After work last night, I found myself wandering my town and its neighbor and almost ended up going with the crowds to see it at midnight. The usual Star Wars die-hards were there, in costume of course and why not? What film started the midnight movie going craze? That is right The Phantom Menace in 1999 and to go back to the film that started it all 13 years later seems right. I was surprised that in those lines were not just the costumed variety but fathers with their young children, children that have grown up on The Clone Wars, that were not old enough to watch the films during their theaterical runs but now are the first age to enjoy them. The Phantom Menace may skew to the younger crowd but if you want to bring up a whole new generation of Star Wars fans that only know The Clone Wars, why not start them off at this?
Alas I did not go see the film at midnight, instead opted to wander around a bit and head back home and relax. But in the morning, I put on my Darth Tater T-Shirt, put my small lightsaber on my belt and I walked the three miles to the nearest Cinemark Theater and paid for the ticket to see Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 3D, Darth Maul 3D glasses included. This being a matinee in a big family town on a school day, I did not expect many people and there were no more than 20 or so at this showing (much fewer than I saw in lines at midnight). When I see Star Wars, I usually like to see it alone and observe the screen, trying to find something I did not find before; and so breathlessly, I awaited the 20th Century Fox Logo and that music to sound and the movie to begin.
But to my surprise this was no ordinary showing, it had Star Wars all over it. This being a Cinemark theater, it began to the "First Look" where they talk about a film, a tv show etc that they want to spotlight. One of those trailers they spotlighted as the future of Star Wars the Clone Wars aka the finale starring Darth Maul, where, yes, we got to see what he looks like and I can say, it is ferally awesome! (Yes I used the term "feral" on purpose). I cannot wait for the last part of this season of The Clone Wars as it keeps on getting better and better, both in stories and animation (it really has, go from season 1 and look at 4 and there different is amazing). Then we got the donate to kids promotion that Lucas has been doing, as introduced by 3PO and R2D2, which for some reason people always still bash him for in the comments are articles. Do people have no hearts? No souls? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU WHEN YOU BASH SOMEONE OVER DOING GOOD? You did it for when he promoted Breast Cancer Awareness and again when he does this. Sheesh those are the type of people that make movie going bad for everyone, just shut up and live in your little world of fantasy where you control everything and everything and everyone is exactly as you want them to be.
Enough on the haters, they weren't there and I was. Then the music started, my glasses were put on and I again was in a galaxy far far away where I always love to be. Seeing it in 3D made me realize a few things. First of all, the print is glorious, like the blu-ray but on the big screen, you can see everything. The 3D helped make certain things pop out and I would put it in the middle of the pack. It had better 3D than movies like Thor and Tangled, not as good as Three Musketeers and Avatar, but is about the level of the likes of Tron Legacy. The scenes where you want it to really stand out, such as the battle, the Duel of Fates, and Podrace, it is awesome and done very well and impressively for a post conversion. This proves that post conversion CAN be done well.
The Phantom Menace has been my favorite Star Wars movie since I saw it back in 1999 as an 11 year old. The toys, the posters, calenders, ads, fast food promotions were everywhere, I fully got caught up into them and still have a lot of the memorbilia from 1999, something I do not have from the other two films, save for a few things here and there. The podrace, lightsaber battles, costumes, it is a beautful galaxy and TPM gave us a new look at a galaxy that suddenly got much wider, something George Lucas had not given us until just before Episode 1 with the more broader in scale, contemplative finale to Return of the Jedi (if you say the YubNub song was better than that gorgeous John Williams orchestration, you have issues).
How am I a Star Wars fan? I can roll my eyes at silly dialogue, Jar Jar stepping in poop, laugh when I need to, and enjoy the film for what it is. I can point out the daughters of George Lucas on Tatooine, know when its Keira Knightly and Natalie Portman as the Queen, knowing Matt Wood (later the Droids in Episode 3 and sound expert of the Clone Wars) is Bib Fortuna, seeing ET's in the Senate, and of course identifying Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos on Tatooine. I enjoy finding these little easter eggs, I smile knowing the backgrounds of the characters, knowing the larger story beyond them. I can smile when Anakin asks Padme "Are you an Angel?" because dang, she is! I remember having a huge crush on her as an 11 and 12 year old. And which boy my age didn't? She was awesome and gorgeous and leading into Episode 2 that definitely did not change.
I love the costumes, I love the choreography! Bob Anderson may have been a legend and gave us the fights of the original trilogy but Nick Gillard is a god. Add in the John Williams score (nothing tops a good John Williams score and The Phantom Menace has a VERY good John Williams score) and you got awesome topped with greater awesome and my fandom is happy. I read the novels, know the comics, know the games, I know the story that caused the trade dispute, I know how and why the Trade Federation started their blockade and I know what is going to happen etc. Do I need to have them to enjoy the story? No, but the fact that I do have them in my head just gives me that much more to enjoy, that much more to find! I can tell you details you find from the different commentaries, I can give you details about takes and shooting locations. I know that is Tunisia when they are on Tatooine, I know the sandstorm disaster that struck just like it did when they filmed A New Hope years before. I know the landscapes of Australia and all the hard work they put into creating the first major CGI Character on the big screen aka Jar Jar Binks. I love the Gungan walk, I love the presence of Brian Blessed (Boss Nass), Terrance Stamp (Valorum), Oliver Ford Davies (Sio Bibble), Sophia Coppola (Sache), I can find Warick Davis (its easy!), I know the voice of Darth Maul is not Ray Park but instead Shaun of the Dead star Peter Serafinowicz, I know Richard Armitage is a Naboo Pilot (did you?).
I did not need 3D to go back to see The Phantom Menace, I did not need the extra items, I would have gone anyway. Why? Because I am a Star Wars fan! I am not ashamed of this because it is a fact, I love Star Wars, I love the universe and anytime I can go and see it on the big screen, I will go because that is where Star Wars belongs! That is where the Galaxy Far Far Away looks and is the best and where all generations should have at least one opportunity to enjoy it on!