With my sons alongside me, I leaned over and whispered things to them. During the initial Jedi versus droid lightsaber battle it was, “Coooool.” I remarked to them about references to the original trilogy I thought they might not catch. At one point, just to test them, I said, “Isn’t that Senator Palpatine such a nice guy?” They passed with flying colors as they responded with an emphatic, “No,” and a great deal of head shaking as if they weren’t quite sure whether I was joking or not.
Of course, for every act of endorsement in the movie’s saving qualities I made to them, I leaned in the opposite direction and groaned at its many shortcomings to my wife. “That’s just so terrible,” I would moan. “I still can’t believe he had Darth Vader build C3PO,” I complained. “Listen to this,” I warned her as the matter of paternity was discussed between Qui-Gon and Shmi Skywalker, “Anakin is Jedi Jesus!”
While I sighed and wished I could have rolled my eyes audibly, I must admit that taking my boys to see their first Star Wars film on the big screen changed the experience for me. Mediocre parts were made better by glancing over to catch their mouths hanging open. The pod race was far more enjoyable than it had been the time I originally watched it, perhaps because I pictured one of them as a young Anakin trying to avoid the shots from the Tusken Raiders’ long rifles.
I also have to admit that for all the flaws The Phantom Menace had, which I will not go into at this time (*cough* Jar Jar *cough*), George Lucas ended on a high note. Notwithstanding his best attempt to mimic the Ewok celebration at the end of Jedi with the Gungan marching band parade, the whirlwind of star fighter battles combined with the lightsaber duel and the band of Naboo-ians (?) storming the throne room with plenty of hallway shootouts ala Princess Leia’s rescue from the detention area made for a crescendo of a final half hour to the film.
In the end, seeing it again was worth it. Of course, that may have had more to due with my sons than anything George Lucas did. The 3D was uninspiring, (though I didn’t expect much from a film that wasn’t filmed in 3D to begin with) and my desire to choke Jar Jar Binks had not diminished after nearly thirteen years, but I walked out of the theater feeling good.