Flashback: ‘Star Wars: Phantom Menace’ Trailer Causes Hysteria in 1998
In November of 1998, hordes of science fiction nuts swarmed theaters across America screening The Waterboy, The Siege and Meet Joe Black. They had absolutely no interest in those three movies, but word had hit the Internet that the first teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace would be screening before them. It had been 15 years since even a second of new Star Wars footage appeared on the big screen, so paying $8.00 for a two-minute trailer seemed quite reasonable.
Young Adam Sandler fans must have been a little confused when the the audience burst into cheers as the “Lucasfilm” logo appeared, the familiar John Williams score swelled and tantalizing glimpses of Tatooine, a young Anakin Skywalker and Yoda popped onto the screen. This was the first time anyone saw Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson and Ewan McGregor in character. Many fans walked out after the trailer ended, but some wise theater owners showed the trailer again when the movie ended so people would stick around the place and hopefully buy some popcorn as they killed time.
The trailer sent the Star Wars fan community into an absolute frenzy, and even the most jaded fans were impressed. “I hate myself for every doubt I had,” Aint-It-Cool-News founder Harry Knowles told the New York Times. ”What on earth was I ever thinking? Analyzing every nugget, every whisper. Worrying about reshoots and deadlines. George [Lucas] seems to be 100 percent on his game.”
Most everyone who has seen the actual movie knows that Knowles should have stuck with his initial instincts, but you can’t blame the fans for getting excited by that masterful trailer, even if the brief glimpses of Jar Jar Binks and Jake Lloyd’s acting abilities telegraphed some of the trouble to come. The Jar Jar character would come to symbolize everything wrong the prequel trilogy, even though some crazy magazine put him on the cover right before the movie came out.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters in a little over two months, and even the fans that feel burned from the last go-round are pumped up for this one. After all, have you seen the trailers? It looks amazing.