“We didn’t have a clue at the time, but film culture was forever changed 20 years ago today with the release of Meet Joe Black. But it wasn’t changed by the movie itself. It was changed by what played before the film, the most highly-anticipated two minutes and twelve seconds in film history up to that point. Today’s the 20th anniversary of Meet Joe Black, and it’s also the 20th anniversary of the release of the trailer for Star Wars: Episode I–The Phantom Menace. And as was true when the film was released two decades ago, I want to celebrate Meet Joe Black’s big anniversary by not talking about Meet Joe Black. How could any movie, even one starring Anthony Hopkins and peak Brad Pitt, live up to the powerful hype whipped up by the sight of a double-sided lightsaber and the first meeting between Baby Vader and Ewan McKenobi?!
Meet Joe Black had the distinction of being part of the first wave of movies released with the Phantom Menace trailer attached to it, meaning plenty of people that would never want to watch Meet Joe Black paid an estimated $4.69 just to watch two minutes and twelve seconds of all-new Jedi action. I know this, because I was one of those people. Yes, I saw Meet Joe Black in the theater at the age of 14 with my entire family just for the chance to watch the Phantom Menace trailer. […]
Plenty of Star Wars fans paid money to watch Meet Joe Black and it’s been reported that some theaters, in an effort to get people to actually sit and watch 3 hours of Sexy Death order coffee (what is that movie about?!), even promised to show the trailer again after the film ended. Although I bet if you lived near a movie theater at the time, you could watch the Phantom Menace trailer, drive home and watch all of A New Hope, and then make it back in time for the post-credits reshowing. If I had only been two years older, that is exactly what I would have done in 1998. Or, if I’d had a decent internet connection, I could have waited a day and watched it at home when The Phantom Menace became the first trailer to break the internet–and I mean that literally, as download demands caused servers to crash left and right 20 years ago this week.
The Phantom Menace trailer and the hysteria it inspired was as memorable as Meet Joe Blackwas forgettable. This one trailer single-handedly created the trailer-obsessed culture we still live in 20 years later. […]
Now look at the world post-Phantom Menace. Every trailer is released online, and now there are even teasers for teasers for trailers. Every trailer is a massive event, usually teased with cryptic social media posts or a synergistic deal with a late night talk show. And trailers get a level of academic scrutiny usually reserved for three-hour drama films about the personification of death experiencing the pain of humanity for the first time. […]
But, for better or worse, we’re living in a post-Phantom Menace trailer world, a world where the promos for the movies are as important (and sometimes way better) than the movies themselves. At least now we don’t have to sit through a movie like Meet Joe Black to watch them.”