Originally published February 11th, 2012
The circle is now complete… If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ve already finished the line. If you’re a baseball fan that’s coming back for an update on the Mariners or Spring Training (since after all, Pitchers and Catchers reported today,) you’re probably wondering “What the hell is this?!” Hey, I was honest upfront! There are going to be those days when I go a different direction and today is one of them, but don’t worry, there will be plenty more baseball hitting this page!
I don’t remember seeing Star Wars for the first time. My dad insists he took me, and judging from pictures of me in Star Wars pajamas from 1977 (and into the 80’s!), I’ll take his word for it. My dad and I have always bonded over a few things: Football, poor career choices, and movies. Movies were an escape for me growing up. I can’t count how many movies I saw in the theater, plenty of them with my dad, and plenty without. Odds are high that if something was blowing up in the movie, my dad would be in. Even now we’ll get together for movie days here at the house or at the theater. Which brings me back to Star Wars. Dad took me to every Star Wars movie in the theater. By the last two prequels it felt like we were closing a chapter in a way. Sure we’d see (and have seen) plenty of movies, but I knew we weren’t going to have that same kind of movie anticipation again.
Megan was five years old before I let her watch Star Wars. I wanted her to be old enough to stay interested and have a feel for what was going on. She really liked it, especially since I’d sold her on it with a bowl of popcorn and a box of Redvines beforehand. Maddy was able to watch them soon after that. We’ve watched the original trilogy more than once, every time with the blinds pulled closed and bowls of popcorn to go around. On any given day, you’ll find a minefield of figures or spaceships in the living room, and Megan had us go on Star Tours 5 times when we went to Disneyland during the summer. I’d held off on showing them the pre-Trilogy for a few reasons. First and foremost, there’s a lot I don’t like about them, and secondly because they’re surprisingly violent when you compare them to the original series. (The Clone Wars series can be violent too, but it’s very good, check it out!) I knew when I saw the 3D trailers that the girls would have a chance to see it, and in the theaters, the way Star Wars is meant to be seen. Which, brings me to today.
I was excited to take my kids to see Star Wars in the theater. I told the girls how I had been looking forward to it, and that my dad, Grandpa, had taken me to see them too. I realized then that I’d wished I’d asked my dad to go. My wife asked me why I didn’t call him right now? With less than an hour before it was set to start, I called him up and asked him to come along. When he met us there he gave the girls a big hug and told them he was excited to watch it with them. It was popcorn around, the trailers played, the lights went down, and… A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
I’m ecstatic we could watch it together. The Phanton Menace is exactly how I remembered it: Not very good, and pretty dull. But that wasn’t the point. For me, it was about bonding and sharing the experience I’d had when my dad took me to a different darkened theater that long time ago…
So what did they think? They liked it. Megan was locked in and asked a few questions during the movie — mostly about what was going on with the whole political angle. She was also confused on when Amidala was really the Queen vs when she wasn’t. (Don’t overcomplicate it, Lucas!) Maddy liked it too, but only “kind of”. The final council debate put her over the edge to ancy-town. “Daddy, when is this going to be over.” By the end of the movie, and after another big hug from Grandpa, they were happy. I was happy to. It was a good day, even when the kids told me that Jar Jar was their favorite character…
Take your kids to see Star Wars in the theater. Is the Phantom Menace still bad? Yep, no amount of improvements are going to shine that thing up. But that’s not what it’s about! Most of you who are parents now grew up in that Star Wars “age”. It was a phenomena for most of us growing up, and we’d be cheating our kids to not take them too. Do them a favor though, don’t sour it for them! It’s OK if you don’t like it, but don’t try to convince your kids they won’t like it either. Whether you like it or not, if your kid is under 8yrs old, they’re going to like Jar Jar Binks. Just deal with it and know that when they’re more “sophisticated” like you or me that they’ll agree that Empire is the best one of the series. But until then, just let them enjoy it because it’s Star Wars!
Now for one quick “grownup” gripe:
The movie didn’t look or sound all that great. For the money, I was hoping the picture would have looked better. I saw it at a Regal RPX theater and it looked like a pretty poor upconversion. The sound was really underwhelming too. For the ads and the hype, it would have been nice if they’d put some money into either 1) cleaning it up and/or 2) revisiting scenes or segments. The podrace could have been amazing if they’d done it right! Quite honestly, your best Star Wars 3D experience is in Disneyland.
Three things that would have made The Phantom Menace a better movie, none of which involve Jar Jar Binks:
- Anakin should have been older. Imagine how much better the movie would have been if the kid had been 13-15yrs old. He could have had a more mature outlook on life as a slave, and I think the emotional impact of leaving his mother behind could have been better. An older Anakin would have given more tension to the relationship he’d had in meeting Padme’ and a more brotherly feel to Obi Wan. I understand that having a kid play Anakin was trying to help identify with kids in the audience, but Lucas is underestimating their intelligence! I never had a hard time pretending to be Luke when I was a kid. Kids would have identified and liked Anakin just as much if he had been a little older.
- Cut out about a half hour of politics. I get it, you’re trying to establish why all of this stuff is happening, it’s part of a big conspiracy to take over the universe, but it’s dull. Lucas should have screened it with a theater of 10yr olds to determine pacing. If he had, we’d have had a lot less Senate.
- Save the world on purpose! Nothing is lamer than having your developing hero, Anakin Skywalker, best starpilot in the galaxy, save the world on accident. I’m in the ship! Whoops, it’s taking off and I don’t know how to fix it. Hey, we’re in the big ship! Whoops, I just fired these canons and blew everything up. My hero! C’mon, Lucas! He’d crashed in there — suspend disbelief for just a second and say that could happen — what was wrong with Anakin just looking around and blasting in there on purpose? But instead, he saves the world on accident. Lame.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Play Ball!