Twenty years ago, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace changed movies forever


On May 19, 1999, George Lucas changed the movies forever. The long-awaited Star wars prequel Episode I: The Ghost Threat in theaters, returning to a world the fans never thought of seeing again. For some, the excitement turned into confusion, perplexity and sheer anger when the credits took place, and Lucas's great cinematic experience was about to begin. Watching the movie two decades later, The ghost threat It's proven to be a forerunner of the cinematic environment in which we find ourselves now. It was a special effects revolution, the first idea that stories could never end, and a film where the director and the cast face a huge setback from the fans.

In 2019, we live in a world where massive and interconnected cinematic universes reign over movie theaters and where the films for which we are most nostalgic end up getting their own big-budget remakes with new faces, CGI budgets and features that the original movie The filmmakers would never have imagined. Star warsThe return to theaters seems almost inevitable, but its resurrection is not always a sure thing. Previously, Lucas has drifted far from the franchise that has built his career, although he has sometimes evoked a larger plan with two additional trilogies.

In the late 1980s, Lucasfilm began working to see if there was still life in the franchise and fired a series of novels, including the first, Timothy Zahn's Heir to the empireIn 1991, the company began to develop larger cross-promotional projects bringing together its comic books, novels, games, and figurines as a sort of test to see if all of these parties could work together. They demonstrated that Lucas' world was still viable, with cross-projects such as Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston. X-Wing series (including books, video games and comics), and The shadows of the empire (A book, a comic book, a video game and action figures). Lucas had already started working on a pre-trilogy, restored and updated the original films in time for their 20th anniversary. All of this was almost unknown at the time – but that speaks volumes about the power of the franchise vis-à-vis fans who had grown up watching movies in theaters or who had watched them since on VHS.

It is now not uncommon to see studios gather a considerable body of intellectual property to reach fans, with not only comic books and related novels, but also a wider constellation of film-based stories. In the center. In 1999, the concept of linked stories adhering to a centralized canon was not trivial. Nowadays, continuity and cannon are key concepts, as fans scrutinize each character and action to ensure that the stories they enjoy hold together when solicited.

While Star wars came ready to build with a lived world with a long experience of continuity through the mediums, The ghost threat helped to demonstrate that Lucas' world was larger than anyone could have imagined. This has kicked off an impressive series of films – though deficient – that has added a new perspective to the internal story of the franchise and has led to many other stories in the world. other media, such as animation film Wars of clones and The rebels This series builds on the broader foundations that previous films have put in place and has often improved them by adding context and additional details to the world. Lucasfilm's standalone prequels, Thief A and Solo, each benefited from these efforts and helped to demonstrate that the franchise could stand alone, far from the main films of the Skywalker saga.

In the end, the great experience of Lucasfilm prefigured the film industry: the studios do not usually invest in a single film: they invest in worlds. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, he did not do it with the intention of making two films: he bought the company's vast and deep legacy of intellectual property: thousands and thousands of characters and stories that it will probably operate for decades.

It's the same for Marvel and his huge catalog of heroes and stories. The legendary version of Godzilla no longer comes into the theaters with a city to crush alone: ​​it meets a pantheon of other cinematographic monsters, with the potential that each crossover will attract larger crowds around the world. Indeed, while the word "Prequel" was invented in the 1950s, The ghost threat introduced it into the lexicon of popular culture and gave birth to a whole new genre of films that helped pave the way (for better or for worse) to other classic films, such as Prometheus / Alien: Alliance, The thing, or The Hobbit trilogy.

Lucas's efforts led to the return of the franchise. In all cases where expectations were left untouched for a decade and a half, these expectations did not fit Lucas's vision for the future of the franchise. Darth Vader, the horribly disfigured and evil antagonist of the franchise, became a six-year-old boy who shouted "Yahoo!" Jar Jar Binks, CGI's friend, was ridiculed for his voice and manners. The plot rejected as too boring and too political. It was not exactly the triumphant return that everyone was hoping for, even though it destroyed box office records and became the second most profitable movie of all time after all time. Titanic.

The reaction of fans of the original films was brutal, especially for the actors and Lucas. Ahmed Best, the actor behind Jar Jar Binks, said he was considering suicide, while Jake Lloyd said the reaction had turned his life into a "living hell" (he has since left the # 39, film industry.) Lucas expressed his frustrations in another interview, asking, "Why should I do more, when everyone is shouting at you all the time and saying how terrible you are?"

These examples have prefigured some of the reactions that actors and directors regularly face when dealing with an established franchise. Movies like ghost hunters and the last Star wars The installments dealt with ubiquitous repression by avowed fans whose personal vision for following stories they love to love does not match that of studios and creatives.

But in the 20 years since The ghost threat In movie theaters, some fans have changed their minds about the film, while children who saw it at the age of training their counterparts from Original Trilogy have sung his praise. In a notable Twitter feed, art historian Glendon Mellow listed a ton of details about the trilogy that stands out, highlighting some of the often overlooked design and subtext elements: Lucas has developed a world characterized by marginalization , colonialism and politics. And in his book, How Star Wars conquered the universe: the past, the present and the future of a multi-billion dollar franchise, Mashable editor-in-chief Chris Taylor devotes an entire chapter to the rehabilitation of The ghost threat and his successors, highlighting the many arguments advanced by fans of the three films and highlighting fans' perceptions about what movies should do not necessarily align with what Lucas was trying to accomplish.

And at the end of the day, I can understand what Lucas was trying to do: build his world in the way that he wanted it, on his own terms. The ghost threat and the rest of the avant-garde films are very different films – by design – than their predecessors. One of the valid complaints about the rest of Disney's trilogy is that it relied too much on serving fans of existing movies – which Lucas himself had observed. Indeed, the ideas that Lucas proposed for the rest of the trilogy already exist – the "would enter a microbiotic world". The revenge of the SithLucas gave a telling tip to actor Simon Pegg: "Do not do the same movie you did 30 years ago, in 30 years." The previous trilogy is certainly that one.

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