When this film came out, it felt like a magic was returning to movies that had been gone for so long. Looking back at this, I may have been a little too forgiving to this one. I tried to hold my expectations in check because they were bound to be let down with the anticipation being so high. So you may some new thoughts sprinkled here in italics, but the review is pretty much what it was when I wrote in my Star Wars Episode I limited edition journal.
Thursday, May 20, 1999
That’s it! I have finally seen the most anticipated movie of all time: “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” The verdict, after waiting god only knows how long to see it?….Good. In fact, very good. Visually, the movie was incredible to look at. It’ll be no surprise as to which film will get the next Oscar for Best Visual Effects! Georhge Lucas creates visual effects unlike anything you have seen before that look more or less real. That’s amazing considering that a lot of the characters here are digitally created. However, the story and the script proved to be the film’s biggest weaknesses. This would and should sink just about any other movie, but hey, this is STAR WARS! You desperately want to see this movie succeed because of what it represents to our collective imaginations, and to see George Lucas really beat the movie studios at their ownh game. The free dome he had with doing this movie was incredible, and you don’t want to mess with this series unless George Lucas really messes it up. And in all fairness, the Star Wars movies in general are not perfect, including this one.
What the movie really lacked was deep characterizations. The movie, which was well plotted (not really in retrospect), never quite gave us enough time to really feel for these characters fully. After awhile, the movie felt a bit like a slide show as it moved from scene to scene. George Lucas seemed more geared towards the directing the special effects than working more with the actors. I like Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor the best, and Natalie Portman really is a beauty to behold in just about anything she does. But there is a stiffness to all the performances, probably because the actors really have to concentrate on their marks and work alongside blue screens throughout the making of this movie. You watch this movie with amazement, and with the hope that with the next movie George Lucas will have someone else writing the screenplay with him.
The movie seems to exist as a pretext to the rest of the trilogy. And at times, there is a bit of deja vu with the first Star Wars. See the movie and figure it out.
Otherwise, this movie was no “Godzilla” thank goodness and had lots of imagination to spare. Would I see it again? Sure. It’s a movie made to be seen on the big screen after all. We probably won’t be seeing it on DVD for a very long time!
For a 3 AM showing , all the theatres are packed! I read in the LA Times that the theaters showing it at 3 AM in Sherman Oaks were filled up to 95% capacity. Only Star Wars man! (so it would seem anyway) Only Star Wars can draw a crowd that big at a movie theater early in the morning!
The wait however was agonizing. I got to the Irvine Spectrum at about 2 AM or so already to find a long long line wrapped all the way around the theater. Should have gotten there earlier probably. The 3 AM showing was playing in one of the four largest theaters, and each one had it’s own individual line. But there was a point where the lines stopped and a continuation line was on the opposite side of the Irvine Spectrum. It felt like the lines were spread all over the town, and it took me over 10 minutes to find my specific theater (The Egyptian). Just when I thought I was in the right line. I quickly found that I wasn’t. I did eventually find the line that was for the Egyptian, but that proved to be even longer! The theatres were the biggest, and they all had stadium seating. In order to control the crowd, they had to let those who had tickets to their individual theater one at a time. As a result, the movie did not start on time. It was about 3:16 AM when the movie finally started. It’s hard enough that we had to wait over a decade for another Star Wars movie, so it’s just anxiety and torture having to wait and see it just a little bit more.
You could tell when they started to let people in when loud cheering went up ahead of us. It just made me and the others around me even more anxious to get inside. Some guy came around in a Darth Vader costume, baptizing people with his lightsaber in the name of the dark side of the force. We didn’t care. We just wanted to get inside already!
We finally did get inside, and it was already after 3 AM and the movie still hadn’t started yet. They were letting some people in from another theater that was packed. Who cares about them? Start the movie already!
Then, the curtains in front of the screen finally rose, and the opening music from Star Wars blasted through the speaker system. Everyone was cheering loudly in a theater that ended up not being as picked as I thought it would be. Then the voice of a 50 year old announcer spoke out in the voice of the stiff and unhip white man said:
“Ladies and gentleman! Edwards Theatre is proud to present…Star Wars – The Phantom Menace!”
Everyone went crazy!!
Some people cheered, but most of us just wanted the darn movie to start already.
Lights went down, and the trailers came up. The first one was for Adam Sandler’s new movie, “Big Daddy” which looks pretty funny (still haven’t seen it). Next there was a trailer for “Wild Wild West” which also looked good (IT SUCKED!!), although I hear that it has gone waaay over budget. Then 20th Century Fox had a trailer which advertised three movies coming out the near the end of the year. One was for “Anna and the King” with Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat, and another was for “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio. Then there was another trailer for a computer animated movie about some guy talking about him and his family fleeing Earth on a spaceship because it had been destroyed or something. It’s coming out in Summer 2000, one year from now…Summer 2000?! I don’t want to hear about any movies coming out exactly one year from now (I still have a big problem with that)! I don’t want to hear about any movies coming out next summer! I don’t want to be made to look forward to what is coming out next summer because it will only have me fustrated with what’s coming out this summer in comparison.
Haven’t any of the studios learned anything last year from “Godzilla?” That showing a trailer for a movie exactly one year before it comes out was a big mistake? (of course not! what would be the point of that?) OK, in a way it was a brilliant move in that it captured Memorial Day weekend for the movie in a snap. It was no contest on opening weekend after that. But then the movie came out and it fell flat on it’s face… But you’ve heard me bitch and moan about that one (what a coincidence!). It still feels like it came out yesterday. Those wounds run deep.
Everyone applauded when the movie FINALLY started. They applauded the Lucasfilm Ltd. logo, they applauded when “a long time ago in a galaxy far far way…” And they of course applauded the Star Wars logo. At the end of the movie, I think the reaction was mixed. This movie couldn’t be helped but be overhyped. So most expectations were bound not to be met or fully realized for that matter.
It’s a weird feeling when you enter a theater in the dark of the night, and then come out of it early in the morning with the sun rising up slowly. Some people were still camped out in front of the theater, sleeping in their sub-zero sleeping bags. I myself drove back to my apartment and crashed into bed.
Last I heard, it had the biggest opening day in box office history. Bigger than “Jurassic Park: The Lost World.” Surprise, surprise, surprise! I guess it could be on it’s way to becomming the biggest grossing domestic film of all time. But then again, the $600 million gross of “Titanic” will be hard to beat.
Well, I still like the movie, even if everyone is the agreement that this Star Wars film is easily the worst of them all. Jar Jar Binks didn’t bother too much with the exception of the fact that every other phrase that came out of his mouth sounded like,
“ME SO HORNY!!”
Seriously! Watch the movie again sometime and you’ll see!
“Hello Jedi! Me Jar Jar Binks! Me so horny!”
Looking back, things have not really changed in the way movies are advertised. Every big summer movie that comes out these days wants to be seen as the most anticipated film of all time.
The next two movies were an improvement, even if the shadow of the original trilogy always hovered of these prequels.