How “Star Wars Episode 1” became the worst and then the best movie experience of my life
Editor and fan Tobias Mayer tells a personal anecdote about the TV broadcast of “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”, which begins with a catastrophe and ends in the most beautiful cinema visit he has ever experienced.
“Star Wars Episode 1” broke my heart – sentences like this start many expressions of opinion that were written on the internet after the cinema release in 1999 of what is probably the most controversial of all “Star Wars” films. But this is not one of those texts. It’s less about the film itself. Because “Star Wars” is bigger than a film – especially for my 13-year-old who was excited for the German theatrical release like a Wookie of the oasis abandoned in the desert.
In the absence of FMOVIE personal connection, I downloaded the trailer from my neighbour’s internet site, which took hours in 1999, and then watched it so often that I can still speak to it today. I’ve even been in films like the non-classic “Tempting Trap” with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery just to see the “Episode 1” trailer in theaters.
The trailer was unfortunately not shown – a disappointment that was big, but very small compared to the disappointment my 13-year-old self experienced at the German theatrical release on August 19, 1999.
In August 1999 I was on the annual North Sea island family vacation with my parents and my brother. During these years I discovered my love for wind, crabs and spray – and my love for cinema. The cinema on the island was a multi-purpose hall, where a projector and a screen were set up when the shanty choir was not singing or the school children on the island were taking physical education.
I saw “Jumanji” there (the one with Robin Williams), “Batman
But when I stood at the information wall in joyful anticipation, on which the show times of the cinema relaunch of the coming week were stuck every week (so to speak, FILM STARTS in the East Frisian version 1999), the one film that was missing in the presentation of my 13th -year-old self could not be missing (and even at 34 I can still fully understand my 13-year-old self).
No “Star Wars” on the North Sea
The North Sea Cinema showed a lot of what the remarkable cinema year 1999 had to offer, including “Matrix” and “Notting Hill”, as far as I can remember basically everything, apart from THAT. BIGGEST. MOVIE. OF. FUCKED. YEAR.
Perhaps it was because the distributor (then Fox) had already tried to squeeze more money out of the cinemas than usual for “Star Wars 1” and the North Sea cinema did not want to get involved. Perhaps the film roles plopped into the sea during the crossing from the mainland to the island or perhaps the cinema operator saw “Episode 1” in the pirated copy that was circulating before the German launch and wanted to save the islanders and summer guests from Jar Jar Binks, I don’t know and it I was also completely pissed off why “Episode 1” wasn’t shown.
The fact that “Episode 1” was not shown was a catastrophe for the 13-year-old boy, who in August 1999 stood in horror in front of the island’s information wall with the cinema re-starts that were missing “Star Wars”, which in the rest of the republic was on August 19th, 1999, while the island vacation wouldn’t end until August 28th, nine damn days later, or to put it better:
An unacceptable eternity later, when all my friends would see the movie I’d been waiting for like C-3PO on an oil bath. A bloody eternity later that all my friends would be watching the movie while I was fishing for crabs.
Spoiler alert: I actually had to wait the full nine days longer. Contrary to my urgent request, the vacation was not interrupted prematurely and “Episode 1” was not added to the program late, as in my dream, with which I saved myself from day to day.
And you know how it is: You wait and wait, you build up huge expectations, but then in the cinema you get disappointed because the expectation has reached galaxy-sized proportions that no film can fulfill, especially no film like “Star Wars Episode 1 ”, which was preceded by an unprecedented hype and followed by an unprecedented disappointment after its cinema release. But as I wrote at the beginning: This is not one of these texts.
Happy ending (like) in the cinema
On August 28, 1999, the day we returned from our summer vacation, nine gigantically long days after the German theatrical release of “Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace”, my parents didn’t drive my brother and me all the way home, but sat down in the evening right in front of the cinema.
And if I look very closely today, I can still find a few hairs of goose bumps on my forearm, which the film stopped and which began when these words appeared on the screen:
Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….