Over the past two weekends I re-watched The Phantom Menace with my kids. My daughter is 5, my son 3. Both have some previous Star Wars experience, my daughter with Episode 4, The Clone Wars film, and episodes of both the Clone Wars series and Rebels. My son has only seen a few episodes of Rebels. I wanted to start them off on the movies from the chronological beginning, and having heard many, many arguments that the prequels are a better fit for kids(we’ll see come Revenge of the Sith), it seemed like a logical place to start. Plus it would keep them calm and in a resting state while the household was recovering from a collective sickness.
It went well. My daughter asked who a lot of characters were, recognizing Obi-Wan by name, and both recognized Yoda and the droids by sight. They weren’t as transfixed as I remember being with Episode 4 when I was there age, but I figured, hey, it’s a long movie, let’s see how it goes. I did have one worry though: Jar Jar Binks. The character that almost single-handedly drags this movie down on many opinion based lists. Would my kids like him? Would they hate him? Turns out I needn’t have worried. They couldn’t care less. They barely noticed him, focusing more on Amidala, Obi-Wan, and Yoda.
Their interest picked up as the story got more involved too. They became more invested, asked more questions, and started to get into the action sequences. I found that their interest got me more involved in the film too. Some of the things I used to hate about the film I found myself glossing over or ignoring. I actually enjoyed the podrace this time!
Finally, and most importantly, the kids weren’t scared by Darth Maul. I had some slight misgivings, but I think they recognized him from Rebels(thankfully they didn’t ask how he survived getting cut in half), and the familiarity took away some of the menace from his appearance. That and my daughter described his lightsaber as “the coolest ever”.
I’m really glad I sat down and rewatched Episode 1 with my kids. It allowed me to view the film in a slightly different light, and I think enjoy it a little bit more. It was less about the movie meeting my expectations of what a Star Wars movie should be, and more about sharing something I loved, something that had a major hand in shaping who I am, with my kids. I just hope that doing the same with Attack of the Clones can salvage a little more of that movie for me. I’m cautiously optimistic!