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Scum & Villainy: Star Wars Episode I

So.  Sigh.  The Star Wars Prequels.

Its interesting to me to look back now, some years distant, on Episodes I-III.

For someone like myself who grew up with the Original Trilogy but who has no memory of seeing those films released, it was an incredible thing to be able to experience the release of three new Star Wars films.  At the time, of course, the tremendous excitement of the build-up was also accompanied by the crushing disappointment of actually seeing the films.  Especially Episode I.  I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed sitting in a movie theatre.  Going in, it really never occurred to me that the film would be bad.  That notion just never crossed my mind.  And yet, only 5 minutes in, when suddenly those Japanese-sounding Trade Federation aliens in very fake-looking rubber masks came on screen, I have a distinct memory of starting to shift uncomfortably in my seat.  Then Qui-Gon and Ob-wan find themselves on Naboo, and they meet Jar-Jar…and then they go to the city of Jar-Jars…and then they travel through the planet’s core which is filled not with molten lava but with water…and then they’re attacked by a fish but a bigger fish eats that fish and Qui-Gon says “there’s always a bigger fish” and then two minutes later the exact same thing happens and oh my god we’re only 25 minutes into this movie and it is BRUTAL.

But, watching that film for the first time, I was still filled with hope that, OK, the introduction is slow, but maybe Lucas was thinking about the saga as a 12-hour, 6-movie saga, and so the opening of a 12-hour saga would be a little longer than the opening of a 2-hour movie, so I should relax and be patient.  No, I didn’t give up all hope until about an hour and a half into the movie, when our motley band of heroes visited Coruscant.  Finally, FINALLY we were getting to see Jedi in their prime – and not just ANY Jedi, but the Jedi Council.  And what happens?  They sit and talk.  And they are not just boring, but they are stupid.  I don’t mean stupid as in, “its silly to take grown men wearing lightsabers who talk about vergences in the Force seriously” kind of stupid.  No, I mean stupid as in I have been totally emotionally involved in the world of Star Wars and Jedi since I was a kid and here we finally meet the greatest of the great of the Jedi and they are so colossally stupid and inept that, after Qui-Gon reveals to them that he’s discovered the existence of the first known evil Sith Lord in thousands of years, what do they decide to do?  Do they send hundreds of their best Jedi to comb Naboo in order to confront and eliminate this new menace?  Nope!  They decide it’s a better idea to just send one rebellious Jedi, his apprentice (who, by the way, we’re told over and over again is reckless, but who spends the entire movie just saying “yes master” to Qui-Gon), the boy they just proclaimed too dangerous to train, and one spastic Gungan.  THAT kind of stupid.

And my mind was still trying to wrap my head around that when our heroes boarded a space-ship and Jar Jar shouted “weesa going home” and I turned to my buddy sitting next to me and said something like “hoo boy.”  And I’ve spent the subsequent 10 years of my life trying to figure out what exactly went wrong that resulted in the existence of this terrible movie.

So that was my experience of seeing Episode I in the theatres for the first time, in May of 1999.  Have my thoughts about that movie changed with 10 years’ distance?  Click here and let’s chat!

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