On Movies & Movie Watching: Happy – and Bittersweet – Anniversary, ‘Star Wars’ Prequels!

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace opened – in wide release, on Wednesday, May 19, 1999.

On Monday, May 16, 2022, many Facebook groups devoted to Star Wars – including the Non-Toxic Star Wars Fanbase and igrewupstarwars.com – featured a plethora of posts devoted to the 20th anniversary of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones’ theatrical release.

My mom was a fan of John Willams (my fault!), and this was one of her favorite Star Wars themes.

Today, May 19, 2022, also marks the anniversary of the premiere – in “wide release” – of the other two films of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (23 years ago)and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (17 years ago).

As with everything related to the Star Wars film series, I have fond memories of going to all the Prequel Trilogy films on Opening Day, a feat I did not accomplish when the original 1977-1983 trilogy (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope – nee Star Wars, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) came out.[1]

And as with everything connected to my mother, this anniversary is also bittersweet because Revenge of the Sith is not only the last Star Wars film that she saw in theaters, but it was also the last time she ever stepped into a movie theater, even though she would not lose her mobility till early 2010.

My mom was a latecomer to Star Wars fandom. She didn’t watch the original movie during its extended run because 1977 was a sad and hectic year for our family. That anno horriblis saw not just my first breakup with a girlfriend, but the death of my maternal grandfather, the sale of our house in Westchester and the purchase of the townhouse in East Wind Lake Village, and the beginning of the last attempt we made to live with my half-sister Victoria under the same roof.

I, too, was a latecomer to Star Wars; I usually avoid cultural media trends, and at the time I wasn’t a fan of science fiction or space fantasy movies. But my resistance to Star Wars was short-lived; the movie came out on May 25 of 1977, and I saw it in early October of that year.

The author and his mom at a neighbor’s Christmas party, circa 2008 or 2009.

But my mom didn’t see Star Wars until its 1981 re-release, by which time 20th Century Fox finally acquiesced to George Lucas’s wish to add the Episode IV: A New Hope subtitle. And that only happened because she took me to see The Empire Strikes Back in June of 1980 and was enamored of Yoda, the Jedi Master.[2] And, perplexingly, she did not see Return of the Jedi until I owned it on VHS; I never understood why she didn’t want to see it in theaters back in the 1980s.

As my mom grew older, her taste in movies and mine were more compatible than, say, her choices and my half-sister’s. She got me to like – no, love – Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca, while I introduced her to Steven Spielberg movies – E.T. and the Indiana Jones series were her favorites from him, although she grudgingly admitted that Jaws was more enjoyable than she thought it would be – and the Star Trek film series, among many others.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was released exactly three years after The Phantom Menace.

So when the Prequel Trilogy was released between 1999 and 2005, Mom and I went to The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith on Opening Day – although, by the time the last movie in that cycle came out, Mom was no longer able to drive, and we were only able to keep the tradition going only because our then-neighbors, Ivan and Danny, were kind enough to invite us.

Sadly, by the time the Sequel Trilogy kicked off with the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on December 18, 2015, my mother had been dead for almost exactly five months. I kept the tradition going only because the woman I was dating until the Summer of 2020 went with me to both The Force Awakens and Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi on their premiere days; I would have seen Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker on its first day of wide release, too, but I caught the flu and had to wait two weeks till I was able to see it in theaters. 

So, like I said – some of these Star Wars anniversaries, including today’s Prequel Trilogy ones – are bittersweet.

[1] Of the three films that comprise the “Original Trilogy,” the only one I saw on Opening Day is Return of the Jedi, and that involved a rather hair-raising drive on the Palmetto Expressway from South Miami High’s parking lot to the Dadeland Triple Theater across the street from Dadeland Mall.

[2] The only time that my mother watched the original theatrical release of Star Wars was in 2006 when Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox included a non-anamorphic widescreen version of the 1977 film derived from the 1993 Laserdisc release. Every other version she had seen previously in theaters or on VHS had the Episode IV subtitle, even the first VHS copy I bought from a video store in the summer of 1984.  

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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