The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Fans say new
'Star Wars' movie
title is a menace

October 1, 1998
By Franklin Harris

The announcement came unheralded. There was not the expected 20th Century Fox fanfare. But on the 25th day of the ninth month in the Year of Our Lord 1998, George Lucas came down from the mountain to announce the title of the long-awaited "Star Wars" prequel film.

And George spake: "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace."

And the title was posted at the official "Star Wars" Web site,

And an outcry arose amongst the multitudes: "'The Phantom Menace???' It's been 15 years since the last 'Star Wars' film, and the best title George Lucas can come up with is 'The Phantom Menace'!?!?"

Outraged fans swarmed the Internet.

"This is the worst title I've ever seen!" screamed one.

"This is just a joke. That's it! George is pulling our leg!" hoped another against hope.

"This title is just plain (expletive deleted)!" repeated many.

And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

" 'The Phantom Menace' sounds like an episode of 'Scooby Doo!' Please change it, George!" was one fan's plaintive cry.

"This movie will flop!" shouted yet another.

"It's just not a 'Star Wars' movie title," someone said.

"I'll never be able to think of this movie without thinking of some guy in purple tights talking about how he is the Ghost Who Walks!" said another.

"Can you really imagine plastering a stupid title like 'The Phantom Menace' on posters and bed sheets and notebooks and plastic cups from Taco Bell?" the fans asked themselves.

"No!" they replied.

And the multitudes were wroth.

Long dissertations were written. Linguistic analyses were performed. Verdicts were issued.

" 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Return of the Jedi' were strong titles," wrote the scholars and wise men. " 'The Phantom Menace' is a wimpy title."

Unsatisfied, the people rose up with titles of their own.

" 'The Beginning' would be a better title than 'The Phantom Menace,' " they said. And the suggested replacement titles were legion: "Balance of the Force," "Knights of the Republic," "Guardians of the Force," "Circle of the Force."

The word spread quickly. Later that night, the title was announced at Harry Knowles' entertainment news and gossip Web site,

And Harry spoke unto the multitudes, saying that the title was appropriate. It harkened back to the old "Flash Gordon" serials of the '30s, films Lucas had long said were inspirations for the original "Star Wars" trilogy.

And besides, it's not as if the original 1977 film's subtitle, "A New Hope," was awe-inspiring, anyway.

And some fans thought. And they harkened unto Harry's wisdom. And Harry undertook an unscientific poll that found fans coming to accept and, yea, even to love the "The Phantom Menace."

But others hardened their hearts and were even more wroth.

And denial spread across the land.

Perhaps the title was just a cover story. Yes! That had to be it! Lucas purposefully released a fake title in order to foil those who would make bootleg merchandise. Their posters and hats and key rings would all have that silly "Phantom Menace" logo on it, then Lucas would say "Thou shalt have no unlicensed merchandise before me!" and would smite them by releasing the One True prequel title: the real title -- the one that was sure to be cool, sure to rock and sure not to be "The Phantom Menace."

And a spokesman from 20th Century Fox came down from the mountain and said: "The title shall be 'Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace.' So it is written and so, on the release day of May 21, 1999, it shall be done."

And a vision came unto me, and I saw long ticket lines and cheering audiences. And everyone thought "The Phantom Menace" was a fine title after all.

And of that long-ago Friday when the multitude rose against Lucas no one spoke.

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