Yifeng Wang

The Phantom Menace

The Phantom Menace is my favorite Star Wars film. Walking into the theatre as an eight year old, I had no clue I was about to be taken on a journey in an enchanting extraterrestrial world that I would love for so many years to come. For the rest of the summer I watched it on DVD every a few days and had countless lightsaber battles with friends. Qui-Gon was wise and aplomb. Obi-Wan was young and skillful. Padmé was smart and brave. Anakin was the best racer and mechanist in the whole galaxy. And Jar Jar was, absolutely hilarious.

Almost twenty years later, I watched a mind boggling documentary on this film. On the one hand it was thrilling to see the never before anticipation. I envy of the ones who experienced that in person. It must have been like being a theatre lover in NYC at the height of Hamilton in 2016. The crowd reaction—how do I put this—can probably only be found at a K-pop concert today. On the other hand, it had killed me to learn about the utterly disturbing truth of the assault Ahmed Best and Jake Lloyd received following the release of the film. It was painful to imagine what Lloyd and Best had gone through. The bullying I experienced as a child was nothing compared to the death threats Lloyd and Best had to face but that was already hard enough.1 Jar-jar and young Anakain are great characters to me if that wasn't obvious from the beginning of the article. Yet people could be so narrow minded when things didn't meet their expectation. As I grew older, I started hearing about how bad Episode I was. I became reluctant to show my affection for it because I didn't want to be thought to have a less superior taste. Wanting to blend in and lack of critical thinking, I followed the public and became part of the problem.

Sounded all too familiar? People criticized The Last Jedi in many ways similar to The Phantom Menace. Then the target became Kelly Marie Tran who played Rose Tico in the film. Tran experienced major online bullying and harassment. People wanted someone to blame on and this time it was Tran. The irony was The Last Jedi might be the only film worth remembering in the sequel trilogy. The Force Awakens was a nostalgic treat for the fans2 and The Rise of Skywalker never found the story it wanted to tell. People had every right to disagree with directions taken by The Last Jedi3 and express their disappointment but attacking personally the ones who worked on the film or other people for liking it is plainly wrong and disgusting.

The Phantom Menace was my first Star Wars film, just like The New Hope was yours, and The Last Jedi could be theirs.

Be curious, not judgmental. May curiosity be with the galaxy.

  1. I like how I mentioned my being bullied this casually on the internet while I talked about it to my parents for the first time a few months ago.
  2. I enjoyed it a lot — I got teary-eyed many times during the film (It's true. The Force. The Jedi. All of it. It's all true.). However not only it threw the original trilogy away for no good reason, it did a horrible job setting up the new trilogy. The true heroes of the sequel trilogy for me were the trailers. Every one of them successfully had me excited, hyped, and touched.
  3. It was like a Marvel film, said I.