More Phantom Menace release remembrances (and for my money, the final lightsaber fight with Darth Maul is the best duel [actionwise] of the six movies):
When Phantom Menace was released I had been home from my mission just under two months. My friend had recently inherited his grandparents 1969 Chevy Camper. A week before Phantom opened we heard a line was forming down at the wynnsong movie theater in Provo. We drove the Chevy Camper down to the theater and staked our claim in the line. My friends and I took turns manning the camp and the rest of the time we ran around skateboarding and causing problems for other people waiting in line. Although Phantom didn't turn out as amazing as I would had hoped, the week waiting in line was one of the most unbound fun times in my life. Whenever I think of Phantom I think that amazingly fun time.
Yeah that was such a great memory, the anticipation was crazy, in large part because it was only a few years previous to correspond with the twentieth anniversary of the original release that Lucas released those "Special Editions" of the three films to theaters and the hype for those was insane. It seems like it was during that promo campaign that they started telling audiences they were at work on the prequels which got audiences salivating at what the “new” one would be like. Theaters were totally sold out. I was an undergrad at Westminster College and Valentine, a buddy of mine, got tickets to a showing at the Century Theaters on State Street, they were new at the time (well they were new at the “new” location they moved a few blocks) and were the first theaters around with stadium seating so it seemed like a pretty big deal to see the “new” Star Wars there. I skipped class to go to a 12:20 showing on opening day. I have three poignant memories of the showing:
- Darth Maul was wandering around the parking lot and up and down the line on the sidewalk wearing black cowboy boots, I thought it was so great that the space villain was also a cattle rustler.
- Two words, NATALIE PORTMAN, girlfriend stole my heart and never gave it back, dude, I couldn’t sleep for a week.
- At the climax when Obi-Wan Kenobi is hanging on that ledge and does that flip up and chops Darth Maul in pieces, oh man, the whole place went nuts, people were going berserk, whistling and clapping and yelling. In my experience, I can’t remember another time where a movie audience was more unified than at that moment, no one could get over the awesome, it was just so unexpected and perfect. I still love that scene.
Living in Provo. Of course we got tents and sleeping bags and slept outside of the theatre the day before, waiting to be able to buy tickets for the show the next day. Many people brought light sabers and battled eachother in line.
Mostly I remember some truck doing a drive-by waterballooning in the middle of the night, and being unsure if I had chosen the right side of the waterballoons to be on.
Two weeks before the release of the Phantom Menace, we moved to Fiji, where the release date didn't coincide with that of the U.S. About a month later, the Phantom Menace made its way to the Pacific Island and although the show was one of the longest running at the local theater (maybe one month), Fijians didn't have the same history with the Star Wars franchise as Americans. However, watching Episode I in a room full of Pacific Islanders helped my fully understand the existence of Jar Jar Binks--everytime he opened his mouth, Fijians broke out in hysterical laughter.
Thanks to all the contributors and remember, it's never too late to share your Episode One feelings.