Three Ways “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” Changed My Life
I know, I know.
I’m going to start by acknowledging the fact that this film is not considered a gem in most circles. I’ve learned the mere mention of Jar Jar Binks is enough to send most “Star Wars” fans into a fit of anger. No, it doesn’t hold a candle to the original trilogy. Frankly, it’s amazing how many great actors were in it, considering there weren’t any great performances. But my god, did I love that movie when I was 10.
- A deeper appreciation of the original trilogy, which I’d already seen. Whenever we visited my uncle’s house it was either that or “Jurassic Park 2”, and you can only watch “Jurassic Park 2” so many times. “Star Wars” was fun to watch, but it took “Phantom Menace” to really kick my appreciation into high gear. There was so much excitement surrounding the new movie; it was everywhere! I read books that told me what it was like to be a young Padawan learner. I collected those Pepsi cans that featured characters and their back-stories on them. I was able to connect characters to each other and pick up on subtle details within the galaxy. “Phantom Menace” was the gateway in my re-discovery of the Star Wars universe.
- A sexual awakening of sorts. Before 1999, my girlish admirations were given to the Hanson brothers and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Cute, but they were just boys. “Phantom Menace” introduced me to the raw animal magnetism that is Ewan McGregor. So handsome and charming, with lightsaber skills to boot. And he was the perfect mix of rebellion and loyalty. Obi-Wan wasn’t afraid to speak up if he didn’t agree with the way things were going (not really a fan of Jar Jar or Anakin which, if you know the story at all, shows that he was a pretty good judge of character). However, his doubts never overshadowed his respect for Qui-Gon, and he kept his word to train Anakin into a Jedi. The “Phantom Menace” Obi-Wan was the sexy, intuitive, athletic, and brave Jedi Knight of my dreams.
- A female role model in the form of Padme Amidala. She was a 14-year old female elected leader of a prosperous little planet. She earned her place of leadership instead of inheriting it by birth. She was cautious and knew the value of a good body double. And when things got real, girlfriend proved to be quite the military strategist and frontline warrior. Her diplomatic skills got her the Gungan army and her detailed knowledge of her planet enabled her to take the palace back by force. In the later movies she’s downgraded to primarily being Anakin’s love interest and motivating his character, but “Phantom Menace” Padme was a strong and fair leader who succeeded in liberating her country from a hostile occupation.
And so, as easy as it would be to write off “Phantom Menace” as a disappointing detour on the road to a worthy “Star Wars” reboot for the new millennium (no pressure, J.J. Abrams!), I must give it credit for helping me become the cultured and empowered woman that I am today. The force is with me. I have it in spades.