Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Remembering Star Wars Episode I

Yesterday may have been the tenth anniversary of the release of Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace but today is the tenth anniversary of the day I first saw it. My entire life had been building up to that point. I had already decided that this would be my new favorite film before I had even seen it. After all how could it not be? The original trilogy were and still are my favorite films (on a side note which specific movie in the trilogy that I consider my most favorite has kept changing as I've aged) and this was going to be the first Star Wars movie to premiere within my lifetime. I would get to experience it all first hand. This was going to be my Star Wars.

So did Episode I become my favorite movie? It isn't now but at the time, I wasn't really sure. I'd say I enjoyed it for the most part, but much of the movie went over my head the first time I saw it. I didn't really grasp what was going on with the Trade Federation's blockade on Naboo. The intricate plotting of the prequel trilogy may be more sophisticated than that of the classic trilogy, but that makes it harder to win over children and indeed mainstream viewers in general. Still anything with three way lightsaber duels and pod-races is going to find an audience even if they are left confused at times.

Speaking of confusion let's talk about Jar Jar. The first time I saw the movie I couldn't understand almost anything he said. It was more frustrating to me than annoying. So a lot of the anti-Jar Jar backlash was lost on me. I get it now though. Yet I can't say I hate the character. If I have to single out one aspect about the movie that I dislike the most it would have to be Jake Lloyd. The kid's acting is awful but that wasn't something I was taking into consideration ten years ago. When I was a kid I couldn't discern acting ability.

When I was first watched Episode I it genuinely surprised me. I wasn't expecting Qui-Gon and Darth Maul to be killed off. I mean I knew they had to die eventually but I assumed they would stick around for longer than one movie. I didn't know Padme was Queen Amidala. I probably should have but I didn't. I had no idea as to what was going to happen. I may have had unattainably high expectations, but other than that I went into it knowing relatively little. Plus I had made false presumptions based on what I did know. I like that. I need to reduce my internet usage back down to 1999 levels so I can experience something like that again.

If I have to name Episode I's biggest strength it would be that it has a specific charm. A lot of that has to do with the designs costumes, sets, and vehicles. Naboo especially has a distinct look from their ships to the Queen's gowns and the cities of Theed and Otoh Gunga. I also think Episode I feels the most like the old sci-fi serials that originally inspired George Lucas. It doesn't feel like the other Star Wars movies. It doesn't have many recognizable elements. In that sense it did become my Star Wars for awhile.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

That whole middle section where you were talking about your childhood and what you did and did not know about the movie. I had the exact same feeling. What was so bad about jar jar? Spikey red guy was too cool to kill off and, yeah that emotionless kid seems like he would become Vader later