Sunday, November 05, 2006

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) [second viewing, first since theatrical release]

Now I know why I've been avoiding a rewatch. There was something wonderful in the air when I saw Episode I on its opening night -- an intoxicating melange of fanboy enthusiasm, anticipatory glee and the theatrical experience as group celebration -- that made the experience, and thus the film, a memorable cinematic time. The clearest way I could express it to people who asked was stating that, for two-and-a-quarter hours, I was a wide-eyed six-year-old again. The more I thought about the film to which the experience was attached, though, the more I started to think that I wasn't quite looking at it through clear eyes. My nonplussed reaction to the subsequent two installments of the Second Trilogy only amplified this unease, to the point where I was genuinely afraid to revisit Episode I -- I didn't want to invalidate my original happy feelings. But I knuckled down and finally gave the first portion of Lucas's Folly another spin, and it was everything I'd feared it was; divorced from the excitement of that confluence of influences, Episode I is indeed the paltry, stillborn mess that disappointed fanatics the world over have repeatedly decryed. I'd go into what all is wrong with the film (starchy, long-winded plotting; stilted, declamatory acting; plug-ugly dialogue; the general valuing of sensation at the expense of everything else; the shuckin' 'n' jivin' Sambo Binks), but, as Bill Hicks would say, you in your hearts all know the goddamn arguments. And that's depressing, having something you once loved denuded and revealed as a meager thing. But I realized something in the midst of my disappointment -- even though my opinion of the film in question has lowered significantly, that doesn't devalue my initial experience in the slightest. I may have been marveling in joy at a film that dries up like a crusty turd when removed from the inital shock of the new, but that doesn't mean the marvel wasn't genuine. We can't go home again, but we can at least remember and appreciate where we've been, no?

Grade: C (down from B+)


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