The summer the movie came out I was in a fever pitch of anticipation. It was like being 12 again, when Jedi came out, and I could barely stand the wait. Flash forward 20-odd years, and I can barely contain myself to see the prequels. Tragically, my national guard unit got sent on a deployment to Ft. Pickett just the week before it came out. I was absolutely mad with a frenzy to see it, and devastated that I'd have to wait a few weeks before I'd get a chance. That is, until my sergeant and I got sent on a detail to go grab some supplies while the rest of the battalion was in the field - stuff like camomile lotion and pogie bait that you couldn't get at the PX, so we ran to a Target in Blackstone. Wouldn't you know it, but there was a movie theater right next to the Target, and it was running Phantom Menace - starting in half an hour. We figured it was sold out, for sure, but checked, just for chuckles. Nope, not sold out, in fact, only a few tickets sold, incredibly.
We couldn't resist. We went AWOL, we saw the movie. We were only supposed to be gone a couple of hours and right back to meet the platoon at the barracks, but we disappeared all night. When we came back our First Sergeant was all over our asses, but he was sure we were out drinking, and when we were visibly sober (albeit flushed and nerd-giddy) and didn't stink of booze, he couldn't quite suss out what we'd been doing and just let it go. It never crossed his mind, salty old warhound that he was, that we'd go AWOL for Star Wars.
At the time I was pretty swept up in the sentiment of my love for Star Wars, and the visual spectacle that the movie provided. It took a couple of days to sink in that it was, for all its promise and anticipation, a really bad movie. Still I argued, over the next few years until Episode II came out, that Lucas had earned a movie's worth of "set up" to make the rest of the cycle incredibly awesome. Trust the visionary that had brought us the greatest cinema of our generation!
Realizing that the whole series was just really bad, that it had all the flaws of the originals with none of their heart and charm, slathered over a bad story with unlikeable characters, a clunky "plot" (if you could even call it that) which existed only to escort the action from one SFX explosion to another with the barest minimum of coherence ... I lost a little bit of the magic in my life.
I remember what it was like to anticipate Episode 1 - to be fundamentally innocent of the shoddiness and crass mercenary manipulation of Lucas, to believe in magic, basically.
I wish I had that innocence back! Everything that's come out of Lucas Films since has only driven more nails in the coffin of my youthful belief. Thank God for Peter Jackson, who came along and restored a little bit of my faith in movie magic, and not selling out. Curse you, George Lucas! Why couldn't you have made good movies?