randomly sent tickets to the press screening by Lucasfilm. Good move to put cheering fans in with the press. :) 20 minutes into the film, the film jammed, and melted. I screamed along with most of the people in the audience. My wife, the loving thoughtful person she is, started cracking up saying, "How long have you waited for this movie?" All I could say was, "Just....just shut up!" :) (We were all joking and laughing about it, so don't think we were serious.) Anyway, they got the film running again fairly quickly. As the guy frantically worked on it, we were making Han Solo and Falcon jokes like "Chewie! Bring me the hydrospanner!" and other such things. One reporter joked "I wish Rick McCallum had been there. He'd have gotten up and started promoting the digital projectors." :) Anyway, it was a good experience and a lot of fun.
I'm now kind of in an odd state. I realize now that the anticipation, speculation, and digging up info was a major part of the fun of this movie. Now that it is over, I'm kind of fried. 3 years of working on this site has all come to this quick 2 hours of film and fun. So it's kind of an odd feeling to have it end. But then again, there's always Episode 2. :)
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