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will i ever rewatch The Phantom Menace?

The internet has been aflame with news related to the recent re-release of all six Star Wars movies on Blu-Ray.  A lively (and often hilarious) series of “reviews” are on Amazon right now for your entertainment.  What do we talk about when we talk about Star Wars?  Is it really the movie (or three, or six)?  Or is it the memory of watching that story for the first time?  My bet is the latter.

My brother and I grew up watching Star Wars on a faded VHS recording of a TV broadcast.  A long, long time ago indeed.  I have a faint memory of seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater.  I slept under Ewok sheets.  My favorite scene was (and still is) the landspeeder chase through the forest.  Am I the biggest Star Wars nerd in the entire world?  Not by a long shot.  But I have always enjoyed watching the movies, even after George Lucas rereleased them in theaters with all the infamous CGI tweaks.  When it comes down to it, they’re fun movies to watch.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I know, stating that on the internet is liable to get me lynched, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

This latest re-re-re-release begs the question: will I watch The Phantom Menace ever again?

I was not alone in being excited by the prospect of a second Star Wars trilogy.  Like any good story, you don’t want it to end.  Add to that the fact that Darth Vader would be the main character of the series, and Lucas was assured of my attendance opening night.
Oh, the anticipation.  A group of us drove from the small town in Ohio where we were supposedly attending college to the regional mall and theater.  The moment the opening fanfare played, I was hooked all over again.  After The Phantom Menace ended, we wandered out into the night, happily dazed at the spectacle of light and sound we had just experienced.

Over the course of the next weeks and months, I was in denial that maybe, maybe that movie sucked.  What happened, exactly?  And why was Darth Vader such a little annoying brat?

Denial led to anger, then acceptance.  Mostly I felt duped.  I had spent far too much time anticipating this new chapter, only to discover it was a turd.  I watched the next two prequels and, as a result of my newly-lowered expectations, enjoyed them for what they were.  I had to separate the experience of watching Star Wars as a kid from the college-aged me watching these new movies.

The integrity of the original three movies, by the way, remains intact.  Yet the Phantom Menace looms over the whole series like a vomit-specked hobo.  Does George Lucas expect us to watch all six Star Wars movies in a fantastic nerd marathon, The Phantom Menace first?  It’s the worst one!  How is anyone supposed to suffer through this complete failure of storytelling and think it will get any better?

My advice, then: It gets better, kids.  It only gets better.

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it occurred to me

Venn Diagrams are a fun and easy way to compare things to other things. The average Venn Diagram looks a lot like this:venn-diagram

Where “One Thing” represents a thing of some kind, and “Another Thing” represents a thing of a different kind. The dark space in the center, where the circles intersect, represents what those two kinds of things have in common.

Usually the intersection is not large, but I think I found two things that have a very large intersection: people who are way into LEGOs, and people who love Star Wars.venn-diagram-lego-star-wars

My eureka moment came whilst strolling the aisles of BrickFest ’09, the annual LEGO celebration that happened to take place in Portland this year. Me, along with my friends Ian K. and Caitlin, were taking in the sights and noticed there were a disproportionate number of LEGO sets devoted to the Star Wars galaxy. Not only that, people had taken it upon themselves to build parts of the Star Wars galaxy that LEGO had not even thought of.

My hunch is that, on this planet, there exists an entire Star Wars galaxy in LEGO form. We did not see more than the tip of the iceburg at BrickFest. In the dens and basements of this dear world, boys and men (and maybe one or two women) have done what scientists deemed impossible: the creation of a universe within a planet. That universe is completely fictional, and it was built with colorful plastic blocks, but that should not diminish the importance of this effort.

LEGO Yoda would be proud.