20 years ago, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace changed movies forever
The Return of the Franchise
On May 19th, 1999, George Lucas changed movies forever. The long-anticipated Star Wars prequel Episode I: The Phantom Menace hit theaters, returning to a world that fans had thought they’d never see again. For some, excitement turned to confusion, puzzlement, and outright anger by the time the credits rolled, and Lucas’s grand cinematic experiment was off to a rocky start. Looking back at the film two decades later, The Phantom Menace proved to be a precursor for the cinematic environment that we now find ourselves in. It was a special effects revolution, the first inkling that stories might never end, and a film where the director and cast faced enormous pushback from fans.
In 2019, we live in a world where massive, interconnected cinematic universes rule the box office, and where films that we’re most nostalgic for end up getting their own big-budget remakes with fresh faces, CGI budgets, and capabilities that the original directors could never have imagined. Star Wars’ return to theaters seems almost inevitable now, but its resurrection wasn’t always a sure thing. Lucas once largely walked away from the franchise that built his career, although he had sometimes referred to a larger plan for two additional trilogies.