As I write this, exactly 15 years ago, I was seeing "Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace" for the fourth time. I'd go on to see it seven times that first weekend, finding new things to love about it every time. For me, so much of what makes "Star Wars" is the familiarity that comes from knowing every working part of it, knowing every line, every pause. That first weekend, all those years ago, put me firmly on my path to make sure the first of the prequels made its way into the deep recesses of my brain in heart.
Despite my overwhelming love of the film, there are some who don't like it as much, and that's fine, too. Maybe some didn't see what there was to love about it, others found characters obnoxious. Others still didn't stick around to let it grow on them. Many of us, though, (most if the data we do have is accurate) enjoyed it with a grin.
Regardless of how we feel about it, though, there's no doubt that 15 years ago, the release of a new "Star Wars" movie changed how we see and hear and watch movies today.
In order for a theatre to even be allowed to screen the movie, they needed to upgrade their sound systems to brand new THX specifications. Letters went out with film prints reminding theatre projectionists to keep an eye out for the utmost in sound and picture quality. These are things that started us down the path of the high quality movie houses we enjoy today.
"Phantom Menace" also featured the first completely digital, seamlessly integrated character, paving the way for characters like Gollum, the new King Kong, and the entire animal cast of the new "Planet of the Apes" films. It sparked a new renaissance in practical and CGI effects and did so in a way that didn't skimp on spectacle.
It holds a special place in my heart. I love the film dearly. I know every line by heart (just like all the other "Star Wars" movies) and I feel like it's earned its place in the lexicon of "Star Wars." It's hard to believe 15 years have passed since it was released. I was fresh out of high school back then, managing a movie theatre, and hoping to get my start in the creative fields of filmmaking, journalism, and writing. "Phantom Menace" inspired me, inverting aspects of the hero's journey, and I wouldn't be any where I am today without it.
"The Phantom Menace" was an important experience, not just culturally, but for me personally, and for that I will be forever grateful.
Going back and revisiting the film on its 15th birthday does nothing but add to my excitement of all the "Star Wars" there is still yet to come.
For our newest episode of Full of Sith, we recorded a special dedicated to what it was like in the run up to the film, an interesting and fun conversation I hope you'll enjoy.