Both of my children love the MCU. My son, who is only four, is still struggling to decipher the differences between the letter “b” and the letter “d”, but he can tell you every member of the Avengers. Especially Ronin, since that’s my son’s name. But as a nerd dad who wants to raise little nerd children, I feel obligated to also introduce my kids to Star Wars. There’s only one problem. My kids don’t like Star Wars. Or at least, they didn’t.
Yeah, it’s the darndest thing. Here I go, putting on Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, expecting my children to be as enraptured with it as I was when I was a child, but my children just weren’t having it. My daughter was like, “Why does he sound like that?”, and my son was flat out bored. But here’s the funny thing. All that changed when I showed them Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Suddenly, my son was sitting up and my daughter’s eyes didn’t glaze over. I wondered why at first, but now, I think I have the answer. Five answers, actually. And here they are, and why you might also want to start with Episode I if you want to get your kids into Star Wars.
The Hero Of The Phantom Menace Is A Child, So Children Can Relate To It Better
A lot of people hate The Phantom Menace because they think it’s too childish, and they’re not wrong. Yes, we get a much younger Obi-Wan Kenobi in Ewan McGregor, but the main hero is a young Darth Vader, played by Jake Lloyd, and the story mostly follows him.
For an adult, this can be a little excruciating. But for a kid, just think of how empowering that is. We hear how important this child is, and he’s a whiz at podracing. And if you watch any kids’ shows, then you’ll know that the heroes are always children. Now, think about A New Hope. Our hero is a teenager who damn well looks like an adult, and all the characters, for that matter, are adults. Yes, the Avengers are also adults and my kids like them, but the Avengers also wear really flashy costumes and there’s so much more color in Marvel movies, which brings me to my next point.
The Phantom Menace Is A Lot More Colorful Than A New Hope, And Kids Love Bright, Flashy Colors
I really like the look of A New Hope. I find it all very impressive because I understand how creative George Lucas’ team had to be to make the universe of Star Wars look really cutting edge at the time. That said, it does look kind of dated when you look at it today. Lucas tried to rectify this with the re-releases to arguably middling success. But overall, it’s a little drab, which, again, I find charming, but my kids certainly don’t.
But The Phantom Menace is like, full of color! From Darth Maul’s red and black face, to the lightsaber battles, to pretty much everything. I have no doubt in my mind that George Lucas had children in mind when he made Episode I, and my children were all the more engaged because of it.
Jar Jar Binks Is Like A Character On A Children’s Program
Jar Jar Binks has got to be the worst character in Star Wars history, right? Well, my kids certainly don’t think so. In fact, my son thought he was pretty funny. He’s like something out of The Oddbods or something. And A New Hope has nothing like him in it.
In fact, in comparison, A New Hope is a little too serious. Yeah, there are all these different alien races, but they’re not silly or talking in funny (some might say, racist) voices. I mean, I love Chewie, but he’s not really a silly character. He’s actually kind of scary for a child. And I know. You’re probably saying that maybe I shouldn’t be showing my kids Star Wars at their young ages (5 and 4). But my son loves King Kong, so I don’t think it’s that. I just think he feels that A New Hope is too serious, and if Jar Jar Binks is anything, it’s not serious.
The Phantom Menace Has Much Quicker Pacing Than A New Hope
Now, let’s talk about the pacing of Star Wars: A New Hope. Look, I love that scene where Luke is staring at the two suns on Tatooine. I love Chewie and C-3PO playing Dejarik on the Millennium Falcon. I love Darth Vader force choking some fools on the Death Star. But the pacing to get to all of those scenes is way too slow. And I’m only thinking from a child’s perspective. A New Hope has a lot of excellent world building. But even though it’s only a little over 2 hours long, it certainly takes its time.
The Phantom Menace, on the other hand, is a lot snappier. Some might say it’s too snappy. It’s not that it avoids character development to make way for cool scenes, but I would say that it gets to the cool scenes much quicker than A New Hope, which definitely kept my kids more engaged.
The Phantom Menace Really Is The Beginning Of The Saga
I actually think this might be the most important reason why you should start with The Phantom Menace. Do you want to get your kids into the Star Wars timeline? Then why would you start in the middle? Granted, you might have to fast forward through a lot of Attack of the Clones since that movie is sooooo slow. But if you want to get your kids into Star Wars and all the upcoming Star Wars movies and TV shows, then the best place to start would be the beginning, no?
I realized this maybe halfway through showing my kids A New Hope. When The Clone Wars were mentioned in the movie, I said, oh, that’s from one of the earlier films, and my daughter was like, what earlier films? The fact was, it wasn’t one of the earlier films, it was from one of the later films, but then I had to get into what prequels were, and it was more confusing than it needed to be. So, just start at A Phantom Menace. It will make it so much easier in the long run.
In the end, you can start your kids off any way you want. Hell, you can start them off with the sequels if you think they’ll like those better. But if your kids are anything like mine, then you might be better off starting them off at the very beginning. It might save you some heartache later.