Consider this from NPR: NPR

A Jedi and a Jar Jar walk into a movie…

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A Jedi and a Jar Jar walk into a movie…

Maximum Film/Alamy

The year is 1999. Fans are lining up around theaters. News channels are treating it as a breaking news event.

On May 19 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in theaters, the first film in the franchise to be released in over a decade. It promised to tell the origin story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader.

Fans were so excited that some camped out for days, sometimes even weeks, to see the film on opening day.

“The original trilogy was so phenomenal,” said one enthusiastic moviegoer. “People have been waiting for this for sixteen years.” Another went so far as to say: “There are now eight wonders of the world, of which this film is one.”

When a reporter asked a crowd if there was any concern that the movie would be bad, they responded with a resounding “No.” Oh, how wrong they were.

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The consensus? It was a huge flop

NPR sent two critics to review the film. Neither had much good to say.

This is how Tom Shales described the movie: “The new Star Wars movie Episode 1 — The Ghost Menace is a threat. It's not about storytelling and it's not about people… it's about effects and technology. It is a computer film through and through, by computers and perhaps for computers.”

NPR's Bob Mondello debated the infamous Jar Jar Binks: “What could he have been thinking,” you say to yourself as [George Lucas] introduces a race of idol-worshipping primitives who speak with Caribbean accents and act like refugees from Amos and Andy.”

The trailer in front Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

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The resistance did not stop there. People hated nine-year-old Darth Vader. They didn't like all the talk about taxes and trade embargoes.

Hate on The phantom menace has become something of a punchline in Star Wars circles, says Erich Schwartzel, who covers the film industry The Wall Street Journal and is writing a book about George Lucas and Star Wars.

He told NPR that the hype only compounded the disappointment: “It's, looking back, I think, the first example that I have, and maybe the film industry as well, that the movie is almost irrelevant.”

25 years later, nostalgia has breathed new life into the film

While the overwhelming consensus was The phantom menace was terrible, only a Sith deals in absolutes (sorry).

To understand how public opinion about the film has changed, Schwartzel points to Jar Jar Binks. Schwartzel said most fans who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy were in their late 20s or early 30s when they lined up to watch. The phantom menace.

“[Jar Jar] represents the inherently childish nature of Star Wars, and how childish it can be,” Schwartzel said. I think Jar Jar is a bit of an insult to those fans, and kind of a reminder that this is for kids too.

gettyimages 51606791 6d163f95e957c74fe94594f350e30feb0f54012f

Fans line up at New York's Ziegfeld Theater on May 6, 1999 to be the first to see the film. Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace.

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Fans line up at New York's Ziegfeld Theater on May 6, 1999 to be the first to see the film. Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace.

Stan Honda/AFP via Getty Images

Now those kids, whose introduction to the Star Wars world was The phantom menace, adults are, it is not surprising that the film is remembered more fondly. The “prequel kids,” as Schwartzel puts it, are holding strong The phantom menace as dear as older fans revere A new hope.

Following a recent anniversary screening of the film at DC, All together host Scott Detrow met 29-year-old Eleni Salyers, who said she has been a fan of the prequels since childhood: “For me it's nostalgic. Growing up I always preferred the prequels, which for a lot of Star Wars is a popular choice for fans.”

For fans like Salyers, some of the best moments are the lightsaber battles, which are faster and flashier compared to those in the original trilogy. The phantom menace also introduced fans to pod racing, with its now iconic visual and sound effects.

The prequel trilogy played a fundamental role in building the Star Wars franchise into a “multigenerational juggernaut,” Schwartzel said. He notes that if you look at the firehose of Star Wars content Disney has released over the past decade, you'll see that many of the themes and characters come from the world the prequels created.

This episode was produced by Marc Rivers. It was edited by Jeanette Woods. Our executive producer is Sami Yenigun.

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