Divisive ‘Star Wars’ Film Returns to the Big Screen

in Movies, Star Wars

Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) giving a thumbs up at the Pod Race in 'The Phantom Menace'

Credit: Lucasfilm

Given the fact that the sci-fi franchise has become a cultural phenomenon the size of the Death Star, Star Wars is once again returning to theaters. Unsurprisingly, just as Return of the Jedi made it back into cinemas in 2023, so too will Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

In 1999, George Lucas rekindled the interest in his phenomenal space opera series by kickstarting this origin story for many of our favorite characters from the galaxy far, far away. Now, fans can rediscover the prequels on the silver screen, as an official announcement from the franchise website reads,

“Announced today by Empire magazine, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace will return to theaters for its 25th anniversary starting May 3.”

Although things have certainly changed for the Star Wars universe in the past 25 years, the galaxy as we know it might not be the same if it wasn’t for this return to the series. At the time, the Phantom Menace was one of the most technologically advanced films that helped pave the way for the entries in both the series and the genre that followed.

Star Wars Returns, But Are Audiences Ready?

Anakin and Segbulba podracing in their podracers in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Credit: Lucasfilm

The Phantom Menace is the first chapter in the Skywalker Saga, and it is where audiences are first introduced to characters like Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGreggor), and a young slave boy by the name of Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd). Together, they aid Queen Amidala and the people of Naboo from the Sepratist invasion orchestrated by the mysterious Darth Sidious.

Related: Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader Return for New Crossover ‘Star Wars’

As much as the film accomplished for the medium and the franchise, it was originally met with mixed reviews that soon acted as the catalyst for some of the more volatile voices in the fandom today. That said, it was still a triumph for the studio and the medium as well.

Related: Disney Park To Do Away With Roaming Characters After Crowds Swarm Galaxy’s Edge

In the original 1999 review, film critic Roger Ebert called it “an astonishing achievement in imaginative filmmaking…” and it’s safe to say that the maxim still holds true. It might not have aged particularly well in some shades, but it still served as the springboard for other beloved entries in the franchise.

So Why So Much Hate From Star Wars Fans?

Jar Jar Binks talking to Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon in 'The Phantom Menace'
Credit: Lucasfilm

Before the days of Clone Wars or The Bad Batch, the prequel trilogy was constantly panned (until Disney’s variant soon became the new target). As pointed out by Slatethe reason most kept criticizing the films was simply because they kept comparing them to the original series.

“People talk about how the prequels dragged down the original trilogy, but what they don’t talk about is how the prequels would never have been any kind of box office hit without the original trilogy to give them a readymade support base.”

Granted, trade disputes and political thrillers are not the reasons many of us watch Star Wars, but does that mean the battle between good and evil was erased? Absolutely not.

Ray Park as Darth Maul in 'The Phantom Menace'
Credit: Lucasfilm

While not everyone is going to be a Jar Jar Binks fan, modern Star Wars aficionados can easily appreciate the pod-races on Tatooine, the lightsaber battles, the introduction of characters like Darth Maul, and even the phenomenal score by the legendary John Williams (“Duel of the Fates” anyone?).

Related: Han Solo May Have Survived, ‘Star Wars’ Suggests

Just as A New Hope (1977) and The Force Awakens (2015) were the first exposure for many fans, The Phantom Menace was the first entry into the franchise for a whole generation of viewers. The film is set to rerelease in select theaters on May 3, 2024, and the next wave of Star Wars fans is sure to embark on another trip to the galaxy far, far away.

Were you a fan of The Phantom Menace? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

in Movies, Star Wars

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