It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a quarter of a century since Star Wars: The Phantom Menace first graced our cinema screens. This film marked the beginning of the prequel trilogy and introduced us to a new era of the Star Wars saga, and while many OG Star Wars (SW) fans left theaters disappointed, I was refreshingly surprised and excited for the storyline between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. What happened to these brothers that drifted them apart by Star Wars: A New Hope?

A Long Time Ago, in a Theater Near You: May 19, 1999

Directed and written by George Lucas, The Phantom Menace brought us iconic characters like young Anakin Skywalker, Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, Queen Padmé Amidala, and the sinister Sith duo, Darth Sidious and Darth Maul. The film was a landmark in the development of visual effects and became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, even compared to A New Hope! That’s right, OG SW nerds, The Phantom Menace beat A New Hope at the box office, $431,088,295 to $307,263,857, most likely due to the number of theaters the film opened in (3,126 for The Phantom Menace vs. 1,750 for A New Hope).

As an OG Star Wars Nerd, I Liked The Phantom Menace

Many OG SW fans did not exactly roll out the welcome mat for the first prequel episode. While it was rather slow and Darth Maul wasn’t in it as much as many would’ve liked, what I did enjoy was the politics, the subtle scenes of treachery, and the introduction of Darth Maul, along with Darth Sidious aka Senator Palpatine.

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And one cannot forget the epic Duels of the Fates lightsaber battle with Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul, with the musical composition done by no other than the brilliant John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra.

The anticipation for The Phantom Menace was immense, with fans eagerly awaiting the return of the Star Wars franchise after a 16-year hiatus following the release of Return of the Jedi. The film’s release was a significant cultural event, with extensive media coverage and fan excitement, which also brought with it the “hater” culture.

Original Trilogy (OGs) vs. Prequel Fanbase

It’s easy to be a “hater” of change or on something different when it comes to the Star Wars universe. Everyone has their view on the story, the trivia, the culture, the fan fictions, the ‘whose who’ of the best Jedis, etc. My take on the OGs vs the Prequel fans is the OG fans were more the hater than the embracer, and over time as well as some OG fans becoming parents, views of the prequels shifted as well to, “Yeah that actually was pretty cool.”

Let us OG nerds not forget that we were kids once too, and during the original trilogy in all of its glory, we were amazed by it. As an adult, I still love OG over the Prequels for many reasons including nostalgia, the tech at the time is more raw and grittier to me (which I enjoy artistically and aesthetically) than the smoothness CGI brought to the screen.

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However at face value, if you strip away the nostalgia and the evolution of the tech used, I would bet the original trilogy today would not be seen as fantastically as it was when it first dawned on the big screen. I would even venture a guess it would be listed as a B-List cult movie, with not even getting past A New Hope unless there was an underground following.

That’s where I feel for Prequel fans of The Phantom Menace while understanding why many OG fans resented it, with some still today thinking it was the worst which…Attack of the Clones? Really? That was pretty bad. Did you see the lightsaber battles of Dooku vs Anakin vs Yoda at the end? Pretty rough to watch and listen to.

Launch Day in the Theaters: May 3, 2024

While The Phantom Menace may not have been appreciated by OG SW fans then, the OGs shouldn’t shun it today. The Phantom Menace was made for a new generation of kids, and it is upon us OG Master Jedi’s to embrace it as such. And as an OG fan, you can’t tell me none of us OG nerds didn’t revel at least a little bit in poking fun at characters such as Jar Jar Binks or become even more fan boys and chicks with the introduction to Podracing, Darth Maul (who is this??), and what was going to happen to the most infamous anti-hero/villains of all time: Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader.

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Now, with the celebration of its 25th anniversary, this re-release allows yet another new generation of fans to experience the magic of Star Wars and The Phantom Menace on the big screen, and for those of us who remember its original release, it’s a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Feeling old yet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of the Star Wars saga. So, whether you’re an OG nerd, a Prequel fan, or are new to the franchise, let’s celebrate this milestone together!

~May the Force Be With You~

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