Today, cinemas all around the UK welcome back Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 13 years after its original release. Since then it has been criticised and lambasted on pretty much every level. This is even the case to this day as so many people opposed the idea that the film should even be rereleased this soon and thought its transformation into 3D was merely a cynical money-spinner by George Lucas to maintain his empire.
Every element of the film has been scrutinised and blamed for causing what many people thought was ‘the rape of their childhood’ canning the acting, script, direction, unnecessary special effects, Jar Jar, the plot, Jake Lloyd, Yoda looking beyond weird and fake, the scenes on Coruscant and much more. The film has become a laughing stock and heralded as one of the biggest disasters in Hollywood with the fantastic YouTube reviews of Red Letter Media and Confused Matthew detailing why this was.
How though can a film that has made over a billion dollars for Lucas be deemed a failure? Lucas, also, doesn’t see it as a flop, instead suggesting that it is a film for kids to the legions of heartbroken fans left destroyed after expecting it to be the next coming of Jesus. Maybe it just has to be taken as a film for kids, and that is why it is being released, for the new generation to enjoy. It is being marketed at kids, with the Podracer 3D goggles. Having been a huge fan of the franchise from a young age I have been on an interesting journey with this film and with the release of the film now in 3D I thought I was review it.
It all began with me being nine years old going to the cinema and waiting for the new Star Wars movie with my can of Pepsi, heavily advertised with RD-D2 saying how I could win £10,000. I had been subjected to all the publicity, watched the trailer and had been blasted by all the advertising and bright colours before entering the theatre.
A few years earlier in 1997 the 20th anniversary releases had came out and fell in love with the franchise with so many before me with the luxury of not having to wait three years between the movies. I had got the toys, learnt of the creatures and vehicles and read the Star Wars annual voraciously (I still own it, where it asked me where I lived I put Tatooine). Like all the other fans of the original trilogy I was so excited. Then I saw the movie and I was gripped only the way a child could be. The common consensus at the time was to hate it but as a child of nine how could you not enjoy seeing the saga begin with a load of lightsaber action and battles chucked in.
From there I was obsessed watching the film another four times at the cinema before getting the video a few months later. I got the game for the Playstation, which was one of the best I have ever played, despite some weird and random moments. I also constantly talked about the film mercilessly, counting down the days until Episode II.
It was not until I got older that I realised other people disliked it. I started to look at the reviews, seeing how they thought the script was weak and the acting was wooden and unemotional and other things that went over my head at the time like the fact that Nute Gunray was a racist caricature of an Asian. Many bitter reviews were thrust upon me which then made me question whether it was any good at all. I started to debate in my mind whether Boss Nass was a cool character to like or whether constant slicing up of battle droids were boring and the more I watched it the more I got bored and found the flaws and wondered about why C3PO was in it or how stupid Sebulba and Watto were. I began myself to find the kids and Anakin irritating and finally wasn’t embarrassed to admit that the plot was confusing, thinking that everyone else understood its intricacies and political overtones. Then The Lord of the Rings came out and I had a new franchise and the Star Wars prequels took a bit of a back seat while I was engulfed in this new world.
Now, however after my film education has expanded I can come back to the Phantom Menace and there will be bits that I enjoy. I will never enjoy it as much as the first time, seeing everything afresh. Although I love Red Letter Medias review of it probably more than the actual film I have to cut it some slack, I try to watch it separately from the original trilogy and it is my guilty pleasure to enjoy it as you would a cult film. The Darth Maul scenes, the opening fighting with the droids on board the Trade Federation ship and the cumbersome yet exhilarating finale all hold a special place for me.
Now it has come full circle, just 13 years later I will witness the film again as it is rereleased in 3D. And I am sure I will love it in my own little way. It is the kind of film that should be seen on the big screen anyway and there will be something nostalgic about donning the glasses and taking a trip back into my childhood to witness the beginning all over again.