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Geeky Parent Guide: Sharing the Force with a New Generation – A 20-Year Retrospective on ‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace’

20 years ago, Star Wars returned to the cinematic world after a 16-year hiatus from the big screen. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace released into theaters in May of 1999, igniting passion from longtime fans, while introducing new characters to a new generation of fans to come. Although the reception of this film has been hit or miss (stormtrooper-style), my own first viewing of the film was as exciting as I believe most kids would be when they watch their first entry into the Star Wars mythos.

I remember enjoying this film when I watched it in the theater, and although I may not revisit it often, there are reasons to keep this one handy, especially if you have kids who want to get involved with the ways of the Jedi.

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Fun vs. Silly

No, I am not a fan of Jar Jar Binks; however, I bet you all the money in the world that my kids would laugh their tails off each and every moment he’s on the screen. From his Gungan-speak to his clutch moments of being a klutz, Jar Jar represents something that most kids embrace more often than adults: silliness. I love being silly with my kids, but I don’t necessarily want to see it in-between sequences of lightsaber duels and the clever tactics of Queen Amidala.

Therefore, I have to take a step back from these moments and consider how much joy this character might bring to others, especially those who are truly young at heart. If I’m certain my own kids would laugh at his antics, then it’s certainly a reason to let them watch the film.

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Age Appropriate

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace is PG-rated. There are small- and large-scale battle scenes that involve droids being destroyed and soldiers being killed, although both instances do not seem like they are too intense for a younger audience. Though, I will stipulate that my own kids (ages 4 and 6) have yet to watch this film.

The fight sequence at the end, between two Jedi and a Sith, is too much for this age group. I will compare these scenes to the fight scene in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, where Darth Vader combats Obi-Wan Kenobi. Yes, there are fatal blows in both films, but Obi-Wan’s demise in A New Hope (spoiler alert) is much tamer and kid-friendly. It’s much less of a gut punch than what takes place in The Phantom Menace, which is why my kids have yet to see Episode I. Also, I’m not sure seeing Darth Maul falling down a shaft in two pieces makes for a lasting impression I want for my kids (at their age).

Beyond those sequences of events in The Phantom Menace, I believe parents are generally safe to let their kids watch this film. There are plenty of explosions that take place, along with ships being destroyed, but those moments probably take a backseat to larger-than-life creatures your kids will see in the film. There are gigantic underwater lifeforms that might be scary to a young child, while Darth Maul isn’t someone you hope to meet in any galaxy. So, take a look at the film ahead of time if you’re unsure of whether or not your kids are ready for this film.

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Queen Amidala

If there’s a reason for your kids to see this movie, it’s to watch a strong female character take the helm. Much like Carrie Fisher’s dominating presence as Princess Leia, Natalie Portman succeeds at delivering a character to cheer for, especially in a role that is leading an undersized force against much greater numbers.

Amidala not only voices her opinion, clearly trying to do what’s in the best interest of her people on Naboo, but she isn’t afraid to take an active part in battle. She devises a plan to retake her invaded world and then participates in the assault itself. Her voice is heard. Her plan is accepted. There isn’t any doubt of her abilities. Amidala has the respect of those around her, which is always an important message for kids to see. If there’s an opportunity for my kids to see a female character lead the way, I will always be up for that.

Let’s also not forget that Amidala is fearless and clever. She has a double take her place at times, which can prove useful in dangerous situations. It also gives her a tactical advantage, using the lookalike to cause a distraction and draw forces away from the actual Queen. In other moments, while her true identity is hidden from others, she poses as a servant to go on a scouting trip on Tatooine. Despite the objections from Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn, Queen Amidala puts herself in a position to help rather than be stuck on a ship without any way to safely communicate with her home world. Her tenacity showcases why she’s a hero we deserve in the Star Wars franchise.

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Let Your Kids Use The Force

If you want your kids to watch Anakin Skywalker, this is probably the safest format to let them watch, unless you consider the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars. As the films progress, the deadlier Anakin becomes. Anakin faces the harsh reality of being a slave on Tatooine with his mother. Despite this awful fact, there’s bravery in his actions, trying to stand up for others and help the Queen and the Jedi to repair their ship.

For kids, I think it’s important to see others their own age in intimidating situations, so they can see how one might react. Anakin is put into dangerous situations, but time and time again he doesn’t falter when it comes to helping others. This is a dramatic change from the Anakin kids will see moving forward. If this is the first movie they see in the Star Wars franchise, they might be surprised to see the destruction that comes later at the hands of Darth Vader.

Do your kids have a favorite character from The Phantom Menace? Do you, as a parent, enjoy watching this film, or would you prefer to watch another episode from Star Wars? Share your comments and don’t forget to give this a “Like” below. If you head over to Facebook or Twitter, use the force and share this with all of your friends.

Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.

S.T. Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor



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