Author Topic: The Phantom 5-Year Old  (Read 986 times)

Offline Muftak

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The Phantom 5-Year Old
« on: May 20, 2004, 09:00 AM »
(this is from a writing exercise I do as often as I can, just a kind of stream-of-consciousness writing. I wrote it yesterday, and figured I might as well share:)

Five years ago yesterday, Star Wars Episode I was released. I remember that day well. Nearly three weeks prior, I had called around to all the local theaters, trying to find out as much as I could about the opening day activities. I decided I would go see it at my favorite theater of the time. The Tinseltown theater was about a half-hour drive on the expressway from my house, but worth it for its deluxe auditoriums with huge screens and extremely comfortable seating. (Two years prior, I had done a marathon of A New Hope for the rerelease (all 5 showings the opening day) at the local General Cinema theater, and my neck and back had paid for it.)

There was going to be a ticket presell (the first one I can recall, definitely the first one I had attended) the week before, with the box office opening at noon. I drove down at 10:00 am to find a line already wrapping the building, tents lined up near the front. I settled in at the end of the line near the rear exits of the theaters to wait. About an hour in, my younger brother showed up to wait with me. By noon, my girlfriend also showed up. Between the three of us, we held our spot in line while also going over to the Wal-Mart across the street for refreshments, potty breaks, and (at least in my case) ogling the huge Star Wars merchandise displays for new stuff I hadn’t seen yet. I remember the line moving pretty quickly once the doors opened and everyone started going. I must’ve been out of there by 1:30 or so. I bought tickets for the midnight showing, as well as some for 11:00 am.

The night of the 18th, I worked until 8:00, then went home and changed into my Star Wars outfit: jeans and a Jawa t-shirt. It was a rainy night, and after some initial car problems that made me worry we wouldn’t make it to the movies in time, we were on our way: my girlfriend, my brother, and me. We got to the theater about 10:30, and once again found ourselves in a long line, this one waiting to get seats. The crowd was populated with many of the now-classic sights: homemade Jedi outfits, an army of Darth Mauls, plastic lightsaber skirmishes, the occasional ornately-made Amidala costume. We were near the back of the pack, and by the time we made it in most of the theater was full. We wound up in the nosebleeds, three rows from the projector. Spirits were high as the crowd waited, I remember some guys behind us having fun with a laser pointer on the screen to the groans of the rest of the mob. Management came in and made threatening noises, and when that didn’t work, one of the homegrown Darth Mauls came up to confront the guy he was sure had the laser. It was an amusing sight.

When the previews started, there was a cheer the likes of which I hadn’t heard in a theater before, followed almost immediately by the largest “boo” for the preview for “the Beach” starring Leo DiCaprio (then a rumored favorite to play adult Anakin, but mostly hated for Titanic’s success.) Other film previews flashed by: Titan AE, Fight Club, American Pie, Austin Powers 2.

Then the movie started. Applause for the 20th Century Fox drums, then more for the logo. Then more for the Lucasfilm logo. A veritable roar for the “A Long Time Ago” titlecard. Somehow the noise just kept getting louder, as the words Star Wars leaped onto the screen, culminating in the cheer when the lines Episode I: The Phantom Menace scrolled into view.

The film upon first viewing was a treat. It looked good, back before our collective eyes got weary of all the digital stuff. I remember being drawn into Liam Neeson’s performance quite a bit, while his main adversary for the bulk of the movie—little CGI Watto—reassured the fears that Jar Jar Binks was already stirring in me. The movie came to conclusion amid many cheers (and not as many groans as I’d expect, looking back), all the way thorugh the end credits, when the patient could hear the phantom breathing of a character that wouldn’t appear for another two films.

We went home afterward, talking about the eventuality of Anakin’s fall and Obi-Wan’s failure. Of whether any casual fans would pick up on Palpatine clearly being Darth Sidious. Of Threepio and Luke being half-brothers. Of the surprisingly limited use of Darth Maul after all of the promotion. We got home about 3:30 in the morning, took quick naps, and went back for the morning showing. This time we sat very close, and felt more immersed in the story and images than the night before—so close I saw the ET senators that second time.

We talked about going again that evening, but finally decided not to. I saw it plenty of more times that summer. After a few viewings, it was easy to see this new Star Wars wasn’t going to have the same effect on me the old ones did as a kid, but I always had a good time.
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Offline Scott

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Re: The Phantom 5-Year Old
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2004, 11:40 AM »
Its amazing how much my life has changed since that Spring night not too long ago, I've moved twice and welcomed two children into the world.  I remember the night, the chills and goosebumps I got watching the opening crawl and music.  The mania of the collecting and seeing rows upon rows of figures at Wal Mart the morning after Midnight Madness.  The lines at the Mall of America the night of the show, it was a great time and I still think the movie has gotten a realy bad rap, it isn't that bad

Offline JediMAC

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Re: The Phantom 5-Year Old
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2004, 02:11 AM »
Yeah, I remember it all so vividly as well...  I researched the various theaters too, and finally picked the ones at Universal Studios out here.  My wife actually went the day prior to opening and waited in line for a couple hours to pick up a couple pre-order tickets.  I took the next day off from work, for opening day, and we caught the noon showing.

Pretty much all the same reactions in the theater that you had Bobb.  The cheering at the curtains opening, then the 20th Cent. Fox fanfare, the Lucasfilm logo, and finally the opening crawl...

The strange part was that when the movie and end credits finally concluded, Patty looked at me to see what I thought, and I pretty much told her I wasn't ready to talk.  So we walked out of the theater, and walked 10 minutes down Universal Citiwalk, and sat in front of that famous fountain (with the world in the middle of it).  Just sat there for another 10 minutes pondering what I'd just seen, and how I felt.  Patty was growing nervous at this point I think, since she could tell I wasn't exactly elated.

I finally just said "That's what I've been so anxiously waiting for for the past 3+ years?  I'm very disappointed."  I told her how much I hated Jar Jar, loved the underutilized Darth Maul, thought the CG was a little overboard, thought the dialogue and some of the acting was "wooden", didn't like the kiddie crap (stepping in poop, farting, "yippee", etc.)  I was confused how I could be one of the biggest Star Wars fans on the planet, but not enjoy this movie very much.  It felt sacreligious almost.  I figured something must've just been wrong with me, so I went back and watched it again that weekend, and 4 more times after that (including one digital showing), to see if I could "make" myself like it more.  Never really worked.

I don't hate TPM, but it definitely didn't give me much of those "feelings" that the OT brings out in me.  I'm sure it's partially 'cause I was much older now, but I don't think that was all of it.  I think it was just a very different movie, produced and directed by a very different (older) George Lucas.  There were certainly some parts that felt kind of Star Warsy to me, and that final lightsaber battle between Qui-Gonn, Obi-Wan, and Maul, with John Williams brilliant Duel of the Fates playing, will always be one of my absolute favorite scenes from the Saga.  I think it just boils down to the fact that if Jar Jar had been removed, or just been a much more digestable character, my entire outlook would've been very different.  But I just kept dwelling on him throughout the movie, and couldn't get his stupid antics out of my head.

Oh well.  I'll still always have the OT I guess.  Or at least whatever's left of it when Uncle George is done screwing around with it...   ::)

Offline Pistol Pete

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Re: The Phantom 5-Year Old
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2004, 10:45 AM »
TPm sucked the life out of Star Wars for me, it is a total abomination and a pox on the memories of the 80's.  A 2 and a half hour toy commercial
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Offline Angry Ewok

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Re: The Phantom 5-Year Old
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2004, 01:48 PM »
The first half hour of the movie was great - the opening sequence had me certain the movie was going to be up there with the originals... But then came Jar Jar, and Jar Jar didn't go away... He kept getting screen time... and he kept annoying me... until finally... I deemed TPM a pile of ****. I'll admit I went back two more times, in a vain attempt to like the damn thing as a whole - but I can only stomache the movie on DVD - where I can skip past all of it except the opening sequence, the podrace, the battle of Naboo, and the Darth Maul/Jedi duel.

Offline Morgbug

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Re: The Phantom 5-Year Old
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2004, 01:41 PM »
TPM is bittersweet for me.  Not because of the movie, though that may play a role.  I saw it in Vancouver where I went to see my mother, who was dying of cancer.  She passed away 12 days after I saw TPM :'(  And yes, she suggested I go see it while I was there.  

That aside, I was pumped for the movie.  I had seen the previews, downloaded the trailers, done all the geeky stuff.  I did not go see it the first day, went two days after it opened in the middle of the afternoon and the theater was darn near empty.  I found that weird, but it was a weekday.  No one clapped or cheered, but the adrenaline was flowing for me anyway.  

For the most part, I enjoyed the movie in the theater tremendously.  Most parts I could handle.  

The Good
Obviously the light saber duel was spectacular.  The best in all the movies, IMO, though I have hopes it is topped in the last of the films.  
The technology of the film was good.  Weapons were well done and I could live with the ships for the most part.  I was annoyed at the difference in many ways between OT and PT ships, not clear in my mind how they would evolve, but that is more my shortcoming than anything else.  
I enjoyed both OB1 and Qui-Gonn's characters, was dismayed to see QG die.  Not nearly so dismayed as seeing Maul die, but that comes later.  
I was not at all annoyed by the "racial stereotypes" that some people chose to inflict upon the movie.  Watto/ JarJar accents did not offend me.  

The BadJake Lloyd was indeed wooden and upon reflection (and screen tests) there were better choices available.  The one thing I think he did well was to communicate the petulance of young Anakin.  

Jar Jar was incredibly aggravating and just would not go away.  And I know Brad won't agree with me, but this is a direct result of the Ewoks from ROTJ.  Prior to Return, there was no cutesy factor in these movies.  Oh sure, R2 and 3PO were there for the kids, but it was a quasi-adult humour in the style of Laurel and Hardy.  Funny without pushing too hard and without being too annoying.  Lots of tension and dark moments offset by subtle humour and heroics.  Then comes ROTJ.  Everything cruises along fine until the Ewoks show up.  Had they been a bit part, everything would have been fine, but no, Lucas has to go and make them a major feature of the movie, completely out of the 'character' of the remainder of ROTJ and the first two films.  People in general loved them (the general viewing public) and Lucas was desperate to have that back.  JarJar is the spawn of the Ewoks, ergo my hatred of the former.  As mentioned above, I did not mind the accent, but the stupidity of his actions and behaviour were absurd and an insult to Star Wars fans.  

Boss Nass also was an absurd and unnecessary inclusion in terms of character.  He didn't look like any other Gungan or resident of the underwater world that I could see.  I'd have much rather seen someone as practical as Captain Tarpals in charge.  See, I have no overwhelming dislike for the Gungans in general, their behaviour and fighting style in the film was fine.  It was the two incredibly annoying buffoons that so damaged the film.  

Darth Maul.  What!  No, the death of Maul.  I do get why it happened, to make room for the eventual rise of Vader, but I still don't believe it was necessary to kill him off in the first film.  Kill him off, yes, but not yet.  And not in such a lame fashion.  A spectacular character to be replaced in Ep II with another Sith?  No, we'll wait for a cartoon for that!?  You cannot make me believe that Lucas thought that through.  

I enjoyed the movie overall and left the theater feeling happy.  Aggravated at some parts, but not nearly so devastated as Matt.  I went back and saw it and enjoyed it again.  Only upon serious reflection and way too much time on the net have I trained myself to dislike it so.  I suspect with time it may surpass II in my mind as a better movie, simply because I so cannot stand the love scenes in the second movie.  

There was midnight madness up here btw.  I didn't go to the store (TRU) for it.  Instead I rolled into a rural Walmart about 10 in the morning and found everything I wanted.  Fantastic to see that many SW toys on the pegs, especially after Hasbro Canada screwed us with incomplete selections of POTF2 and commtech.  Little did I know we'd get screwed on the last waves of Ep I merchandise as well :'(
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Offline Muftak

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Re: The Phantom 5-Year Old
« Reply #6 on: June 2, 2004, 10:42 AM »
Glad to see I could stir up some memories. I hadn't really given TPM much thought for a while, but after writing about seeing it, I had the desire to watch it one more time. I popped it in this weekend, and was pleasantly surprised by my warm reaction. Yeah, the "whoopees" and the farts will always annoy, and I cringe when I hear "ex-squeeze me."

But the podrace is just great. I'll never get over the brilliance of the Tusken snipers there.

And Watto...I don't think I've seen a better "b" character in any Star Wars film. Greedy, but not evil. An obstacle, but not uncompassionate. When he loses the race, and everything is going right for our heroes, how can you not feel kinda sorry for Watto (who's in big trouble and he knows it...)?

And the Duel at the end. The laser doors, the tension, pure cinema.

I guess I never hated TPM. I'm just surprised how much there is to like that I'd neglected the past couple of years.
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