Movie Flashback: Star Wars Episode I 10 year anniversary
Ten years ago today (May 19) Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace opened in theaters. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years. I still remember taking that week off work and going with my friend, Jason, to see multiple showings the day of release. Those multiple day screenings were seen at the now defunct Carmike Galleria 10 Cinemas.
When talking to Jason about this recently, he reminded me that we also saw a midnight screening the night before the day of release at the Summit Carmike Cinemas. Which we wound up doing again for Episode II.
I was going through some old magazines I have in my collection looking for Episode I stuff and found two issues that have cover stories on Star Wars Episode I. Both magazines cover rumors about plot lines and actors that have been possibly cast in the movie. Since the magazines are over 12 years old the information they have is sketchy and mostly rumor, but it’s fun to look at what the magazines thought the new Star Wars movie(s) would be about. Especially at this point in time when we’ve seen the whole prequel trilogy.
So, let’s look at these two magazines from the early ’90s that had cover stories on the movie we now know as Episode I: The Phantom Menace. We’ll also see a few tidbits of info these magazines speculated on that, in hindsight, are wildly false rumors.
The first magazine is from 1994 (15 years ago!) and it was the premiere issue of a new title called Sci-Fi Universe (click the image for a bigger size).
I was in-between my Sophomore and Junior years at Auburn University when this was released. I remember buying it right before I went back to Auburn as I didn’t actually get a chance to read it until I was back in my dorm room. This is a very interesting article because the title of the cover story is Countdown to 1997. At this point in time, Summer 1994, it was believed that the new Star Wars movies would be released in May 1997, the 20 year anniversary of Episode IV: A New Hope. Here’s the splash page for the cover story.
The entire article is adamant that the new movies will start to be released in 1997. As a matter of fact, there is a very interesting quote directly from the article discussing this release rumor,
“One of the more ludicrous rumors currently doing the rounds is that a theatrical re-release of the previous Wars trilogy, with upgraded Special Effects, is imminent.”
As we all know, that ludicrous rumor was, in fact, correct as the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition was released in early 1997 to capitalize on the 20th Anniversary of Star Wars. The new Wars movie wouldn’t get a release until May of 1999.
This article also tries to discuss the wild rumors floating around at the time about what the new movies will be about. They were very vague in most of the article but there was one passage in which the article discusses a cut scene from Return of the Jedi between Obi-Wan Kenobi’s spirit and Luke Skywalker on Dagobah. They say that Obi-Wan discusses with Luke that Vader didn’t know Luke’s mother was pregnant and Obi-Wan and Yoda tried to keep Luke and his sister safe for as long as possible. Luke went to live with Obi-Wan’s brother, Owen, and Leia went to live with Senator Bail Organa, and was never revealed as being adopted. By virtue of her parents, Leia became very politically powerful, a Senator and eventual leader of the Rebellion. So, it’s interesting that, according to this article, this one little cut scene from ROTJ lays out a nice outline of the prequel trilogy’s plot. I’ve never actually heard of this cut scene. I knew there were tidbits cut out of Luke and Obi-Wan’s discussion, but not that much info. The article does not mention why the extra info was cut. Probably because it slowed the movie down and Lucas thought it might be too much info at that point in time. Interesting. Lucas may have already known that this particular info would be the basis for any movie based on his notes for the prequel trilogy (which he wrote while writing Episodes IV – VI).
At this time, Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy was extremely popular and giving Star Wars fandom a big boost. I actually wound up reading the trilogy after reading this article. It really is a fantastic Star Wars series. This article goes on to mention that while writing this trilogy, Zahn was not allowed to talk about or kill certain characters. One of the main characters in the books is a Dark Jedi, Joruus C’boath, who was cloned from a Jedi Master who died before the Clone Wars. However, in the original drafts of his books, Zahn had intended C’boath to actually be an insane clone of Obi-Wan Kenobi. That suddenly makes the story that much more interesting to me, however, Lucasfilm immediately denied that request and Zhan had to rewrite the character. The magazine speculates that Lucas had big plans for Obi-Wan in the coming prequel trilogies and didn’t want the books to contradict anything that may happen in the movies. Since it was a clone of Obi-Wan and the events take place after Return of the Jedi, I’m not sure how it would have screwed anything up for the prequel trilogy. But, Lucas may have been thinking forward about the SEQUEL trilogy (Episodes VII – IX). Who knows if that will ever happen.
The next magazine is an Entertainment Weekly from Summer 1997. It contains the official announcement of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the new Star Wars movie, Episode I (no Phantom Menace just yet).
I remember this issue hitting the stands. I was in Dallas, TX at the time for training on my first job out of college as I had just graduated from Auburn the month before. I think I bought this magazine in the airport. Here’s the splash page for the article inside.
This article is also vague, but, obviously they have more information to work with. Jake Lloyd was official as Anakin, as was Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson and an appearance by Samuel Jackson in a part no one knew anything about. All the speculation had to do with other parts of the movie. Here’s a sidebar from the article talking about casting rumors for the movie.
I have no idea who Claudia Ramirez is and I had forgotten that Harry Connick was rumored to play a Jedi. I also remember rampant rumors that Gabriel Byrne was also going to play a Jedi, but this magazine makes no mention of that.
This article also mentions what they believe are going to be the subtitles for the entire prequel trilogy. At this point, EW thought Episode I’s subtitle was going to be Balance of the Force. I actually remember that rumor. Also, they said Episode II’s subtitle was Rise of the Empire and Episode III’s was going to be Fall of the Jedi. As we now know, none of that is true. As is the fact that Lucas won’t direct Episode II and Episode III, which this EW article mentions several times. How about plot rumors? Generalities of the Episode I plot were known, it was specifics they were missing. However, this article does mention the plot for Episode II:
“[Episode] II jumps 10 to 12 years ahead and will show the wedding as well as birth of twins Luke and Leia.”
Interesting speculation. We now know that Episode II did, in fact, show the wedding of Anakin and Padme, but it was in secret. However the birth of the twins wouldn’t happen until the very end of Episode III.
It’s interesting to go back and read some of these articles with rumors that never came to fruition. I think back fondly to that week of Star Wars screenings with my friend Jason. I even watched Episode I recently to get in the mood for this 10th Anniversary article. How did it hold up 10 years later? Well, it’s still a bit boring. It just feels long. Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Darth Maul are the best things about the movie. Darth Maul was criminally underused. Jar Jar is still irritating. Jake Lloyd is extremely awkward in the way he delivers his lines and it feels like he’s reading them off screen (which actually fits into what Hayden Christenson does in Episode II). The pod race is still fantastic as is the final 3-way lightsaber battle. Oh, and the Yoda puppet? AWFUL.
On the whole, the movie holds up the same 10 years later, a mediocre movie. The parts are more than the whole, meaning that I really enjoyed two or three sections of this movie, but the entire movie was a bit boring.