Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

 

Star Wars is simply too big to fail. Otherwise, there’s no explanation for its ubiquity, despite the prequels. When Wanda and I walked out of the theater after having seen The Phantom Menace, I swore George Lucas had taken his last dime from me. I was angry. Flat out angry. I felt like a member of the audience at the Sex Pistols Winterland show. And yet last night I spent $21.64 for the privilege of suffering through it again. I know, right? First world problems. The kids wanted to see it, and the the plan is to re-watch all of them in episode order as a lead up to going to see this new one. I can console myself at least with the thought that I haven’t actually broken my promise as presumably Bob Iger is the one getting my money now.

 
George Lucas’ creative genius is unparalleled.  There’s no question about that.  That one guy is responsible for both the Star Wars and the Indiana Jones’ franchises is just ridiculous. He’s the Robert Johnson of the film world. And yet the steaming pile of poo that is The Phantom Menace along with the many happy accidents behind the development of the original Star Wars point to serendipity as the true force (pun intended) behind episodes IV-VI. 
 
In 1976, Star Wars, of course, was not what it is today, and George Lucas was not given complete creative freedom. Had he been, we wouldn’t have had Alec Guiness as Obi Wan, and the cinematography would have looked substantially different. The addition of Guiness, in particular, was extremely fortunate. The intent of bringing him in was to lend some gravitas to the project. He did that and more. Per the Wiki, Lucas, a loner uncomfortable around large groups of people, “rarely spoke to the actors, who felt that he expected too much of them while providing little direction.” At that time, Lucas had completed just two films. They are two very good films, yes, but they are not on the same scale as Star Wars. Guiness, on the other hand, had an extensive filmography under his belt and was there to fill the directorial void. Lucas credits him as as having “contributed significantly to the completion of the filming.” Although it’s well known that Guiness did not think much of his role, especially  the dialogue, by all accounts he was a consummate professional who mentored those around him, and as someone who had negotiated for a portion of the royalties, he certainly had a vested interest in seeing the project succeed.
 
Okay, so one down, two more to go to get back to something that’s actually worth watching.  Sigh. Oh well, regardless it’ll be a certain amount of fun watching them with the kids!
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