I went to see Episode I in 3D yesterday with TRC. This was my first time seeing it on the big screen, since when it came out originally, I was on my mission in Germany. I remember the buzz about the movie, though–the outpouring of hype and excitement. I experienced all of that second hand. I also heard about how bad it was–all through the filter of being on a different continent, speaking a different language.
I watched it when I got home, of course–but my relation to the movie was tainted. I didn’t have the expectations everyone else did. I was already predisposed to disappointment. I didn’t hate the film, but I didn’t love it. At the same time, I couldn’t help but think that a large part of everyone’s loathing of the movie had more to do with the fact that it wasn’t as good as their memory of the originals were. (I’ve discussed this principle elsewhere on my blog before: you can’t compete with nostalgia. You can only play on it.) I wondered what it would be like for a kid who never knew life without the prequels.
Last night, I found out.
First off, TRC had a great time. It was really fun watching him geek out over the ships, the characters, the fights. Darth Maul drove by in his ship, and TRC excitedly reminded me that we had the Lego version of it. Good eye, kid. He thought the movie was fun and exciting. His favorite parts? Jar Jar Binks. He liked how funny he was, and how he was able to be a hero, despite his clumsiness. In fact, a big part of me wonders if there won’t end up being a sort of generational divide, with Jar Jar in the middle–very much like there was a divide in Sesame Street fans over Elmo. Fans who never grew up with Elmo never liked him. Fans who did, did. Jar Jar might just end up being a popularly embraced character of the canon, after all–if TRC’s reaction mean’s anything.
So for a 7 year old, the movie plays really well. Like it or not, fans–them’s the breaks.
What did I think of the movie, older and wiser and more immersed in pop culture as I am now?
I’m going to go on the record and say that I really liked 2/3 of the movie. What Episode I is is a great movie waltzing around in a fat suit. It’s got 1/3 of extra flab that really needed to be trimmed. The pod racing? Fun times. The climactic battle? Super. The lightsaber duel? Spot on. Random expository garbage about how the force works? Blech. The machinations of Palpatine becoming the emperor? Superfluous.
The movie tried to do to much. It wanted to be an historical epic in the Star Wars verse, in addition to being a Star Wars movie, and it failed because of it. The acting was wooden, and some of the characters poorly done, but–and I risk the wrath of fans here–so’s the acting and the characters in the originals. How are Ewoks any different than Gungans? Jake Lloyd is whiny and off, just like Mark Hamill was.
In the end, the nail in the coffin for the film was the huge amount of hype. If they did a Clone Wars episode with the exact same plot today, fans would be fine with it. It’s a good movie. Just not the Best Movie of All Time.
For my son, I don’t think he’ll see much of a difference between the originals and the prequels. That’s the truth, folks. I’m just the messenger.
How was the 3D? Mostly unnoticeable. It didn’t enhance the film. But it did give Lucas a reason to rerelease the movie again, which allowed me to see it with my son in the theaters, and for that, Mr. Lucas, I thank you. Let the haters hate. I enjoyed the movie.