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The Phantomness of The Phantom Menace

In preparation for an upcoming blog entry, I found myself thinking about Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, and what amazed me was how quickly it seems to have disappeared from the cultural radar, at least compared with the first three Star Wars movies (Episodes IV, V, and IV).

Episode IV - A New Hope lives on in our culture not because it's well-written, or especially well-directed, but because it launched a trend that persists to this day, the era of special effects-laden space operas. Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back is simply one of the best science fiction movies ever made, a tribute to what happens when George Lucas comes up with the ideas and lets other people write and direct them. Even Episode VI - Return of the Jedi lives on -- as hokey as it was, Jabba the Hutt and Ewoks are still pop cultural icons.

But Episode I - The Phantom Menace? I can barely remember most of it, and I know I'm not the only one. With hindsight, its cultural permanence seems as wisp-like as its title.

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