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New Escapist Column! On the “The Book of Boba Fett”, “Now Way Home” and Nostalgia For Things That We Hate…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the most recent episode of The Book of Boba Fett leaning heard into nostalgia for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, and with Spider-Man: No Way Home bringing back Andrew Garfield from the Amazing Spider-Man movies, I tackled a question that has been bothering me for a while: why are fans nostalgic for things they hate?

Of course, there are fans out there who love The Phantom Menace and The Amazing Spider-Man movies, and more power to them. However, there is something interesting in how these nostalgic properties couch their nostalgia for these objects, layering it with distance and approaching it often indirectly – evoking not so much the object itself, but the faint fandom memory of the object. In many cases, it feels like such nostalgia is driven more by a sense of ownership and obligation than by any meaningful affection or appreciation.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On Qui-Gon Jinn as the Flawed Figure at the Centre of the Phantom Menace…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. Earlier in the week, a clip of Dave Filoni on Disney Gallery: The Manadalorian went viral, discussing the role of Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Filoni argued that Qui-Gon was a hero fighting for Anakin’s soul.

This is interesting, because it reduces Qui-Gon to a much more generic character than the version featured in the film. Qui-Gon is a deeply flawed character, one with several blindspots and one who is unable to assume the role of hero whether because of the audience’s understanding of the mechanics of a Star Wars prequel or because of the character’s increasing sense of disconnect with the larger universe. Qui-Gon is a character that means well, who positions himself as a hero in this story, but is unable to fulfill that function.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

“Can You Help Him?” The Millennial Malaise of “The Phantom Menace”…

It is almost a cliché to say it, but 1999 was an amazing year for movies.

No, really.

Of course, everything is subjective and different people have very different tastes, but there was something special about that year. There were traditional crowd-pleasers like The Green Mile and The Cider House Rules. There were young poppy disruptors like Go! or Run Lola Run. There were formative films from era-defining directors like The Sixth Sense, Magnolia or Election. There were epoch-defining hits like The Matrix or Fight Club. There was a wave of teen movies serving an underserved audience like Cruel Intentions, 10 Things I Hate About You or The Virgin Suicides.

And there was Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. It was comfortably the most anticipated movie of the year, to the point that its teaser trailer became a cinematic event that arguably inflated the box office of Meet Joe Black. It seemed perfectly timed. The generation of fans who had grown up with Star Wars were now old enough to have their own families, with which they might share the experience. The public’s appetite had been whetted by theatrical re-releases of the original films to prove that there was still a hunger out there for the franchise.

Not quite a duel in the franchise crown.

However, The Phantom Menace is very rarely discussed in the context of the cinematic marvel of 1999, despite being crowned the year’s box office champion. There are plenty of reasons for that, of course. Most obviously, it wasn’t very good. Perhaps more importantly, it aggressively upset the established fanbase who promptly made very silly statements about how George Lucas had “raped their childhood” by continuing to make films that weren’t to their specifications. As such, The Phantom Menace is primarily notably as a failure and disappointment, which it undoubtedly is.

That said, there is something very interesting happening beneath the surface of The Phantom Menace, and something that perhaps merits discussion in the specific context of its original release. The Phantom Menace was the only Star Wars film to be released in the nineties, serving as both the cornerstone and the capstone of what Star Wars looked like during the decade. The films that would follow were shaped by the concerns of their own era, warped and informed by the War on Terror. However, in hindsight, The Phantom Menace is very much a 1999 movie, through and through.

Anakin, not Anakin’t.

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