George Lucas always said that Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was a kid movie. Because nothing sparks a young imagination like trade disputes and tariff arguments, of course. But anyway, he always said so, and we always demanded that it be something more than that. Something that didn't have Jar Jar Binks and poop jokes. And so everybody hated it, even as it made a gazillion dollars.
Now Phantom Menace is returning, this time in 3D. Why Lucas didn't start his 3D rereleases of the films with Star Wars will always baffle me - I think even hardened cynics would have been interested in revisiting Star Wars on the big screen in 3D, just to see what it was like. There's a sense of new experience there because we know the movie so well that the 3D might actually have a huge impact. Also, it's a good movie, even with the dumb changes Lucas has made.
He doesn't care about those older Star Wars fans, though. The Phantom Menace rerelease is being positioned entirely as a children's movie - Lucas is going after the next generation. And that will become very clear after this weekend, when the junket for Phantom Menace happens at the Skywalker Ranch. Some of your favorite outlets will be attending, but don't expect to see your favorite interviewers doing the interviews - Fox is asking everyone to bring children with them. To do the interviews.
Yes, the Phantom Menance junket is being done by children. I don't have any problem with this, and I envy the kids who will be getting their minds blown by going to the Ranch and seeing all the wonders. I just think it's incredibly telling that this is the angle Fox is using.
Movie junkets are already filled with softball questions, but this one is going to be the softest ever*. Lucas won't have to worry about questions on his arthouse plans or the disappointment of fans or his inability to leave his movies well enough the fuck alone (unless someone loads their kid up with really aggressive questions. Do it, somebody, do it!). But I also don't see this really creating a lot of fan excitement.
The joke about Star Wars fans is that they're sexless nerds, and while that's mostly true (they smell bad as well), a number have grown up and gotten married and had kids. So while this junket shows that Phantom Menace is being positioned for the next generation of fans, it also shows how Lucas is trying to rope in certain segments of the last generation - the fans who want to get their kids as excited about the Star Wars mythology as they are. He probably could have done that simply be rereleasing the good movies in the series, but this tactic will probably work as well.
Well played, Emperor Lucas. Well played.
* or at least since The Muppets, when grown people interviewed puppets as if they were real. I was offered a phoner with Kermit - not the Muppeteer, but Kermit - and sadly it didn't work out. I was really curious what that would have been like. More than that, I was curious how I would behave in that situation. Would I try and be a good interviewer or would I go and be a promotional tool for the movie. I never had the chance to find out, and I sincerely am not sure how it would have gone.