Growing up the Star Wars were my films. I was just too young to see A New Hope in the cinema but I did see Empire Strikes Back and watched in awe as the AT-ATs strode across the snowy landscapes of Hoff and gasped as Vader told Luke that he was his father. Like many children of my generation I collected the figures, ship and vehicles and looked forward to weekly trips to the local toy shop (mine was Pram and Toy in Exeter – now sadly a Poundland) with pocket money in hand and a new action figure my target acquisition.
The original trilogy ended with Return of the Jedi in 1983, so when another film was announced I was overjoyed and the countdown to Episode I began. I remember the first time I saw the teaser trailer as a friend brought it round on video (remember those?) and no word of a lie, I sat down and watched it 16 times in a row. I was absolutely captivated and I remember trying to work out what was going in that first misty woodland scene. That shot of Dart Maul turning on his double blade lightsaber was simply awesome and like nothing else I’d seen before in the Star Wars universe. Here is that very trailer on YouTube.
I queued up at midnight the day the tickets went on pre-sale and bided my time beforehand watching Cruel Intentions, a film I didn’t rate but liked more on a 2nd viewing. I managed to avoid spoilers right up to the night of the preview showing, when I stupidly read the back of the soundtrack CD and saw track 15: Qui-Gon’s Noble End – b*gger!
I came away from watching The Phantom Menace with a huge grin on my face and satisfaction that I’d seen a Star Wars film worth the 16 year wait. Imagine my shock when I went online and saw the huge backlash to Episode I. I will admit that I tend to look at the Star Wars films through rose tinted glasses but I honestly believe Phantom Menace deserves more credit than a lot of people give it.
As far as characters go, while The Viceroy may not be amongst the best, Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Ginn certainly are. I’d even go as far as saying the Qui-Gon is my favourite Jedi character in the franchise and Darth Maul is without a doubt my favourite Sith – it’s just a shame he was so criminally under-utilised. I thought the whole podracing scenes were a stunning visual and one of the many reasons I went back 4 more times to see The Phantom Menace at the cinema. A lot of criticism was targeted at Jar Jar Binks but again, I didn’t have a problem with him and my little brother, who was 5 at the time, absolutely loved him. As a franchise that targets kids in such a big way I think it needed a character like Binks and he was a great contrast to the serious Jedis, while being a great friend to the young Anakin Skywalker.
The music was as spectacular as you’d expect from a John Williams Star Wars project and Duel of the Fates is easily my favourite piece of Star Wars music ever, which was a an amazing backdrop to the brilliant lightsaber battle between Obi Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Ginn and Darth Maul – the best lightsaber battle in the Star Wars franchise. By now you’ll be noticing a that I attribute a lot of ‘bests’ to The Phantom Menace, and rightly so. Here is that amazing piece of music:
Listening to that on YouTube reminds me that I need to add this to my iPod.
There are circumstances which no doubt add to my enjoyment and memories of this film, that being that the whole build up to The Phantom menace coincides with the same period that I got together with my wife and it was also the time where I had finished university and was earning money in my first proper job. It was happy time for me anyway, but add in the film that for years I never though would be made and it was pretty much perfect.
To this day I still love Phantom Menace and even as a huge fan of the original trilogy I’d go as far as saying it’s my favourite of the 6 Star Wars films and possibly my favourite film ever, depending which day you ask me. Even just writing this blog post is getting my excited and I’ll need to watch it again soon. I read on Friday (article here) that The Phantom Menace will be getting a 3D theatrical release on February 10th 2012 and I’m super excited – expect me to be there on opening night, and a few more after that too. Podracing in 3D will be absolutely amazing. Until then I may just have to retrieve the many boxes of ‘mint in package’ Star wars figures and see exactly what I have packed in a loft, far far away.