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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace is the first instalment of the prequel trilogy, set 32 years before the original movie.
It introduces a young Anakin Skywalker, who is living as a slave on Tatooine. It also features the Galactic Republic and the Jedi Order before their downfall.
Production started in 1997 after Star Wars creator George Lucas determined that digital visual effects technology had advanced to the stage where he could realise his ambitious plans to tell the backstory leading up to the original Star Wars trilogy.
The Phantom Menace was the highest grossing film of 1999, and following a 3D re-release in 2012 its world-wide takings surpassed $1 billion.
Every saga has a beginning.
20 years ago today Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace hit the silver screen in the US after one of the biggest marketing campaigns cinema has ever seen, plastering everything from cereal boxes to vending machines with Star Wars branding.
It's fair to say that the George Lucas' first Star Wars prequel didn't live up to everybody's expectations, dividing fans much like Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi did in 2017.
However, I'm not here to discuss the pros and cons of Episode I (you can argue about that in the comments, if you like), but this article is simply to recognise the fact that whatever your opinion of the film was it did help cement the Star Wars franchise in the public eye for another generation.
Happy birthday The Phantom Menace, and thank-you for inducting me into the Star Wars fandom.
A promotional tie-in for Solo: A Star Wars Story has introduced us to some great new characters we can expect to see, including the fantastically monickered Therm Scissorpunch, a crustacean-like alien with huge lobster claws for hands.
But despite being derided as the dumbest name in Star Wars, Therm Scissorpunch is actually quite in-keeping with tradition if you only look a little.
First up is everybody's favourite death stick dealer: Elan Sleazebaggano frequented the clubs of Coruscant before he left to rethink his life in Attack of the Clones. Although later retconned to Sel’Sabagno, Sleazebaggano is typical of the tongue-in-cheek naming convention we often see with background characters in Star Wars.
Did you ever hear the tragedy of Notluwiski Papanoida? This background character appears in Revenge of the Sith in the corridors of the theatre. The name Notluwiski isn't too bad until you realise who the actor is: it's a cameo by George Lucas.
Sith names also seem to be chosen for their thinly veiled meanings. Darth Maul was trained to be a weapon, and was named after one. Sidious has an unavoidable similarity to the word “insidious”, which means to act in a subtle but harmful way; much like how Palpatine chips away at the old Republic. Even Plagueis has connotations of ill intent.
In The Clone Wars animated series, Count Dooku takes a secret apprentice with the not too subtle name of Savage Opress. There are no prizes for guessing what his endgame is.
It would be easy to see these seemingly ridiculous names as a feature of modern Star Wars movies, but they are present in the classic Star Wars trilogy too.
Return of the Jedi is full of interesting characters, like the elephant-like Ephant Mon, Droopy McCool of the Max Reebo band, and let's not forget Jabba the Hutt’s jester Salacious B Crumb. And if individual characters aren't enough for you you could always speak to Admiral Akbar, a member of the aquatic Mon Calamari species.
Perhaps Starkiller was a bit too on-the-nose for the boy who destroys the Death Star, but these other names do make you wonder why they bothered to change it to Skywalker!
We eagerly await the release of Therm Scissorpunch: A Star Wars Story.
In the meantime, Solo: A Star Wars Story debuts on 25 May 2018 in the US and 24 May in the UK.
So it looks like the new Disney streaming service (creatively named Disney+) will be adding a second live-action Star Wars show to its lineup.
Joining the in-production The Mandalorian will be a series focusing on Rogue One's Cassian Andor. (So obviously this is a prequel).
Having sort of a SW spy thriller sounds like it could have good potential. Plus there is the possibility of more K-2/Alan Tudyk. So I'M IN.