For those born after 2000, it’s difficult to convey the hype around Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. After a relatively slow period in the early 1990s, Star Wars began rebuilding its pop culture reputation with the original trilogy special editions, with rumors constantly building that George Lucas was working on the long-awaited Episode I.
All this took place against the backdrop of the early internet, with newsgroups and message boards swapping rumors about what was coming. When we finally got the first The Phantom Menace trailer audiences went bonkers, buying tickets just to see it and skipping the movie it was played in front of. It was also released online, with the massive surge in traffic pushing development of distributed web traffic management tech that we still use today.
Anyhow, that’s all ancient history, something underlined by this picture of the The Phantom Menace cast prior to release, which is every bit as glorious as it is cheesy.
It’s now been at least 23 years since this photo was taken, with recent Disney Plus show Obi-Wan Kenobi showing what became of Ewan McGregor’s fresh-faced, optimistic, and powerfully 90s hairstyled Jedi. The closing moments of the series also brought back Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn, as grumpy and straightforward as he ever was.
Beyond Star Wars, Natalie Portman is also making waves this summer, with her performance as Jane Foster in Thor: Love and Thunder picking up an enormous amount of hype in the run-up to its release next week.
And what of the first Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd? Sadly, his story has been somewhat less happy. He’s had a few run-ins with the law, spent time in a psychiatric facility, and has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Various Star Wars projects continue to use footage of him as Anakin from The Phantom Menace, so let’s hope he’s still getting some money from Lucasfilm.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is available to stream on Disney Plus.