Revisit the Shattered Dreams of ‘The Phantom Menace’ as ‘Star Wars’ Fans React After First Screening
One week and three days separate us from the premiere of a science-fiction/adventure film called Star Wars: the Force Awakens on December 18, the latest sequel in a franchise that began in the late '70s. With bated breath, fans await what they’re certain will be a new masterpiece, J.J. Abrams returning the series to the lofty stature it once rightfully enjoyed. Hope springs eternal, as they say, but we’d be remiss not to at least temper that hope a smidgen by introducing a cold, troubling reality check.
It was sixteen years ago that the Star Wars faithful had come out in droves to bear witness to another lead installment of a planned trilogy, the Phantom Menace. The climate prior to the film was absolute bedlam; the premiere was a legitimate cultural event, with fans setting up tents days in advance outside theaters to ensure that they'd have a good seat for the motion picture experience of a lifetime. Costumes with detail seldom found outside of Comic-Con abounded, with Darths Vader and Maul freely commingling with Jedi and more Yodas than you can shake a gnarled walking stick at.
But as a vintage clip from Entertainment Tonight that recently surfaced on YouTube shows, tragedy lurked just around the corner. The clip contrasts before-and-after reviews with fans outside Phantom Menace screenings, capturing the agony and ecstasy of a film many felt desecrated the integrity of the films that preceded it. One poor bastard in a Darth Vader mask even says, “There’s no way it’s gonna be a disappointment!” Have we considered the possibility that this man’s hubris alone caused the prequel trilogy to be such a slog?