The Phantom Menace Turns Ten: A Retrospective

Another Jar Jar hater...

The Phantom Menace just turned ten this month. I have to imagine you had two immediate reactions.

1. WTF?! [Denial anger depression negotiation acceptance.] Damn I’m getting old.

2. Never forgive. Never forget.

Rotten Tomatoes has a fantastic article that focuses on the glory and majesty of Episode One- which is to say, everything leading up to it. More or less everything until the lights went down, the words scrolled through space, and we almost immediately realized the thrill ride we were not about to have… and within minutes we shuddered to realize THIS WOULD BE THE BIGGEST LETDOWN OF OUR LIVES.

Sounds a bit overinflated all these years later, but I imagine at least 75% of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings completely agree. There was no greater collective generational letdown than Episode One. In our entire lives. (Wow, we’ve had pretty easy, sweet lives, My Generation…)

But back to the magic. I have such a vivid memory of sitting in that theater when the first Episode One trailer came on, was greeted by riotous cheers, and those creatures slowly ventured out of the mist… the shiver that went down my spine was perfectly geekgasmic. And then a few of us PopTen guys decided we were going to see it at the Uptown, the best theater in DC. This meant spending a night in sleeping bags amongst Star Wars diehards in the middle of the city, between people who were discussing the real lives of the actors that played Red 4 and Red 3 in Star Wars (I shit you not) and a few guys having way too much fun with their toy lightsabers. We bought Star Wars trivia and were shocked at the knowledge our neighbors had.

It was probably the best night of that year. We were awoken to people chanting “Goya! Goya!” as a Goya truck drove by, and a goth geek screaming at her boyfriend at daybreak. What tops that?

We bought the tickets, only to spend another day in line a few weeks later when the movie came out. This time we sat next to a guy who wore a “Kiss the Jedi” shirt. Awesome.

By that point the first reviews had trickled out, were terrifyingly negative, and we were all bracing ourselves for the worst. But we could never have anticipated Episode One. Nothing could have warned us of a travesty on that level. And I’ll say it again- some of us will never be let down as hard as we were that night. What else have you anticipated for SIXTEEN years?! Especially, for many of us, some of the first sixteen years of our lives!

I remember how somber we were leaving that theater. I remember the silence. I remember all the shaking heads. I remember our friend Jonathan Lane, who didn’t recover for months- maybe years.

Five years later my friend Jamie and I decided we had to give it a second chance. We rented it from Blockbusters and took it to his apartment in Harlem. It was like choking down raw meat. Again. Hoping it tasted better all those years later.

Happy birthday, Phantom Menace. And damn you. Damn you to hell.

Got a Star Wars Survivor Story to share?…

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1 Response

  1. Ji-Un Kwon says:

    My story is basically that I f-ing DITCHED school to go see this shit, and got punished by way of having to actually sit through it.

    Juan, your description of how you felt after seeing this movie is one of the best/saddening/hilarious diatribes I’ve ever heard from you. I think it should be shared with the world.

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