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“You will be a Jedi. I promise.”
There comes a time in every Star Wars fan’s life when he is confronted by the reality that the franchise isn’t quite geared towards audience members above a certain age. For those who, like me, were members of the ideal demographic target group for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace upon its release in 1999, that reality may hit a little harder than for fans whose childhoods unfolded during the heyday of the timeless original trilogy. Then again, if director George Lucas was indeed taking aim at my age group at the time, I have to congratulate him on hitting an undeniable home run.
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The first franchise entry both written and directed by Lucas since the original film hit theaters in 1977, The Phantom Menace absolutely dazzled my friends and I. Before the film had even hit theaters, we were already obsessed, having spent the months leading up to the big release by scoping out new action figures, studying character diagrams in official movie handbooks, collecting trading cards, and being tempted to read the junior movie novelization before even seeing the film. A more cynical observer might note that we were being groomed by a greedy studio eager to squeeze every penny out of us that it could. To us, though, it was nothing less than a full-blown cultural event in the best sense of the term. We felt like we were embarking together on a thrilling adventure the likes of which we had never known. When it finally came time to head to the ticket counter, we were primed, and as the lights went down we were finally transported once again to a galaxy far, far away.
The first of George Lucas’s prequel trilogy, The Phantom Menace begins as seasoned Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson)...
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