The Phantom Menace is relevant right now 20 years after it’s original release.
I loved it. I consumed it. I collected it. I was 12 years old. More on that later.
Right now, you get to read a rambling third of my history with Star Wars.
I don’t remember how old I was, but my first memory of Star Wars was watching the sarlacc pit scene of Return of the Jedi on cable on the basement TV (it was a Zenith.) My dad caught me watching and asked, “Do you like this?”
I said yes.
He disappeared in the closet for a few minutes and came back out with the VHS three pack. “Here. Start with the first one.”
Episode I: The Obsession Rises. I was not in control of my own finances, so I didn’t have complete autonomy on how my consumption progressed. My father was supportive, however. Boba Fett was the first action figure I got. The second was a cereal box mail-in stormtrooper with removable helmet to reveal Han Solo underneath. A cascade of toys followed.
Then, the mother lode.
Rebel Assault. Not only did I get to live through the Star Wars universe, I got to blow up the Death Star. I played the game so much, I wore it out. Ask anyone if they remember Commander Ru Murleen and if they don’t have a television-style flashback, they don’t know this game.
My father was an early adapter of Apple products. My first PC was in college. We were only allowed education games, for the most part (your Mathblasters, Super Solvers, Carmen Sandiegos, and Swamp Gas Visits the United States of America.) This was the first game-game I had. He followed it up with Rebel Assault II and TIE Fighter because all other X-Wing franchise games weren’t available for Mac.
There’s so much more. Star Wars introduced me to the adult section of the library, it got me into video-editing. Star Wars launched me to a level of curiosity in media that you can only get once in a lifetime.
Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for:
The Phantom Menace
I was 12.
Blue iMacs in the computer lab.
A grassy hill. The slow roll of the tanks. I memorized that trailer.
“I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war.”
(I’m now informed that this was the second trailer, but it’s the one I remember getting on the school computer.)
It was me and one other kid, before YouTube, breaking through firewalls to get the trailer. So many broken links.
There was so much joy, so much excitement. I collected all the Pepsi cans. I read the book. I knew more about the movie before I saw it. I was young and not jaded.
The movie itself:
The lightsaber fights against the droids. Amazing. Qui-Gon using his lightsaber to melt through the blast shield. A dream come true. The thrill of watching a fast-paced lightsaber battle, the thrill of two Jedi fighting one Sith with a double-bladed saber at the speed and intensity they were going was awesome to behold. What did this mean for lightsaber battles in the future?
R2D2’s origin story. I loved that he was able to complete the job while all the other droids got blasted off. And, the queen recognized him for his (its?) service. Even if it was a decoy at that point, I still thought the gesture was important.
Jedi using the Force like they used the Force in the video games. Force jump, Force speed, holding their breath for extended periods of time. It was thrilling to see Jedi masters finally doing what I knew they could.
I didn’t mind Jar Jar. I’m sure on some level he was annoying. I didn’t want his toy. He was essentially a useless character, a Forrest Gump who bumbled his way through much more important events.
The podrace was thrilling. Seeing Jabba’s stranglehold on Tatooine seemed to clear something up in my mind. Tatooine was basically immune from the influence of both Republic and Empire both. Having read the book, I knew that humans could not race pods. The only reason Anakin could was because of his connection to the Force. He used the Force to survive. I liked that Watto could resist the Jedi mind trick, because Jabba could, too. Scum and villainy, remember.
Seeing so many Jedi was amazing.
For me, Qui-Gon’s and Obi-Wan’s battle with Darth Maul and Amidala re-taking the castle were the best parts.
I think I got a lot of the toys before the movie came out, but that’s more hazy. I had the oversized Gillette razor communicator that played the soundbite chips that came with each action figure. I loved the Battle Droids. I loved the “roger, roger” soundbite the best. I loved my droid on his Stap the best. I loved Star Wars. And, my love for Star Wars extended to The Phantom Menace. It was finally a new entry into the world that wasn’t a computer game, wasn’t a book, it was finally something that everyone would share with me. They would get back into the universe. It would be relevant to everyone, not just me, and that’s what mattered.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed The Phantom Menace. I ignored the things I didn’t like, but, to this day, I still vividly remember the things I liked about it. Maybe it was made for kids, maybe it wasn’t. Nothing can take away my joy and excitement I got from it.
An elegant emotion for a more civilized age.
Also, if my aunt is reading this, I don’t apologize for making you do Darth Maul make-up on my face more times than I remember. I do, however, want you to realize that I remember and it still means a lot to me.
You guys know there’s a Robin Hood movie coming out this year, right? Because there was a Robin Hood movie out almost 16 minutes ago and God help us if we go 15 minutes without rehashing the same old, same old.
Every time we get a new version of a beloved property, there’s some twist. Like, Sherlock, but modern! Sherlock, but steampunk! Sherlock, but Watson’s a girl! Sherlock, but Sherlock’s a girl…STOP! Bridge too far!
From what I can tell, this new Robin Hood is like Ocean’s 11, but with arrows, I guess? I mean, there’s a big casino scene in the trailer and extended training sequences and Jamie Foxx dodging arrows like it’s The Matrix and…I’m tired. I’m just going to make popcorn at home and take a nap.
Hey! You guys know there are 6 Joker movies in development? We’re rehashing fresh hash! How many times are we going to see Bruce Wayne’s parents die in movies that are supposed to be about tangential characters? Putting my bet in for at least 3.
The Mummy, but the mummy’s a girl!
Superman, but he’s dark and brooding!
King Arthur, but he’s in a biker gang!
Instead of whining about the nonsense, I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring. It’s time to make MY remakes, Hollywood.
Here are my pitches:
- Sherlock IS Watson
For this one, Sherlock is just a normal, crazy opioid addict. But, being on drugs has given him a dissociative identity disorder. When he’s on morphine, he’s the crime solving Sherlock we all know and love. When he’s sober, he’s the more sound-of-mind, but less brilliant Watson, a disgraced doctor who got addicted to opioids when he was a practicing physician. When he’s on meth, he’s Moriarty, setting up puzzles for his morphined self. He’s also the police commissioner, his own housekeeper, the lead violin virtuoso of the London Philharmonic, his own love interest, somehow, and Nexton Wingnut, that new character in Star Wars. We’ll figure that out later.
2. Robin Hood in a modern setting
I know what you’re thinking:
“Kate, if we put Robin Hood in a modern setting, isn’t that just Green Arrow?”
No, it’s not.
“Yes, put a lot of the vigilantism performed by Green Arrow has parallels to Robin Hood. And, the main thing about Robin Hood is that he wears a hood and shoots arrows. That’s Green Arrow.”
No, it’s not.
“But, the show Arrow has gone to great lengths to build up Arrow’s support team as a modern version of the Merry Men, so you wouldn’t be able to differentiate between Arrow and a modern retelling of Robin Hood.”
Yes, we would.
“Fine. How is is different?”
Ours will be called Robin Hood.
3. King Arthur
But, he’s a time traveler. The once and future king. Get it? Also, maybe he’s a woman. Or has dissociative identity disorder and is also Lancelot.
4. Beauty and the Beast
A CGI remake of the live action remake of the animated film where we try to fix the problems in the live action movie that arose when we tried to fix what we thought were problems in the animated movie, but weren’t so much plot holes as nitpicking people with blogs and YouTube channels (she said unironically).
5. Romeo and Juliet
In most of the movie adaptations for Romeo & Juliet, they sort of gloss over the part where Romeo is being all broody about Rosaline. Who’s Rosaline, you may ask, because she’s never in any of the movies.
Rosaline is the teenage chick that Romeo is desperately in love with at the beginning of the play. Yes. That’s right. Romeo is all love sick puppy because he’s got the hots for Roz, but she doesn’t love him back. He is a horny teenager.
My belief is that Romeo & Juliet is not just the first (recorded?) melodramatic young adult romance, it is also the first (recorded?) farce of a melodramatic young adult romance. It’s not just the first Twilight, it’s the first Twilight parody.
Do a modern language retelling of Romeo & Juliet, but have Mercutio be much more obvious with his commentary about how dumb it is for Romeo to think he’s going to marry the first girl he meets in high school, especially after he just got over his summer camp romance.
Wait, did I just write Grease? Is Grease secretly Romeo & Juliet?
But, lately, whenever anyone gives me grief about the movies I’ve deemed good enough to own, I have a response:
There’s a moment.
When we think of our favorite movies, do we think about how great the movie was, how amazing the cast performed, how wonderful the soundtrack is?
Well, yes. Those are things you take into consideration.
But, usually, you have a moment. You have that one scene in the film where you were all in. It’s not a forgotten art. The Moment is a gut-punch. It’s the emotional moment that grabs you by the throat and pulls you in. When you see the Moment, you know there’s so much more, something deeper there. Something more to be mined.
And, there can only be a Moment. You can’t make a whole movie of Moments. Without what surrounds it, a Moment is nothing. The rest of the movie can be awful, as long as it has that one, great Moment to raise it above everything else.
The Moment is more prevalent in dramas, but it also comes in other movies. It doesn’t matter how many fight scenes, how great the CGI, without a Moment, it’s just another movie.
I’m a Moment Hunter. And, it’s not easy. Not every movie has one. You have to dig through a lot of garbage to find any treasure. As a writer, I always wonder if I can capture a Moment. Will I recognize it when it floats through my brain? Will it mean as much to me as it would to a reader or a viewer?
What’s your favorite Moment? Is there a movie you love just for its Moment?
Oh, hey. The Hunger Games Subway Commercial parody is now on Funny or Die. So, vote funny if you laugh!