It seems silly now, but Star Wars fans all over the world were very excited when “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” in May 1999. Then they saw the movie, and we all know how that turned out.
But being hardcore nerds, even the crew of TNU went to the movies to see Phantom Menace on opening night. And I do mean night, as in a 1 a.m. show at the now gone Harborlight Mall in Weymouth MA. From what I can remember, we knew a kid named Dan that worked at the movie theatre in the mall. I think the late night screening was supposed to be for employees only (not sure though), but he was able to get us in free of charge.
At the screening was Laneit, his girlfriend, John, the kid Dan, and me. I remember walking into the theatre as the closing credits to “The Mummy” started to roll. A couple of us were laughing because this was the first time we’d seen anyone go to the movies in cosplay.
Anyways, the movie finally started and I will never forget the crowd’s reaction when the 20th Century Fox fanfare began. Outside of an NFL game, I’d never seen a crowd go wild like that. Of course it wasn’t very long before the audience realized “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” wasn’t very good. It happened quick, like as soon as Jar Jar Binks was introduced.
For the remainder pf the movie I didn’t hear much cheering or clapping or anything of the sort. For the most part the crowd’s reaction was either stunned silence, or groans of disgust. One of the biggest groans came when the future Darth Vader shouted “Yippie!”
We were all tired when the movie got out, but we were also very hungry. We decided to hit the Bickford’s in Braintree, because it was the only 24 hour place we knew of. As we walked out the movies and into the mall, another friend shouted an angry hello at me. Apparently he was mad I didn’t see him in the theatre, but in my defense it was 3:30 or so in the morning. I wasn’t exactly all there. Then came the moment that made this night worth staying up late for.
As we walked to the car, Laneit said the only decent part of the movie was the Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan lightsaber battle against Darth Maul. Then, Dan said something like “It was funny when he was sliced in two.” At this point John goes “Darth Maul got cut in half?”
Turns out, our deal buddy John, fell asleep before the lightsaber fight. As you can imagine, this made our night.