Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released on May 19, 1999 and it’s turning 15 today.
The first installment of the prequels trilogy had a lot to live up to at the time of release, following the massive success of the originals, the first of which — A New Hope — was released 22 years earlier.
Even though the total revenue for the originals had been declining after Star Wars Episode IV, the franchise had become one of the most successful in Hollywood’s history. At this time they have amassed an impressive $2.8 billion in gross ticket income.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace serves as introduction to the characters that viewers met in the original trilogy. The film follows the story of Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), who are charged with protecting Queen Padmé Amidala (Natalie Porter) as she travels from the planet Naboo to Coruscant hoping to negotiate a peaceful solution to a trade dispute.
The film also shows a 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker — before he became a Jedi — and at the time is a young slave boy with an unusually sense of the Force.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was filmed in 1997 and premiered 16 years after the last of the original trilogy, Return Of The Jedi. The movie was received with much anticipation by the large number of fans who followed the originals.
George Lucas had originally meant to write only one film in his saga, but soon realized that the story was too complex to be one standalone film and negotiated a contract that would allow him to write two Star Wars sequels.
The director began writing Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1994 and initially intended the film to be a way of tracking the background stories of the characters in the original trilogy.
At first Lucas named Star Wars Episode I: The Beginning, but later changed it to The Phantom Menace to fit in more with the two faced identity of Palpatine, the Sith Lord.
“Anakin needed to have a mother, Obi-Wan needed a Master, Darth Sidious needed an apprentice as without interaction and dialogue you wouldn’t have drama.” George Lucas explained about Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”
With a larger budget, due to the success of the original three, the possibilities in the special effects department were endless. Lucas exploited this to make Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace the highest grossing film in the saga and the number five all time grossing film in the US, earning $920 million.
[Image via 1DarthVader/Deviantart