With just a week until The Force Awakens bulldozes its way into theaters and creates screaming banshees out of all of us, the anticipation level of planet Earth’s dominant humanoid species is at a level unseen since Episode I back in ’99. Despite what I’ve seen thus far, I can’t help but wonder: The Phantom Menace, or not The Phantom Menace – that is the question. As most of us can attest, our decades-long wait for another episode in the Star Wars saga, all those many moons ago, was rewarded with…Jar Jar Binks: the imperceptibly heinous concoction from the same ingenious mind of the man who had given us this vast universe of unimaginable wonders and indescribable awesomeness. This same man had, to put it succinctly, failed us. But hold onto your lug nuts, because we knew we were in for the long haul; for there were to be two more films in this trilogy. Surely the next film would be all kinds of awesome, right? I mean, there would be so much awesomeness the Oxford Dictionary would have to submit a new term to describe something of such untold magnitude! So we sat patiently, playing with our toys, reenacting scenes from the existing story and making up new ones we thought would come to fruition in the next installment.
We’d have to wait several years before our eyes would be treated to this new species of “awesome”; three years of waiting, in fact. Finally though, on May 16, 2002, our wait was rewarded with…Manakin Skywalker. To be fair, it’s not Hayden Christensen’s fault. He’s a great actor. Don’t believe me? Watch Life as a House and then see if your disdain maintains its course. But as lackluster as his performance was, we still received an unexpected gift. Something none of us could have, in our geeky little minds, imagined we’d ever see: Master Yoda dueling with a lightsaber. Those precious few seconds of screen-time with our favorite Jedi, wielding his lightsaber like John Williams wielding a conductor’s baton, were golden. Did they make up for Phantom Menace and most of Attack of the Clones? Not really. Was it worth the three-year wait? Abso-freakin’-lutely. As the curtains came to a close and the screen faded to black, we all shuffled sadly out of our respective theaters, back into the really-real world, to wait, yet again.
The final piece in Lucas’ Star Wars prologue had yet to present itself to the franchise’s legions of loyal, consumerist fans. We all knew how Anakin’s story would end, but the details were what we craved; a conclusion to end the building narrative we all knew was coming since the announcement of Phantom Menace: Anakin’s rebirth as the infamous Sith Lord. A trilogy of 12-month cycles later, and hours of postulating over how the events of Vader’s arrival would play out, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith eventually arrived on May 19, 2005. The conclusion to Obi-Wan’s tragically-fated Padawan’s story was finally here. Was it everything we’d hoped it would be? Not completely. Was it the best installment in this round of films? Yes sirree it was. But comparatively speaking, that isn’t saying a whole lot. Yes, the final duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan was probably the best lightsaber fight in the history of the saga; yes, we were also treated to a second, equally sweet duel between Yoda and the soon-to-be Emperor; yes, the extermination of the Jedi Order was pretty damn sad; and yes, seeing Obi-Wan deliver Luke to his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru on Tatooine was super freaking cool. But the payoff, after nearly six years of waiting, was pretty lackluster.
Now we, as well as a whole new generation of fans, get to experience the excitement all over again. Only this time, I’m confident that, in the hands of a storyteller like J.J. Abrams, we’ll be getting our dollars-worth of anticipatory awesomeness (Oxford Dictionary take note); with repeat screenings over the life of the film’s run, no doubt (I reserve the right to deny said confidence in a few weeks if need be). Have you purchased your ticket to attend one of the hundreds of early showings on the 17th? I surely hope so. This is one film you need to see with fans on the eve of, completely immersed in geek, wearing your very best Star Wars-themed attire. Slave Leia outfits are welcomed; gender-swapped versions are a plus.
If retaining an inordinate amount of pop culture knowledge was a sport, I’d be a Michael Phelps-level Olympiad. I’m a lover of film, comics, and writing. Serf by day; scribbler by night. Although, I am merely a Padawan-learner in the art of rhetoric; but like all beginners, I strive to possess and wield a proverbial pen capable of dueling with the mightiest of swords!
Eric is part of Purecostumes.com Digital Ideation team.
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